Sexism and the Clinton Campaign

With Hillary Clinton’s campaign collapsing there have been many articles published outlining the many flaws in their strategy and arguments. One Clinton meme which has come under considerable criticism is the claim that she lost due to sexism. Scott Lehigh writes in The Boston Globe:

LET’S SAY Hillary Clinton’s remaining primary rival were not Barack Obama but a white male. Suppose she were ahead in pledged delegates, led in the popular vote in DNC-approved contests, had raised the most money, and had attracted the most contributors.

Let’s further suppose that her rival had responded to her success by suggesting he might pick her as his vice-presidential nominee. And that, as she gained more momentum, he asserted that superdelegates should nevertheless make him the nominee because he could attract the working-class voters the party needed to win in the fall.

Clinton supporters would likely find those suggestions sexist.

And yet Clinton and her camp have made the same suggestions in this campaign. Clinton’s political arguments have found a broad acceptance among her backers – an acceptance that’s hard to imagine if a similar case were made by a lagging rival in a race Clinton led.

And even as those arguments are offered, some of Clinton’s backers, as well as some commentators, seem convinced that sexism and double standards are among the principal reasons she has fallen dauntingly behind Obama.

I doubt anyone would say that there is no sexism at all, but this is hardly the major factor why Clinton is losing. Clinton started out the race appearing to be the inevitable winner, leading by a considerable margin in all polls. She also had considerable success in early fund raising, and had a majority of superdelegates backing her until the past week. If Democrats were opposed to a woman president, they wouldn’t have given her this early support.

The problem is not that Democrats do not want a woman nominee. They just do not want this woman for reasons having nothing to do with her gender. Clinton is wrong for the party based both upon her political views and her personal conduct. Clinton has increasingly adopted both the views and tactics of her new friends in the vast right wing conspiracy. Clinton backed the Iraq war, despite her attempts to hide this fact. She has stronger ties to the religious right than the presumptive Republican candidate. She backs the same types of abuses of executive power practiced by George Bush. Her campaign is all about grabbing power for herself, while failing to respect and support liberal values.

Rather than building a big tent as Obama has, bringing in new voters, Clinton seeks a party which represents the views of only a minority of Democrats. Her party is increasingly limited to working class voters as her supporters reject the affluent, and those of us who hold liberal principles, as “elitists” whose views do not matter. For Democrats to win, the Democrats must broaden their support, not make it more narrow.

The real sexism in this race comes from women who support Hillary Clinton because she is a woman, even when she uses the same tactics they have been condemning when coming from George Bush. Clinton has sent out mailers which were totally misleading regarding Obama’s positions on issues such as Social Security, abortion rights, Iraq, and health care. Clinton’s distortions on abortion rights led Lorna Brett Howard, the former President of Chicago NOW, to drop her support for Clinton and back Obama. Clinton has also raised bogus charges such on plagiarism, distorted the meaning of voting present in the Illinois legislature, and distorting Obama’s references to Ronald Reagan in an interview. Lawrence Lessig made an excellent video summarizing the reasons to oppose Clinton due to her character. I have previously posted both the video and a transcript here. Bill Bradley has also commented on Clinton’s dishonesty as as noted here.

Despite Clinton’s adoption of both many political views and the tactics of the far right, Clinton apologists are willing to look the other way because she is a woman. Someday there will be a woman candidate who deserves to win the nomination. Hopefully it will be one who competes based upon her own qualifications, not based upon who she was married to. Despite all her claims of experience, Clinton actually has far less meaningful experience than Barack Obama, and certainly far poorer judgment in matters of policy. Perhaps most importantly, she rejects the liberal values which hopefully differentiate a Democrat from a Republican. There were many reasons for Democrats to reject Hillary Clinton regardless of how one feels about a woman president.

Update: A Future Woman President


  1. 1
    DrToketee says:

    This is one of the very best summaries of the Hillary situation that i’ve read anywhere, all achieved within a few paragraphs. I can only add that in a few years, millions of women will look back and be ashamed of themselves for backing Hillary so strongly because by doing so they had set the women’s movement back many years. Hillary started the damage on feminism, while our still-naive American women simply made it worse.

  2. 2
    Richelle says:

    WOW. Excuse me while I forward this terribly accurate piece. SPOT ON Ron sir!

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