Quitters Never Win

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By Ellen R. Malcolm
Saturday, May 10, 2008

When I was growing up in the 1960s, I wanted to play basketball. In those days, the rules said girls could dribble only three steps and then had to pass the ball. To make sure we didn't overexert ourselves, we weren't allowed to cross the half-court line. It's a wonder our fans (our mothers) could stay awake when a typical game's final score was 14-10.

It's remarkable that my generation of women entered the workforce and began to compete in business, politics and the hurly-burly of life outside the home. How did we ever learn to locate, much less channel, our competitive instincts in a world that made us play half-court and assumed that we would be content staying home to iron the shirts? It's a tremendous tribute to women of my generation that we sucked it up and learned to compete in the toughest environments.

Which brings us to Hillary Clinton running for president. This brilliant woman believes that she can compete for the most powerful office in the world. She believes that she can do a better job than any of the men running to lead our country through these challenging times. And millions of Americans, women and men, believe that she is correct.

Yet over and over again the media and her opponents have claimed that she is defeated -- it's over, she can't win, she's a loser. And over and over again -- in New Hampshire, on Super Tuesday, in Texas and Ohio, in Pennsylvania last month, and in Indiana this week -- female voters poured out of their homes to cast their ballots for her. They know that women can compete, and they want to make sure that women, especially this woman, can win.

It's not surprising that low-income working women are the cornerstone of Hillary's success. Many of these women live on the edge of disaster. A pink slip, a family member's illness, a parent who can no longer live alone, a car that won't start or a mortgage rate that goes up -- all are threats that could devastate the family. And yet these women do what women have done for ages. They put on a confident face, feed their children breakfast and get them off to school. They don't quit. They suck it up and fight back against whatever life throws their way.

They see in Hillary Clinton a candidate who understands the pressures they face. As they watch her tough it out against all odds, refusing to quit and continuing to compete against whatever the media and her opponents throw her way, they see a woman as tough and resilient as they are. They clearly want her to win. Her victory, I believe, is their victory.

So here we are in the fourth quarter of the nominating process and the game is too close to call. Once again, the opponents and the media are calling for Hillary to quit. The first woman ever to win a presidential primary is supposed to stop competing, to curtsy and exit stage right.

Why on earth should one candidate quit before the contest is finished? Democrats need not be so fainthearted. Both of the party's remaining candidates have raised tens of millions of dollars. Both have the respect of Democrats nationwide. Each has a progressive agenda that stands in stark contrast to Sen. John McCain and his adherence to Bush administration policies.

So why are some Democrats so afraid? We simply need to count every vote, let the remaining states have their say and see the process through to its conclusion.

Hillary Clinton certainly has the right to compete till the end. But I believe Hillary also has a responsibility to play the game to its conclusion. For the women of my generation who learned to find and channel their competitiveness, for the working women who never falter in the face of pressure, for the younger women who still believe women can do anything, Hillary is a champion. She's shown us over and over that winners never quit and that quitters never win. We'll cheer her on until the game is over. And we hope that when the final whistle blows, we will have elected the first female president and the best president our country has ever had.

The writer is founder and president of Emily's List.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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