…And Misogyny Is Running Right Along with Her
No, not Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, but Hillary Clinton’s announcement that she is running for president of the U.S. The April 12 announcement was historic, and history-making events in the era of social media get attention. For most of the day Hillary Clinton was the number one Twitter trend, not just in the U.S., but globally.
For some, like Ready for Hillary, Emily’s List, LPAC, Lesbians4Hillary and other groups supporting progressive women in politics, it was exciting, energizing news. For others, notably Republicans trying to shake the presumption that Hillary will win the 2016 presidential election, it was a very bad, unhappy day as the status quo took a hit.
Most unhappy of all? Men and anti-feminist women who were ranting about how no one should choose a president because of her sex.
Even though we’ve been doing that for 239 years in America.
The Republicans and anti-feminists were unsurprising. Also unsurprising were a contingent of disgruntled left-leaning American progressives. (Unlike in other Western countries, there is no actual leftist political movement in the U.S., as former 32-year member of the House of Representatives and out gay man Barney Frank has been lamenting on his recent book tour.) These progressives want someone other than Hillary. They say they want first-term senator Elizabeth Warren, who was elected in 2012 and assumed office in 2013. But Warren has said she doesn’t want to run.
The group BoldProgressives, which has been pushing Warren, assert she is more progressive than Hillary. Yet Warren acknowledges that she was a registered Republican until 1996 and still votes Republican often because, as she said in an article in the Daily Beast, she wants a “balanced” government. (In that same article she also said, “I created Occupy Wall Street.”) The anti-Hillary progressives also say Warren is “more youthful” than Hillary, but Warren is only 17 months younger than Hillary.
Why the anti-Hillary memes?
An easy answer is misogyny and that’s not a wrong answer. There’s a lot of “I want a woman president, but not Hillary” on social media. Pushing Warren, who has almost no experience in politics and zero foreign policy experience over a candidate who spent two terms as a senator and a term as Secretary of State is both politically naive and, well, misogynist. Why push a female candidate who can’t win a general election (Warren) over one who is polling above all her competitors (Hillary)?
Because you want to appear to be a feminist ally without actually being a feminist ally.
This is the point where many millennials will say “But we want someone other than a Clinton or a Bush.” Yet that meme has just been trotted out specifically for Hillary. And the reality of American politics and a two-party system is that all the same people are in the political arena. In 2008 we were told Hillary would bring Bill Clinton’s people back to the White House (it should be noted that the Clinton years were the most prosperous in the U.S. since World War II and since then the income gap between rich and poor has been widening). As it turned out, however, Obama brought both Clinton and Bush’s Republican people to the White House. And he brought Hillary.
The outrageously misogynist skit on Saturday Night Live prior to Hillary’s announcement presented–with out lesbian comedian Kate McKinnon in the role–that Hillary would be an autocratic dictator as president.
Yet there is nothing in Hillary Clinton’s political past to bolster any of these memes. As First Lady in Arkansas when Bill Clinton was a two-term governor before running for president Hillary Clinton was an attorney and also deeply involved in philanthropic work. As First Lady of the U.S. she was also involved in philanthropic work, but made women and children her focus.
As a senator, Hillary Clinton was known for being able to cross the aisle to gain consensus and votes. As Secretary of State at one of the most arduous times in recent history, she was tasked by President Obama to fix what the previous Bush Administration had broken. Hillary traveled more than any other Secretary of State in U.S. history, visiting 112 countries and clocking 956,733 miles, which considering that the previous record holder was Madeleine Albright at 98 countries, is extraordinary.
One of the most important things about Hillary Clinton’s role at State was that she was the consummate diplomat which cannot be ignored in the run for president. After the disastrous diplomacy of the Bush Administration, Hillary was out mending fences and making countries feel welcome again–or noticed in the first place. Her diplomacy was a boots-on-the-ground strategy. Her efforts at connecting with all kinds of groups within these countries was a diplomatic imperative and one she was known for. During her years as Secretary of State she was the most popular member of the Obama Administration and ranked as one of the two most admired women in the world, vying with Michelle Obama for top spot.
