For much of her life, Hillary has been focused on women’s issues and has taken some remarkable steps with regards to them. For example, in 1995, Hillary attended the United Nation’s Fourth Women’s Conference in Bejing, China to campaign for women’s rights which was an unprecedented and bold move for a First Lady, and delivered the memorable quote, “Women’s rights are human rights”.
She also invested herself as First Lady in the passage of the SCHIP program which provided federal health care for six million children in low income homes, providing critical support for many single mothers among others.
Whether people support Hillary or not, it wouldn’t be fair minded to dispute that she has taken a variety of stands along the way to support women’s rights and has been a positive symbol of feminism to many.
Which is why Hillary Clinton has been justifiably frustrated by polling that shows young women preferring to support Bernie Sanders instead of her. What is questionable though is whether the way she is using the gender card to try and turn that dynamic around to her favor, is helpful or will backfire.
Hillary has been employing a common political tactic that many politicians use but in this year when voters disdain political game playing and with a particular weakness Hillary has, it may have the opposite effect of what is intended.
She repeatedly affirms that she will not play the gender card to get votes while she and her campaign double down on it. She knows it would be viewed as shallow and unseemly for her to openly campaign on the simplistic platform of, “All women need to vote for me because I’m a woman” but she apparently believes that if she simply denies that she is actually campaigning that way, it will work for her.
This is a risky approach to begin with but set in front of a backdrop of polls showing that a majority of Americans question Hillary’s honesty, presenting such an obvious untruth, that she is not trying to get women to vote for her because she’s a woman, is even riskier. Many of the young women who are voting for Bernie Sanders are doing so because they believe that he is more genuine than Hillary. The basic proposition is, if young women felt Hillary came off as earnest in supporting virtually all of Bernie’s positions, why wouldn’t they vote for Hillary and get a two for one deal instead?
This is completely anecdotal but today on tv, I saw one young woman in New Hampshire being questioned as to why she prefers Bernie instead of Hillary and the history-making Presidency she represents for women. Her answer was that the way Hillary communicates comes off like a politician and that Bernie comes across to her as real and authentic. That sensibility seems to make sense for many young women who are supporting Bernie over Hillary, it’s about supporting who they think would truly pursue the policies they want to see pursued regardless of that person’s age or gender. So, they and Hillary supporters who are supporting her based on her policies and experience would seem to be more enlightened than any who would vote for Hillary simply because she’s a woman (women voters had a chance to have Sarah Palin as the first woman VP in 2008 and Michele Bachmann as President in 2012 if the only factor was voting for a woman but they were too smart for that!).
On Friday, Hillary appeared at a rally with a number of women senators and Madeline Albright, referring to them as her “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuits” (yet Hillary flatly denies she is trying to use her gender to get votes and that she is part of “the establishment”). It was at this rally when Madeleine Albright coined her well known phrase, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!” but in this context, it was essentially damning women as traitors who dared to support Bernie instead of Hillary.
Later that night, Gloria Steinem was a guest on Real Time With Bill Maher and expressed that young women aren’t supporting Hillary because they are shallow and just following after the boys who support Bernie.
Ironically, it is the Hillary campaign and elitist Hillary surrogates who are exhibiting a type of sexism, insulting the intelligence of young women for not being sheep and shallow, for not choosing a Presidential candidate based solely on gender and for trusting their own minds and opinions to make decisions.
Anyone who remembers what happened in 2008 in New Hampshire may have guessed what would have happened this time around. In 2008, coming off a crippling defeat in Iowa to Barack Obama, Hillary came back against the odds to win in New Hampshire. What was credited in turning around New Hampshire for her was an emotional (genuine or not) campaign stop at a diner where Hillary expressed sadness about how she had only wanted to run to help people but that it was so hard to deal with the setbacks she was suffering.
She was appealing to women voters in a way they related to, a woman struggling emotionally with setbacks from a male dominated system and that moment resonated with them and they helped her win a surprise victory in the New Hampshire primary.
Call me cynical but I expected that the sensibility of, “If it worked once, it will work again” would be in the minds of Hillary’s campaign (especially with her being so far down in the polls again) so I have been waiting for the “victimized” moment to come. And it did, over the weekend and continuing through today, linked of course to the gender card as it was in 2008.
Bill Clinton is leading this year’s victimhood push in New Hampshire (if this wasn’t a calculated political move, why didn’t Hillary address this herself?), with Hillary and the rest of her campaign marching beside him. He has resurrected that tone deaf outrage that served him and Hillary so poorly in 2008 against Obama, now claiming that Bernie’s “Bros” (male supporters) are all over the internet attacking Hillary in sexist ways and he lays the personal responsibility for those people’s actions on Bernie Sanders. In other words, in Clintonworld, if any supporters of an opponent posts something offensive, it is the responsibility of that opponent. Of course, the same would never be true for Hillary.
It shouldn’t be necessary to point out that there are jerks who support every campaign and write offensive comments against those supporting an opponent to their candidate. I can quote outrageous and demeaning comments from Hillary supporters, Bernie supporters and almost in every case, Trump supporters. I haven’t seen Bernie’s campaign accuse Hillary of being responsible for her supporters’ comments that are anti-semetic, ageist or sexist towards him and they’ve been right not to do so.
Yet, as part of the strategy to use the gender card, Bill, Hillary and their campaign are now trying to smear Bernie (once again) as sexist…and outrageously, not because of anything he’s actually done or said himself. For the record, it is disputed that this is even a “thing”, not that there haven’t been offensive comments made by Bernie (and Hillary) supporters along the way, just that sexist comments aren’t as rampant as Bill and Hillary are attempting to claim.
Being too smart to argue the veracity of the claim, Bernie came out quickly to harshly condemn any of his supporters who use sexist comments towards Hillary to try and stop this strategy dead in its tracks.
And BTW, when some of Hillary’s supporters in 2008 were inspired by her Rev. Wright attacks on Obama to post racist comments around the internet, Hillary didn’t step in to stop them. Not that she had to do so but it does come off as a bit…”inconsistent”…to express outrage at Bernie now and to have been just fine when the situation was reversed in 2008.
This bogus smear (Hillary has repeatedly used the word “smear” against Bernie for simply repeating her own words about being a moderate…when someone projects something on others, watch for them to be the one guilty of it) is part and parcel of the mercenary style of campaigning we’ve seen from Bill Clinton during his political career and Hillary when she ran against Obama in 2008 so it’s not surprising. But it is questionable. Have they learned nothing from 2008 when it comes to contrived attacks and scenarios? They turned so many independents and possible Hillary Dems away from them because such tactics make Hillary look calculating, less honest and more unlikable.
Consider the bottom line of the response by the Hillary campaign to addressing the issue of a majority of young women preferring to support Bernie (and Hillary knows she needs them to win). The effort has been to launch a campaign of insults and attacks against young women, calling them shallow and traitors who should go to hell unless they vote for Hillary. If they already view Hillary in negative terms, does the Hillary campaign really think insulting them is the way to win them over? Might it not be viewed by young women as doubly insulting since the implication is that they are weak minded and can be convinced to change their minds through such a transparently manipulative way?
This attempt by Hillary to use the gender card might work to turn some young women towards her but it might instead validate the feelings of the majority of young women who feel disconnected from Hillary because of the way she conducts herself.
Fortunately, we won’t have to wait long. The New Hampshire primary is tomorrow and the question as to whether this tactic has been successful will be reflected by the results.