A funny thing happened on the way to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential coronation ceremony: The surprising success of the campaign of Bernie Sanders, first in Iowa, then in New Hampshire, and now apparently Nevada. Sanders is crushing the oft-discussed “Clinton War Machine.”
With Sanders’ success has come the unfortunate, inevitable cries of “sexism” – the insinuations that Hillary Clinton is having difficulty jumping voting booth hurdles primarily because she’s a woman trying to break that “final” glass ceiling. Let’s take a look at five supposed examples of “sexism”, some of which are highlighted by The Hill, to see if they pass the smell test.
1. Hillary, you’re just too darned loud!
They don’t like how the media characterizes her voice:
Female lawmakers were particularly galled by recent statements by Washington Post columnist Bob Woodward, one of the nation’s most respected journalists, characterizing Clinton’s tone as “screaming.”
Except it’s not just the demeanor of female politicos that gets scrutinized. Remember Howard Dean in 2004? For more recent examples, look to former Democratic candidate Jim Webb, and Republican candidates Ben Carson and Donald Trump, and former GOP candidate Rand Paul.
Simply put: The way you conduct yourself towards others is going to be discussed and debated, no matter your gender. It has to do with type of temperament voters want to see in their political leaders, in how they will approach matters both domestic and foreign.
2. “When are we going to start talking about ideas?”
This was a question brought up by Senator Barbara Mikulski – who has endorsed Clinton – in the same piece. But here’s a newsflash: Republicans have pushed numerous issues onto the national stage for debate. Yet those issues ended up being turned into a rallying cry by feminists in the so-called “war on women.” Benghazi, her email scandal, her close ties to Wall Street and even her husband Bill’s past indiscretions, were all dismissed as sexist attacks. All of these are demonstrative of the “double standards” female candidates are subjected to that male candidates aren’t, they say.
But as history has shown us, answering questions about your public (and storied) political past is a standard and routine part of running for office, so in reality what’s happening is that Clinton’s supporters actually want her to be treated differently than her male counterparts have historically been treated which, ironically, is kinda sexist. Just sayin’.
3. How dare you point out that Hillary Clinton is trying to use her gender as advantage?
This is one that’s a real head-scratcher, as social justice rapper Killer Mike learned just this week when he brought up a uterus at a Sanders rally in Georgia:
“When people tell us … ‘Hold on Black Lives Matter, just wait a while.’ And then she get good, she have your own momma sit down and say, ‘Well, you’re a woman.’ But I talked to [anti-racism activist] Jane Elliott a few weeks ago, and Jane said: ‘Michael, a uterus doesn’t qualify you to be president of the United States. You have to be, you have to have policy that’s reflective of social justice.’ Paying women a fair wage is social justice. Making sure that minorities have jobs is social justice.”
Predictably, the Usual Suspects have lashed out, hyperventilating over the fact that Killer Mike dare mention Clinton has a uterus. But Clinton supporter Madeleine Albright essentially used the same logic earlier this month when it came to supporting female candidates: “Just remember, there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”
Are we really going to argue that Hillary Clinton and other high profile Democrats haven’t played the woman card for all its worth over the years to try and benefit their party? Please don’t, because the facts aren’t on your side.
Oh, and a little PSA: If you don’t like people talking about lady parts, you should stop doing it yourself.
4. Questioning Hillary’s honesty is “an old criticism with gendered origins.”
Yes, Cosmopolitan Magazine – a longtime fan of Clinton’s – made this argument in a piece critical of Sanders’ young supporters without a shred of evidence to back it up. Headlines are everything when you’re trying to amplify a candidate’s implied message of “victimhood.”
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that the honesty of political candidates has been questioned, well, since there was such a thing called “politics.” It’s hypocritical to think Hillary Clinton shouldn’t be judged by those same standards just because she’s a woman.
5. Suggesting Hillary is vice-presidential material “perpetuates sexist and misogynistic stereotypes.”
Back in October, the Sanders campaign was hit with a wave of fist-waving-in-the-air outrage over a seeming joke by his campaign manager Jeff Weaver that they’d be “willing to consider” Clinton as a vice-presidential possibility. Failed New York City mayoral candidate Christine Quinn responded:
“Seriously? Seriously? The absurdity of that statement almost merits no response. How arrogant and sexist can you be? It’s not OK to let people with a long progressive record get away with being sexist.”
So a competitive rival campaign suggesting that their opponent is “vice-presidential” material is sexist? Yes – but only if that opponent is a woman, apparently. Even though it’s just a heartbeat away from the presidency, and is a position that no woman has ever held before, not to mention that holding the second-highest office in the land would provide a woman a prime opportunity to showcase her dazzling diplomatic acumen for any remaining doubters who think the White House is not a suitable office for a woman (of any political stripe) to hold.
None of this is to dismiss the fact that there are scattered sexist comments that have been made about female politicos in our nation’s history. But to the degree they have been made in this particular race, the remarks have been negligible and, more importantly, are most definitely not the reason why she’s struggling to maintain her frontrunner status.
In a nutshell, Hillary Clinton has a big problem. It’s not with “sexist” men holding her back, but with young female voters who have gravitated to the anti-establishment message coming from Bernie Sanders. They are rejecting her calls to “make history” by voting for her. Internally, the Clinton campaign knows this, but has decided that the best way to try and drum up support in the form of volunteers, voters, and campaign contributions is to passionately (yet still erroneously) argue in so many words that sexism is the only thing preventing her from winning it all.
If they sincerely want the focus to be “on the issues”, then the Clinton campaign will go back to actually talking about them, because false accusations of rampant sexism do not in any way advance the cause of true feminism. Then again, maybe that’s the strategy: to make various voting blocs feel like perpetual victims, thus guaranteeing their support at the ballot box. Hey, it’s worked for Democrats before. Why stop now?
(I wrote this piece, which was originally published at IJR in February 2016)