Hillary had many options at State–she could have just Skyped people or done FaceTime with world leaders. But had she done that, she wouldn’t have been shaking hands and meeting women and LGBT people and political dissidents. So those who dismiss her years at State as perfunctory really don’t understand either what the job is or how high she set the bar for it. There’s power in being there–and Hillary Clinton has always been there.
This, of course, is the most direct complaint about her. We know Hillary too well.
Watch her “Hillary for America” campaign ad here:
In 2008 media interpretations of Hillary Clinton were driven by misogyny. She was running against a man 13 years her junior in Obama and one 12 years her senior, John McCain. She also had to run against her husband Bill’s former presidency. And while other women have run for president before her, no one ever got close to the nomination before her. So close, in fact, that pro-Obama former MSNBC pundit Keith Olbermann famously suggested someone should take her in a back room and only one of them come out. An allusion to violence that he was forced to apologize for later.
Another MSNBC pundit (and this was the left media), Chris Matthews said of Hillary’s comments after the London terrorist bombings, “I hate to say this. I’m not going to hate to say it. It’s a fact. You [Clinton] look more witchy when you’re doing it like this.” Because she was speaking from the floor of the Senate. Where she was a senator.
Matthews’ sexism was so extreme that Daily Kos posted “Chris Matthews’ Greatest Sexist Hits”–and Daily Kos were Obama supporters.
The news media was no better. Hillary swept all the major states in the primary, including California, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, yet the media would focus on the small states that Obama won. The frustrations were evident among women, many of whom refused to vote for Obama when he was chosen as the Democratic Party nominee, which many felt was unfair as Hillary won the popular vote–that famous 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling to the presidency that she referred to.
Hillary was gracious about losing the nomination and not only supported Obama’s candidacy, but campaigned for him. And then said yes when Obama asked her to be his Secretary of State.
And now we are here, at 2015 and a new wave of same sexism, different day. The Sydney Telegraph liked this headline on April 13: “Hillary’s In with a Chance–Providing She Can Keep Her Mouth Shut.” Or Politico on April 13: “Is Hillary Running for Bill’s Third Term?”
Tea Party favorite, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), announced his run for president on April 13. In his announcement speech he took a direct stab at Hillary, saying, “Just yesterday, a leader from yesterday began a campaign for President by promising to take us back to yesterday. But yesterday is over, and we are never going back.”
Well, no. Not only is Hillary’s message totally 2015, but it’s Rubio himself who is trying to take the country back to a different era when women were silent, gays and lesbians were arrested and people of color sat at the back of the bus. (He forgets in his world view that he, as a Cuban American, wouldn’t be allowed in national politics.)
Despite Rubio’s age references–Hillary Clinton is 67, Rubio is 43–the last three Republican nominees for president, George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney, have all been older than Hillary.
Yet expect age and pant suits and New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd who spent 2008 talking about Hillary’s cleavage and “cankles” to reprise again and again. Dowd was already the anti-feminist guest on Meet the Press April 12 talking about how tired women are of Hillary even as women were cheering Hillary’s announcement and stating they were for Hillary on social media.
Two other Republican candidates, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) arguably the most right-wing member of the U.S. Senate and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) have been proponents of the Republican War on Women. Both want abortion eliminated in the U.S. Both are vehemently opposed to same-sex marriage.
You can see Hillary Clinton’s video supporting marriage equality here:
In 2011 on one of her myriad trips, Hillary gave a speech–long before President Obama evolved on same-sex marriage–in which she said, “Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.”
A New York Times article on April 13 had the headline “What Hillary Clinton Would Need to Do to Win.” The answer to that is surprisingly simple: Get Democrats to vote. That coterie of discontented Democrats who failed to vote in 2010 lost America the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives and then in 2014, lost the Democratic-controlled Senate so that now Republicans–with their anti-woman, anti-LGBT politics and policies and ownership of every important committee–now rule Congress with the biggest majority since Reconstruction.
