Since 2008, when she ran against our current president, I was a Hillary Clinton supporter. I was ‘with her.’ I was crushed when she eventually lost the nomination to Barack Obama. The toughest losses are close ones and this loss was bruising. The campaign was long and grueling and when it was all over, she had to settle for second place with an award for valiant effort. I ached for her. The ‘would have, could have, should haves’ in her head must be torturous. I supported Hillary Clinton in 2008 not just because she was a woman, though it was a factor. I felt like she was on my side when it came to important issues. I am a very average middle-class woman making an average income. I am now thirty-seven, I was twenty-nine, almost thirty when Hillary Clinton first ran for president. Issues like equal pay for equal work, federally mandated Paid-Family-Leave, Universal Health Coverage and affordable childcare for families were important to me. Though she cast a disastrous vote with President George W. Bush to invade Iraq, she was contrite enough and I believed her when she said she will wind down operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Hillary on the campaign trail of 2008 is a very different Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail today. The Hillary of 2008 was more humble and she sought to earn our votes. It wasn’t a given. She didn’t act as though she would be handed the nomination because she was a former First Lady and two term New York Senator. She asked and at times begged for every one of our votes. Today she demands our votes. And it’s distasteful. With her tenure as Secretary of State during Obama’s first term under belt, she got even more arrogant. It’s not the anti-feminist view of self-assured and confident woman being called arrogant, no, she became arrogant in the original meaning of being arrogant. Arrogant in the belief that she deserved our votes without having to earn them all over again. Her tenure as Secretary of State, with the exception of the embassy attacks in Benghazi, it was largely considered a success. She executed Obama’s agenda faithfully and made America more palatable to the world again. She was a tireless trooper and logged an estimated 1 million miles for President Obama. When she stepped down at the end of her first term to go prepare to be a grandmother, everyone felt it was well deserved. Her political enemies were no doubt relieved, but I am sure most of them knew it wasn’t the last we’d see of her.
Hillary Clinton and by extension ‘The Clintons’ are not ‘men of the people’. They are a political juggernaut, a political powerhouse. In fact, they were never not these things, even from their humble Arkansas days. The Clintons were and still are a political force. They are not ordinary folks who got elected to office to serve other ordinary folks (unlike Bernie Sanders). Hillary Clinton never pretended to be just another ordinary woman, though she says differently now, she is the Establishment. This fact alone turns off many but I was fine with it. I am still fine with it. I am pragmatic and elections are often about choosing the lesser devil.
Since she was our First Lady, I admired her grit, her determination in the face of adversity. There is no other woman in modern history who was attacked from all sides from everyone and about everything. She was criticized for denigrating housewives for wanting to ‘fulfil her profession’ and that she could have ‘stayed home and baked cookies’ but chose not to. Before Obamacare there was HillaryCare – it failed to get out of committee but it got enough attention and if she can put a plan together just as First Lady, which isn’t an official government position, just imagine what more she can do as president? When her husband cheated on her multiple times throughout their marriage, where it would cause many women to dig a hole and never come out, she soldiered on her way. She stood by his side even if only to protect her family’s interest and Chelsea’s interest. Like all smart women, she left the plate smashing behind closed doors and dealt with their enemies as a united front. She was criticized for not divorcing him further cementing the impression that she is a ruthless, calculating political animal and the only possible reason she’d remain with a love cheat of a husband like that is only for political reasons. When she doesn’t show emotion she is called a calculating bitch, almost like a modern day Lady Macbeth. When she does, like at the 2008 New Hampshire primary, you guess it, she was accused of using her feminine wiles by shedding a few tears to gain sympathy (she’d just lost the Iowa Caucuses). The woman can’t go out and get a burrito without anyone having an opinion about that. Even when she is speaking today, the criticism is she sounds rehearsed, not genuine and doesn’t come from the heart. When did this woman ever wear her heart on her sleeve? Is that a requirement in which I am not aware of to run for president? Are male presidential candidates required to wear his heart on his sleeve? Lastly, she is criticized for her appalling lack of fashion sense, something she readily admits to and pokes fun at herself too (especially those old headband days).
