Here’s what a former campaign official would say to America’s first woman president

WASHINGTON — Although Americans still haven’t said “Madam President” unless it’s on a TV show or movie, Jennifer Palmieri already has advice for the woman who will lead the country.

Palmieri, communications director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, spoke with WTOP’s Dimitri Sotis about her new book, “Dear Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World.

“I wrote it as a letter to the first woman president because I think that’s the height of achievement in the world, and I wanted whoever read it to know whatever it is you dream to do, you can do it, and you can do it in your way,” she said.

Palmieri doesn’t attribute Clinton’s loss to her being a woman, but thinks her role was made different from a man’s. “We just have different questions about women candidates,” Palmieri said.

In fact, Palmieri didn’t think it was a big deal that the Democratic presidential nominee was a woman — she just thought Clinton was the best person for the job.

But, as she learned from the outcome of the 2016 election: “It’s still a big deal for a woman to be in charge.”

Palmieri recognized that women in the U.S. have only had the right to vote for less than 100 years and women’s participation in the workforce started making greater strides in the last few decades.

“It wasn’t really built for us, politics and the workplace when it was first created, and I think we’re still adjusting,” she said.

So when it comes to running for the most powerful political office in the country — and, arguably, the world — candidates must argue that they’re the best person for the job, that they’re prepared to take on this big leadership role, and that they’re better than other candidates, she said.

But, Palmieri argues, “I think that’s a hard thing for women to say, and it’s a hard thing still for us to hear from a woman, that sort of ambition to have the biggest, most powerful job and say why you’re the best for it.”

Palmieri wanted to examine those different questions people would have for women candidates and how they would apply to other notable women in U.S. politics: Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

But no matter how much work still needs to be done to ensure women have parity in politics and the workplace in general, Palmieri hopes women can keep a positive attitude.

“We need your perspective, your voice matters, we need you engaged. That’s what I learned in my 20 years in politics,” she said.

When it comes to the upcoming presidential election, Palmieri hopes to see a candidate that can bring the country together and “paint a portrait of America where everyone sees where their future is.”

Another take-away from the last election: “rethink how you engage in politics and how can you make it more meaningful.”

“What I think we need to do now is revitalize our democracy, and I’m excited to see people engage at the grass roots level in ways they haven’t done before,” she said. “I think that’s what’s going to save us.”

Listen to the full interview with WTOP’s Dimitri Sotis below.

November 29, 2020 | Hillary Clinton campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri speaks to future 'Madam President' (WTOP's Dimitri Sotis)

WTOP’s Dimitri Sotis contributed to this report. 

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up