Hillary: Gender, Power, and “It’s Not Me, It’s You”

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 22: Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers remarks at the Hillary Rodham Clinton Awards for Advancing Women in Peace and Security at Georgetown University April 22, 2015 in Washington, DC. The awards were given to former United Nations Envoy for Afghanistan Staffan de Mistura, and Dr. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, who served as the Chief Negotiator of the Philippines Government in the Mindanao Peace Talks. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Hillary Clinton and her high profile supporters have a new strategy.

To women who don’t favor Clinton the message is, “It’s Not Me [Hillary], It’s You.” It has all the promise of that breakup line aimed at winning someone back. Or none.

Coupled with the “artful smear” she attributed to Sanders during the last debate and Bill Clinton’s belittling of Sanders about the use of the word “establishment,” it’s pretty delicious irony. Served hot.

To recap: this weekend Madeleine Albright introduced Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire saying, “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women,” to loud laughter by Clinton.

On Friday, Gloria Steinem, reaching for an explanation as to why Hillary is doing so poorly with younger women offered Bill Maher this: “When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.’” (This appears to be reversed given Clinton polls better with men, and resulted in a quick apology.)

Bill Clinton tried to distract from this mess, by questioning who is part of the establishment (even after I, Maureen Dowd, and many people have said the Clintons are). And, he says, some Sanders’ supporters are mean.

Meanwhile women senators and politicians rally around Clinton, after she eked out a tie in Iowa and now is even with Sanders nationwide.

Is her framing of gender and power embracing or alienating? Or …


Albright’s proclamation was a revelation.

Personally, I had thought my support of women through my work on campus sexual assault, talks on issues affecting women (gender equity recently, and earlier on garment work), and my work on a variety of progressive issues might stand me in good stead with a higher moral authority. But my support for Sanders’ will make my gender hell eval … hellacious.

My head started spinning around like in “The Exorcist,” even as I pondered my special place in a place in which I don’t believe.

Quickly I realized I’ll have company.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told us that “we think the price is worth it” of Western sanctions which killed an estimated 500,000 children, according to United Nations estimates. For the incredible pain she caused to mothers who unnecessarily lost their babies, the former Secretary of State will skip limbo and head straight to a purgatory. Side note: Albright has said she regretted the statement but not disavowed the sanctions regime that caused two oil-for-food coordinators to resign due to the devastating humanitarian effects.

Hillary Clinton will presumably join us after the death of an estimated 1 million civilians (adjusted for time) after our illegal invasion of Iraq that she supported. While we don’t know exact numbers, it is likely that hundreds of thousands who died were women.

But, the real question is: “Will she go to an ‘extra special’ place?”

Let’s look at how women have been “supported” by her.

Clinton did not support gay marriage til 2013 and “evolved” to supporting it as a constitutional right in 2015. Sorry, lesbians!

After representing the US as Secretary of State in Copenhagen where the 2-degree scientific limit was recognized, Clinton has been hesitant to publicly champion this (or better a 1.5 degree) goal. So too has she been slow to recognize that the vast majority of fossil fuels must stay in the ground. Women suffer more from catastrophic climate change, and she has been slow to highlight the gender dimension. Of course, women are part of larger humanity that will experience climate change as overriding hardship.

Clinton has been very weak on inequality (per Vice President Biden) even after decades of public service. Championing the rights of women and addressing global poverty effectively should entail recognizing wealth distribution is a major driver behind poverty. No dice.

As head of one of the largest foundations of the world, one of the greatest effects has been that of the financial crash which took $6 and $36 trillion out of the US economy alone. Where has she been publicly on this issue in the past, before announcing her presidential run? Has she spoken up when regulation has been undercut through bank lobbying and Congressional action?

One could go on.

A friend in the Obama administration said to me several weeks ago, “I guess she’ll be fine for white, upper-class women.”


Clinton evades a broader conversation about feminism and identity (beyond complaining about biased media coverage which often sucks for politicians, see the Dean Scream or Sanders coverage.) She highlights the unique aspect of a female presidency. True, many of us would vote for Jane Linn over Joe Linn. But is a female leader, inherently, a better one? Many Democrats didn’t vote for Sarah Palin because she was a poor candidate, so no. Could a female candidate can be used to gin up more opposition, and is this a reason to vote against her? Probably not. Does she have to be aggressive on foreign policy in order to win? If so, are we inherently buying into more deaths of people in Africa and the Middle East with another Clinton presidency? Sometimes we’re told Obama couldn’t effectively champion revitalization of our inner cities (and he’s certainly had a mixed record when it comes, broadly, to the plight of African Americans) – would women achieve less under Clinton’s leadership?

But most Sanders supporters I know don’t ask these questions. They believe that the most revolutionary thing they can do is to elect Sanders. That from corporate fraudulence to climate, true to his record, he’ll deliver.

Clinton supporters say focus on the issues. And people do: her record on them and her conflicts with the public interest. Instead of being asked where they were when the astronauts landed on the moon, or other milestones, Democratic candidates are held to account for where they were when corporations ran amok keeping billions abroad and in tax havens (even while concocting fraudulent schemes), when inequality soared, and when we faced environmental disasters from the hyperlocal to the global.

Was Clinton on the front lines of the People’s Climate March? How actively has she spoken of the need to keep 2/3 of fossil fuels in the ground? As to how it’s impossible to solve social and economic problems in a system where 1/10th of 1 percent has almost as much as the bottom 90 percent? Has she spoken explicitly as to how she will stop that from worsening (even as now JUST 62 people have as much as the bottom half of the world)? Pick any of 30 issues, where corporate or wealthy play a critical role in a hugely unjust, unsafe or unsustainable system and she will not have spoken out against the wealthy and corporations in any meaningful and consistent way over decades.

Her frequent harking back to her days with the Children’s Defense Fund makes it pretty obvious that the $100-plus million Clinton system pays off. Wall Street alone gave her $2.9 million in speaking fees from 2013 to 2015, presumably because she’d done something for them or they believe she could be influenced to do so. It doesn’t take an “artful smear” she referenced in the last debate to suggest so, as much as simple observation. However, Elizabeth Warren does provide direct evidence in the case of the bankruptcy bill which Hillary Clinton helped defeat as First Lady, before voting for it as New York senator, should it help.

It’s 2016. The world is headed for catastrophic climate change, wars rage across the Middle East, the poor (and increasingly us all) here are being exploited. Public health is rapidly deteriorating. In a world where Bill Clinton had not strayed (because I agree with Nora Ephron that Bill is primarily to blame for President George W. Bush’s election), we might have a world in which a financial crisis was averted, as were several wars. A world in which people and the planet thrived. A world in which an “establishment” candidate looked great. A place in which I – and many of us – might vote for the very smart Hillary Clinton. And a world in which she made the choices to justify it.

But right now, I’d rather be in the heaven of a new progressive movement: one defined by big goals that will create a society of justice and sustainability through concerted action.

In fact, as Clinton and her champions lecture me about my gender, I increasingly think I should choose the special place they want to consign me to over voting for her.

But I’ll probably just ask my guy friends what they’re doing.


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