With the New Hampshire primary today, the contest on the Democratic side has turned quite nasty. Hillary Clinton has clearly been shaken by her hair’s breadth escape out of Iowa. With Bernie Sanders having a lead in New Hampshire and closing the gap in polls nationally, she has clearly decided that she needs to pull out all the stops to avoid an embarrassing defeat that will dent her carefully cultivated aura of inevitability.
One claim that she has raised is that Sanders has been waging a campaign of innuendo against her, by insinuating that she is the captive of the big financial interests without actually coming out and saying so.
Sanders was always going to have this vulnerability ever since he declared that he was not going to wage a negative campaign and would only talk about the issues. But what exactly does a negative campaign mean? One facet is waging personal attacks on your opponent, raising extraneous issues that have little or nothing to do with the ability to govern. Sanders has clearly not done that. But what does a negative campaign mean with respect to the issues because it is not always easy to separate the policy from the person.
Sanders clearly feels that he would be better than Clinton otherwise he would not have run. But how can he say that he is better without implying that she is worse? When he says that he is not part of the establishment and that she is, is that merely a statement of differences or negative campaigning? When he makes his critique that the government has been bought by big money and that he is proud not to have sought or accepted it, does that mean that he is using innuendo to imply that Clinton has been so bought? When he brings up the issue of the Iraq war vote that he opposed and she supported, is that negative campaigning because it raises doubts about her judgment?
Sanders has clearly committed himself to walk a very narrow, one might say unrealistic, line and he is going to veer off it from time to time. But according to Clinton, almost anything that implies that Sanders would be better than her seems to come under the heading of negative campaigning if he says so openly, and as devious and hypocritical if he refrains from drawing a direct comparison.
The other issue that she has raised is gender. Back in 2008, after coming in third in Iowa, Clinton made a dramatic comeback in New Hampshire to beat Barack Obama by making an a fairly open appeal to gender by pointing out how hard it was to run for office as a woman. She seems to trying to reprise that gender theme this time, but more overtly and clumsily, as we saw with the furor created by the statements of Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright. The Clinton camp has tried to play up the ‘Berniebros’ theme that his campaign is dominated by sexists. She has hauled out Bill Clinton who launched a harsh attack on Sanders along that and other lines.
This too has not gone well. Amanda Marcotte says that Clinton and her allies are helping create an unfortunate narrative that the media are seizing on.
No one expected that Hillary Clinton could make a bid to be the first female president without things getting really ugly on the gender politics front, but the weekend before the New Hampshire primary, with the competition from Bernie Sanders getting fierce, things took an especially nasty turn. It’s not just the sexist attacks against Clinton, either. A couple of feminist defenders of Clinton are being baited into following the mainstream media script that pits younger women against older women.
Younger women support Sanders in higher numbers than older women do. This is not surprising. Younger men also support Sanders more than older men do. The politics of idealism have always had more sway with younger people than with older, battle-hardened people. But rather than accept the simplest and likeliest explanation —that men and women tend to be more alike than different – much of the mainstream media has been eager to portray the age gap between women as a titillating catfight between jealous old hags and nubile bimbos.
Ana Kasparian is also fed up with the Berniebros narrative and with people assuming that they can tell her whom to vote for based on her gender.
Is it possible that there are some overzealous Bernie supporters who attack Hillary for being a woman? Of course. According to Think Progress, at their worst, Berniebros have accused Clinton supporters of voting “based on who had the vagina” and have invented novel sexist terms such as “clitrash.”
But it would be laughable to use the worst Bernie supporters as representatives of everyone who endorses him. I’m sure Hillary’s camp wouldn’t appreciate anyone picking her most vicious supporters and using them as examples for why she wouldn’t be a good president.
Maybe it hasn’t been uttered aggressively or concisely enough for the Hillary supporters who can’t seem to understand why liberals like me don’t want her to win the Democratic ticket. So let me be absolutely clear:
Hillary enjoys the riches of a corrupt political system. She has proven time and time again that she can be bought in the exact same way male politicians have been bought by corporate interests. Even Elizabeth Warren called Hillary out for being influenced by corporate money in a 2004 interview with Bill Moyers. The former first lady went from being against pro-corporate bankruptcy legislation to all of a sudden supporting it after she received hefty campaign donations from those who wanted to see the bill passed. Interestingly enough, the legislation hurt single mothers the most.
That alone negates the appeal of her being a woman, and potentially the first female president.
Does it make one sexist for supporting Bernie over Hillary? That would be as ridiculous as me claiming someone was sexist for criticizing me while my hand was caught in the cookie jar. A person isn’t sexist simply for disagreeing with the politics of a female candidate. In fact, when individuals whine about sexism in places where it doesn’t really exist, it leads others to believe that any accusation of sexism is illegitimate.
Of course women face all kinds of barriers in their effort to be taken seriously in pretty much all areas of life. Via commenter anat, I found this article by Kate Albright-Hanna (who supports Sanders) about her own experiences working as an intern in the Clinton White House interesting for the light it sheds on what she calls the all-pervasive BroWorld.
The male interns were learning how to navigate office BroWorld — how to get a more powerful guy to see himself in you, mentor you, ally with you.
The females interns were also learning how to navigate BroWorld — how more powerful guys often said they wanted to mentor you, but then got mad when you refused their sexual advances, and then either ignored or retaliated against you. These were the mid-level staffers, the advance men, the everyday bros whose mentorship could have launched our careers.
But she also points out that when the progressive woman Zephyr Teachout ran for governor of New York against the awful Andrew Cuomo, Clinton supported Cuomo. Where was gender solidarity then? Albright-Hanna labels this selective behavior ‘Hillary-only Feminism’, an accurate label that might well catch on.
But are Clinton’s recent moves sufficient to win in New Hampshire or at least bring her very close? Stay tuned for later tonight.