When I sense that she is being attacked on the grounds of sexism (and misogyny) and not just about the issues, my feminist hackles are raised. It is the oldest trick in the book left to attack powerful women or women seeking positions of power and that is to make her look unfeminine or too feminine depending on when it suits. Her range of acceptable behavior has just been narrowed. Everything about her is under attack, along with the issues. As a feminist, I am strongly against singling women out for behaviors men routinely get away with or with behaviors which are considered natural to men, such as ambition, aggression and determination. It doesn’t mean I believe women seeking high office and positions of power should get a free pass but the gross double standard is there and I am against it. Women know it when we see it, there is no point explaining it away.
My support for Hillary Clinton today is wavering to the point of being withdrawn completely. She is now my backup candidate, meaning if Bernie Sanders doesn’t get the nomination, I may consider voting for Hillary Clinton just so I won’t vote Republican. Depending on how everything pans out, I may even cast my vote with a third party candidate if Bernie Sanders fails to win the nomination. Let me explain why.
Hillary Clinton has lost touch with her core supporters and her core political values, especially on issues of social justice. Since the financial crash of 2008, which wiped trillions from the net worth of working and middle-class Americans, instead of distancing herself and castigating the bankers and institutions who caused this crash, she continues to be friendly with them and accepts political contributions in the form of speech fees. The Clintons have always been well off but in recent years, as more and more Americans fell out of the middle class or are barely hanging on by their fingernails, the wealth of the Clintons multiplied many times over. Chelsea Clinton, who is close to me in age, lives in a $10 million Manhattan penthouse paid for by her parents. Despite Chelsea’s elite education, she’s never had to hustle to get a job. Even people of Chelsea’s social class with similar education have to at one time or another put together a resume and go out there and get job interviews in hopes of landing a job. Chelsea didn’t have to do that. Working for the Clinton Foundation isn’t a job she earned, she was handed the job by her parents, mostly to avoid conflict of interest when her mother runs for president. And if the most recent Vanity Fair report is to be believed, she’s ruffling a lot of feathers and her performance thus far has gotten mixed reviews. Even more ludicrous was her MSNBC ‘special correspondent’ position where NBC paid her $600,000 to do special reporting. She has no experience in nor did she study journalism, it is unclear exactly what stories she filed for MSNBC, though the network had high praise for her work. Many suspect this is NBC’s way getting in the good graces of Hillary Clinton in the event she runs for president and NBC will be granted first interviews.
All of this would have flown under the radar had candidate Bernie Sanders of Vermont not come out of the woodwork and remind everyone what the Clintons and their ilk are about. They are neoliberal elites who are in bed with the 1% and the people who brought down this economy. The young people, mainly Millennials are saddled with student debt, poor job prospects, poor housing prospects and an uncertain economic future. What’s inconvenient for Hillary Clinton this time around (the Iraq Vote issue of 2008) is the fact that during Bill Clinton’s administration, under pressure from Republican majority in the House of Representatives led by Newt Gingrich, The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) was passed. This undermined the safety net put in place by the New Deal of the 1930s and during Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration’s War on Poverty. This law was enacted during an economic boom where the effects weren’t keenly felt yet. The dot-com bust of the early 2000s rebounded much faster than the 2008 Great Recession. Though PRWORA was enacted during her husband’s administration and she was not involved with it but she showed support for it. As a result of this welfare reform bill, the safety net that was once there had many large holes in it where many Americans who didn’t qualify for the most stringent set of poverty guidelines fell through. As usual with poverty, the hardest hit are usually women, especially single mother households and minorities. Minorities also suffered the biggest losses in The Great Recession of 2008 as well. Bill Clinton also passed an aggressive criminal justice bill (a bill which he regrets today) which saw the rise of mass incarcerations, especially among blacks and latinos.