Polls say Democrats want a primary challenger for Hillary–as if the challenge in 2008 wasn’t enough of a learning curve. But as the New York Times pointed out in an April 13 editorial, “No, Hillary Rodham Clinton would not benefit from a primary fight. Hillary Rodham Clinton has a better chance of winning her party’s nomination without a battle. Vigorous primary campaigns do tend to make fundamentally sound candidates stronger. … This time around, she stands to benefit from a relatively quiet primary season.”
The NYT suggests that Hillary would do best to campaign and watch the fur fly among the large Republican pool of contenders.
Last month Gloria Borger, CNN’s Chief Political Analyst, wrote a definitive piece in which she asserted that Democrats had only one option–defend Hillary Clinton or lose the election. Borger–who is astute as they come–laid out alternative Democrats, every one of whom is a former Republican except Sen. Bernie Sanders who is also eight years older than Hillary.
And none of whom, Borger explained in detail, could win a general election.
No one listened.
Of course we have choices. Like the estimated 49 million American women who didn’t vote in 2012–yes, 49 million–you can choose not to vote for Hillary Clinton because she’s “not the right woman candidate”or because you don’t like one of her positions, even though she’s to the left of everyone else running or potentially running.
So listen to this: The Republicans are the party of crazy. They are the party of LGBT is a choice (Ben Carson, just last month). They are the party of no abortions, even in the case of rape or incest or for the life of the mother (Cruz, Paul, Rubio). They are the party of the 1 percent who refuse repeatedly to close the income gap by taxing the rich more. They are the party of war. They are the party that wants us to cease existing–women, lesbians, people of color, the poor.
Hillary Clinton may be less popular now than she was as Secretary of State but that’s true of every politician–when Obama took office he had a 70 percent approval rating. Now it’s in the 40s. But are we better off under Obama than we were under Bush? Yes. Was Hillary a better Secretary of State than Condoleezza Rice? Without question.
And you might want to consider this: Four of the current U.S. Supreme Court justices are either over 80 or nearing 80 and are likely to retire after 2016. Stephen Breyer is 76, Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia are 78 and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a pancreatic cancer survivor, is 81. Breyer and Ginsburg are the Court’s two most liberal justices–and both of them were appointed by Bill Clinton. The court’s youngest and most right wing justices Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts were both appointed by George W. Bush. We will have them both for another 25 years at least.
Ginsburg and Breyer gave us the Windsor decision in 2013. Kennedy–the consistent swing voter on the court–overturned the sodomy laws in the U.S. in 2003.
Do you want Rubio, who has pledged to overturn Roe v. Wade and “protect traditional marriage” appointing four justices?
These are real, not polemical choices.
I have covered Washington politics for 30 years. I voted for the first woman vice-president in 1984–only my second time voting in a presidential election. I still have my Mondale-Ferraro T-shirt.
I don’t just want to vote for women because they are women. If that were the case I’d have voted for Sarah Palin in the 2008 general election instead of for Barack Obama. But being on the right side of history actually matters and the anti-Hillary contingents, most especially those on the left, are indeed on the wrong side of history here.
The case for Hillary is a case for America: Do we move forward into a more inclusive America or do we hang onto the actual yesterday of American politics and policies? Do we vote for the only viable political party in the U.S. that isn’t run by people who want to take the country back not to the last century but several centuries ago or do we want a progressive candidate who isn’t afraid to put all of America–from Spanish-speakers to people of color to lesbian and gay couples–in her opening salvo?
You simply won’t get that from the Republicans. Remember it was a Republican governor who gave us the anti-lesbian, anti-gay Indiana law I wrote about here and he was supported by all the Republicans running for president or thinking about running.
We simply can’t have that. We deserve a better America in which all of us get to show our faces wherever we want, with the same rights everyone else has.
That’s the case for Hillary. You’ve got till the primaries to think about it. But for now–register to vote. Women died so that we could vote. Hillary Clinton traveled to 112 countries, many of which don’t allow women to vote. We owe it to every woman on the planet to vote. Or at the very least, consider showing up.
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