The Mix

I don't know how she does it

She's one single woman with three children and a huge country to run. How will Michelle Bachelet, Chile's new president-elect, do it all and why do I like her so much?
Michelle Bachelet is a pediatrician, a torture survivor, a politician, a socialist, and Chile's new president-elect. Oh, she's also the country's first woman president. That's a lot right there and she deserves some major respect, but those aren't the only reasons I'm excited about her election.

And it's not just that Bachelet's election adds strength to the increasing leftward tilt of Latin America, although she does do this to some extent. The countries that Bachelet says she most wants to emulate do not include Hugo Chavez's Venezuela of Evo Morales's Bolivia, but some of the stalwarts of social democracy, countries that, according to Bachelet, have the "human values and democratic orientation" closest to Chile's own: Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, Sweden and Norway. The United States was noticeably absent from the list.

But it isn't Bachelet's politics that are leading the headlines; it's her religion and her family. The leading Scottish newspaper headline is typical: "Chile elects agnostic single mother as president." Newsweek follows suit and The Globe and Mail does it one better pointing out that "Ms. Bachelet" is "an agnostic and single mother of three children from two different men." Oh my, did the Chileans elect a loose woman to lead them? Bachelet isn't just Chile's first woman president, she's the first woman president in all of Latin America who isn't following in the footsteps of some politco husband. This is no small thing in a heavily Catholic country where divorce wasn't even legal until 2004.


I find it hard to imagine an agnostic single mother making it to President in this country in my lifetime. I also find it hard to imagine having three kids, raising them without much help, and running for President. I'm used to being disappointed by politicians and I'm willing to be disappointed again but, at least for right now, I've got a new inspiration. Ms. Bachelet, I know you're going to be busy in the next four years, but if you could find the time, please write a book and let us know how you do it.
Rachel Neumann is Rights & Liberties Editor at AlterNet.