The recession may be over in technical terms, but the effects of the recession are still strongly felt. Labor participation rate is only 62.4%, which means roughly 4 out of 10 adults who should be working aren’t because they’ve dropped out of the labor force. They’ve stopped looking for work. The 4.9% unemployment rate doesn’t look so good against the labor participation rate. The 4.9% unemployment rate includes people who are underemployed or employed in dead end low wage jobs where their skills are not fully utilized. Growth is weak, good jobs with benefits are few and you have college graduates fighting for jobs with non-college graduates over menial work. How is this a real recovery? Job prospects for high school graduates or less is non-existent.
In the backdrop of all this, the fall out of a diminished safety net which was caused by the Bill Clinton administration comes Hillary Clinton demanding we go with her. Especially women, what kind of feminists are we if don’t go with the ultimate feminist figure of modern times? Her supporters on social media and other places are shilling for her so hard I hope they don’t get a coronary before this is all over. And I hope they make it on Hillary Clinton’s Christmas card list. What right does Hillary Clinton supporters have telling how women should vote and if we Feel the Bern we are self-hating because, apparently, Bernie Sanders has male supporters who are anti-feminist and misogynistic? So, we are comparing candidates now by who supports them? So if Hillary Clinton had supporters in the KKK does that make all her other supporters sympathize with the KKK too? All of a sudden, neoliberal feminists are ordering all other feminists to subscribe to their brand of feminism and serve at the altar of Hillary Clinton. And if we don’t, we are betraying feminism itself.
There was always a chasm, an unspoken wall which divide the older generation of feminists and say younger feminists, and by that I mean age 45 or younger. The older rank and file feminists like Gloria Steinem and her colleagues feel that we younger women are insufficiently thankful to them for their fight for equality. They make that judgement based on the decisions we make in our lives. There are women who choose to drop out of the workforce to care for her children until they reach school age. There are women who cut back on career opportunities after weighing between family and career and they choose family. A lot of times it’s not her choice, it’s what the circumstances dictate but there are times where it is. God forbid a woman is happy or choose to be a housewife while her children are young. There are some women such as Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo who outrightly rejects the label of feminism for herself. She sees herself as sort of a careerist. I don’t agree with that notion but she’s free to label herself as she sees fit. Most importantly, Hillary Clinton doesn’t represent the experiences of most women. She does not represent me or my views or the views of many of my peers. She no longer relates to her supporters in the same way. She is a neoliberal elite who has lost touch with the common man and she aims to preach from her altar on what’s best for us. Her many years of experience in government doesn’t automatically qualify her for the Democratic nomination or the presidency. In fact, Obama’s presidency proves that experience does not matter when running for the top job. In his first presidential campaign, John McCain routinely accused Obama of having no experience outside the halls of the Senate, and it didn’t matter, he was elected anyway.
Hillary Clinton has an impressive list of achievements, that cannot be denied. But she no longer represents the average working person. Her ties are too entrenched in the establishment, The Clinton Foundation has its hands in too many pies and there’s no way to separate Hillary the woman from all of that. The likelihood of her raising taxes on or punishing the people that gave her $350,000 for a speech lasting less than half an hour are nil.
It’s unclear how Bernie Sanders quest for the nomination will end. There is a fear and it’s a possibility that even if Sanders wins the nomination, he will lose the general election, just as George McGovern had years before. It doesn’t much matter right now to the youth of this country. Bernie Sanders speaks their truth, he knows their truth. Throughout many years of Sanders being in government he hasn’t lost touch with real people.
As for Gloria Steinem’s reason on why young women are Feeling the Bern (“because that’s where the boys are”), you are better than this Ms. Steinem. I am a great admirer of Steinem and her work. Her work informed my feminist consciousness, I became a feminist partly because of Steinem. But comments like these from her (and those of her generation) is why some younger women think older women are bitter and angry. So, yes, given a choice between hanging out with my angry harridan of a mother or “boys”, the answer is obvious. But this is beside the point. Young women are with Bernie Sanders because Bernie Sanders understands our concerns.
I find myself saddened that I’ve reached this conclusion about Hillary Clinton and her candidacy. I can no longer support a candidate who chooses to be friendly with the people and organizations that destroyed our economy, of which many people may never recover from.