Support for Hillary Clinton has been characterized by a tremendous gender gap in many polls as women voters, along with some men, are so eager to have a female president that they are willing to overlook Clinton’s rather serious flaws, both on policy matters and character. It is encouraging to see a report in The New York Times which found that many younger women are looking more at the candidate than their gender. The article begins:
Barbara Schierenbeck, a 59-year-old nurse in Brooklyn, is swept up in the excitement of potentially electing Hillary Clinton the first female president. She cannot understand why her 19-year-old daughter, Anna, does not feel the same way.
“Fifteen or 20 years ago, no one would even think about a woman being president,” Mrs. Schierenbeck said. “Certainly, when I was 20 years old in the 1970s, I don’t think I would even have thought about it.”
But for her daughter, electing a woman, while a nice idea, is not a motivating factor. “I want to see someone who, like, has the fervor to fight for me,” Anna Schierenbeck said. A woman will be elected president “pretty soon” anyway, she said, regardless of what happens in 2016. Why does that woman have to be Mrs. Clinton?
The problem is with Mrs. Clinton, which is exacerbated by how much she has moved to the right this fall, along with her life-long record of undermining liberal causes. While her supporters often claim that opposition to her is based upon sexism, in reality it is based upon principle, as many of the left do not want to see what would amount to a third term for George Bush on far too many policy matters, with the ethics of Richard Nixon.
If Elizabeth Warren was the nominee there would be no objection from the left. Should Clinton win the nomination, many on the left, especially those of us who do not live in battleground states, are now talking about happily voting for a woman candidate. Except she would be Jill Stein of the Green Party, not Hillary Clinton.
The objection is not to a woman president. The objection is to Hillary Clinton.
Getting back to the article:
The mother-daughter debate unfolding in the Schierenbeck household reflects a debate taking place across the country, as women of varying ages and backgrounds confront the potential milestone implicit in Mrs. Clinton’s bid very differently. As her chances of becoming the first woman to be nominated by a major political party improve, many women are considering how much gender should play into their decisions to embrace Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy — or not.
The generational divide in how they answer that question has added urgency to Mrs. Clinton’s efforts to focus on how she appeals to younger women, who overwhelmingly vote Democratic but who might sit out an election if they are not excited by a candidate. After beginning her candidacy in April with hopes of inspiring women that this was their moment, she is now more intent on trying to forge common cause on specific issues, and less on merely shattering the glass ceiling.
Unlike in her 2008 campaign, Mrs. Clinton has this year leaned heavily on her gender, often ending speeches by invoking an America “where a father can tell his daughter, ‘Yes, you can be anything you want to be, even president of the United States.’ ”
It is a powerful line for Mrs. Clinton’s most avid supporters: college-educated women in their 50s and 60s. “For baby boomer women, in particular, it’s ‘I fought this whole war, and now we’re running out of time, and if not Hillary, then who would it be?’ ” said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who is herself a baby boomer.
But younger women are less impressed.
Meghan Speed, a 20-year-old college junior from Concord, N.C., said she expected a woman to be elected president in the next 20 years, but planned to vote for Senator Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary because of his record on issues like income inequality.
“For me it was very difficult to wrap my mind around not fully supporting Hillary, because she is a woman,” she said. “But I came to the realization that if I am supporting her because she is a woman, that’s equally as bad as not supporting her because of her gender.”
Yes, supporting Clinton because of her gender, ignoring her conservative views and history of unethical behavior, would be the wrong decision. So is it for Democrats who would oppose the same policies or behavior coming from Clinton if they came from a Republican, but ignore them because of her gender or party affiliation. Candidates should be judged by the same standards, regardless of party.
The generational gap, with the young supporting Sanders over Clinton regardless of gender, is reminiscent of the generational gap between those who supported Obama over Clinton eight years ago:
The generational gap haunted Mrs. Clinton in the 2008 primary: In Iowa, Mr. Obama took 51 percent, John Edwards 19 percent and Mrs. Clinton just 11 percent of the caucus vote among women younger than 24. The only demographic cohort that Mrs. Clinton won, exit polls showed, was women older than 65…
Mrs. Clinton’s standing among white women has declined in some recent polls, but women remain the backbone of her support. More than half of all women said they had a favorable opinion of Mrs. Clinton, compared with 36 percent of men, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released this month.
But just 38 percent of women aged 18 to 29 said they supported Mrs. Clinton in the Democratic primary, compared with 40 percent for Mr. Sanders, according to a poll of 2,011 young people released Thursday by Harvard’s Institute of Politics.
A major question in this campaign will be how young voters, former Obama voters, and voters who have not typically participated in the nominating system turn out in Iowa and New Hampshire. Polling does not give a reliable indicator of such caucus and primary states, as I have discussed many times before, as most voters do not decide until the last minute, and pollsters cannot reliably determine who will turn out to vote. It is always dangerous to count on young voters, who vote in smaller percentages than older voters. I am hopeful that having the Iowa caucus take place this year after students are back at school, as opposed to over the holiday break eight years ago, will lead to an improvement in their participation.
Sanders’ views are far more in tune with those of the young, and hopefully his support will increase as more people become aware of the vast differences in his views compared to Clinton’s. Those who are concerned about the state of the economy and getting good jobs, are likely to join Sanders’ coalition as opposed to supporting the policies from Clinton to benefit her Wall Street cronies. While fear of terrorism is once again affecting the electorate, overall Sanders’ views should be preferable to the militaristic, neoconservative views of Hillary Clinton. Younger voters who tend to be more secular and socially liberal should prefer Sanders over Clinton’s socially conservative and more theocratic views. Younger voters who tend to be more libertarian on civil liberties issues should prefer Sanders over Clinton.
The important thing is that voters look at the actual candidates, and not vote simply based upon gender. It is a hopeful sign that young women are not making the same mistake which many older women are with their knee jerk support of Hillary Clinton.