I have a confession to make: I have a penis. And while it’s possible my limited male perspective is missing something, I have spent the past few months in a purgatory of confusion as to why anyone professing to be either a feminist or a Liberal (often conflated) would support Hillary Clinton for president over Bernie Sanders. This goes double for the unions and black organizations that have come out in support of Secretary Clinton.
In the past few weeks, Secretary Clinton has marshaled her legions and released her minions on a crusade to shame women and feminists (often not the same thing) into supporting her campaign. Luminaries include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Feminist icon Gloria Steinem, Senator Claire McCaskill, the now-discredited DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and of course, her own daughter, Chelsea. And the justification offered: she’s a woman, and therefore, automatically deserving of their support.
That reasoning is the antithesis of feminism! It posits an unbridgeable divide between the genders and implies that gender alone establishes worth, without allowance for individuality or achievement. It sees no distinction between a Mother Teresa and a Lizzy Borden. In a Facebook post responding to Secretary Albright’s remarks, my friend, Carly Davis, stated quite eloquently:
“… There’s a special place in hell for women who shame other women into supporting each other solely because they are women. Fuck you for the ridiculous, ludicrous, anti-feminist statement you made earlier today. I know it’s not the first time you’ve said something similar, but to trot it out again now is shameful. You, and several others, seem to believe that all women are obligated to vote for Hillary because of their gender. But, actually — we’re not obligated to vote for her just because we might share some pronouns and/or genitalia.”
I was brought up by a brilliant mother, a woman who forged a career as a writer in what was, decidedly, a man’s world. Far ahead of her times in many ways, she was a feminist, before the term was invented, bringing my brothers and I up to understand that women and men have the same capacity for intelligence, determination, drive and ability. Without using a label, our Mother brought us up with a feminist sensibility. And I can promise you this, if my mother was alive today, she would be canvassing, and manning the phone banks in support of the only Progressive running for president — Bernie Sanders.
With apologies to some of the great Liberal voices, like Thom Hartmann and Stephanie Miller, who believe either candidate would make an outstanding president (and if you use only the metric of comparing them to the Republican field, I suppose that’s true), I vehemently disagree. As Michael Douglas famously said in The American President: “…I can tell you without hesitation: Being President of this country is entirely about character.” And that, my friends, is where Hillary Clinton loses me, and a lot of other Progressives, including women and feminists of both genders.
In sending her League of Despair out to malign, not only Sanders’ supporters, but the candidate himself (supposedly leaving her hands clean in the process), Ms. Clinton has resorted to classic Cold War tactics, with her folks using the loaded word “Socialist” (specifically leaving out the Democratic part of that) to scare people. Joseph McCarthy would be as proud of her red-baiting prowess as Henry Kissinger was of the way she ran the State Department. During the benighted ’50s and ‘60s, being called a “Communist” was enough to ruin careers and destroy lives. It’s major cause for hope that the American people don’t seem to be buying the Clintonites use of “Socialist” as code for evil.
Clinton supporters, who, like their candidate, are pragmatic people who “get things done,” see this as simply “playing hardball.” I disagree. I see it as incredibly demonstrative of Secretary Clinton’s character, or lack thereof. She apparently believes she deserves to be president, to a great extent because she’s paid her dues — it’s her turn now. Therefore, any methodology, no matter how low, how vile, is fair play. The attempt to shame women into supporting her candidacy simply because of shared gender, irrespective of character, policy, affiliation, or past performance, represents a two-dimensional ideology, not a genuine shattering of the glass ceiling. Just as President Obama’s ascension to office was a breakthrough of great magnitude, it will be wonderful when a woman is in the Oval Office (Elizabeth Warren, possibly?). But for this to have value, it must be an individual of character – the right woman.
At the risk of repeating things I’ve written in previous blogs: Hillary Clinton is not a Progressive. She’s not even a Liberal. This is a woman who as Senator, voted for the war in Iraq and the unbelievably un-American, unconstitutional Patriot Act. She changes her mind on issues as dictated by political expediency. This includes gay marriage, single-payer health care, prosecution of the Wall Street bankers who brought this country to the brink of financial ruin (and anyone who seriously believes a person who was made rich by Wall Street, and whose campaign donors are, principally, Wall Street bankers and major corporations, is really going to go after these people once elected, is delusional).
For black organizations and unions, while Hillary Clinton talks a good game, let’s look at the record — she was a vehement proponent of the Trans Pacific Partnership, an act which would have the same effect on American workers and unions, if not worse, than did NAFTA, enacted under Bill Clinton’s administration, and which has been an unmitigated disaster for middle income Americans. Naturally, she has, yet again, changed her mind on the TPP — but only after it became incredibly clear her support for it was costing her voters.
And for the love of God, people — Bernie Sanders marched with the Reverend Martin Luther King. His record as a civil rights activist (going back to the 1960s when it wasn’t exactly the politically advantageous thing to do) speaks volumes. Secretary Clinton talks the talk, but who can point to what she’s actually done to help Americans of color? Somebody show me the legislation, please. On the other hand, she has accepted boatloads of bucks from the private prison industry, which in turn has made fortunes incarcerating minorities and pot smokers.
There is a huge difference between these candidates, which totally transcends gender. Yes, this country has never elected a woman president. Is it time? Absolutely. But is that the only reason to support the first woman running for this office? Absolutely not! Carly Fiorina’s candidacy has very little support. Is it because she’s a woman? No. It’s because she’s a liar, and something of a lunatic.
And for those women and feminists who decline to support Hillary Clinton, it must be understood their reason for supporting a male — in this case, a genuine feminist, Sen. Bernie Sanders — has nothing to do with gender, but everything to do with character.