It feels as if the 2016 Democratic primary was settled in 2008. Whatever else is assumed about the coming election, the one thing everyone imagines is that the Democrats’ candidate will be a woman. The only two women we talk about are Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren, even though Warren has announced that she is definitely not running.
Since the release of her book a year ago, Hillary’s pre-campaign performance has been less than impressive. As we begin to glean more information on her current policy positions and revisit long-standing ones, it appears little has evolved from either the feminist or progressive points of view.
Clinton is still very much a hawk on foreign policy and defense. By all accounts, the revelation of our surveillance state is one the most significant developments of the last decade. Clinton has told the UK’s The Guardian that, should he decide to return, Edward Snowden would be able to mount a public interest defense in a trial for treason. Clinton’s assertion that such an ability exists under current law has been disputed by legal experts.
“If he wishes to return knowing he would be held accountable and also able to present a defence, that is his decision to make,”
A joint 2014 poll conducted by Pew Research Center and USA Today reveals that millenials overwhelmingly approve of Snowden’s actions, while the rest of the population’s disapproval varies by age group.
On race relations, one of the most pressing issues of our time, Clinton was unwilling to concede that the animus towards President Obama is racially-motivated. Polling over the last two years has consistently shown that, across the generations, there is wide agreement that race relations are at an all-time low.
All throughout Election 2014, Clinton and her husband were heavily invested in several campaigns in Kentucky, Georgia, and elsewhere. President Obama was not welcome in any of the states the Clintons campaigned in. All of the candidates endorsed by the Clintons were rejected by the voters. These losses are monumental failures at a time when our middle class is shrinking, the needs of women of all ages and ethnic backgrounds are not being addressed, their civil rights are still under the constant assault of conservatives in the courts and legislatures. Voter disengagement in the mid-term election was the cause of rather spectacular losses in both houses of Congress.
Clinton has not yet published an economic agenda, but we do know it is Lawrence Summers who, from the Center for American Progress, oversaw the compilation of a report that is assumed to be a summary of the Hillary Clinton economic agenda. William Greider provides us with a trenchant analysis of it in “But Is Hillary Ready for Us?” Summers is the man whose nomination to chair the Federal Reserve was defeated just two years ago when, due to a massive public outcry against such a neoliberal candidate, was forced to ask President Obama to withdraw his nomination. The current Fed chair, Janet Yellen, was nominated as a result. Summers is also the former president of Harvard University who blamed the lack of women in science on “innate” differences. Summers, a habitual sexist, is widely expected to hold a major economic position in a Hillary Clinton presidency.
It will be very difficult for center and left of center Democrats to take Hillary seriously if Larry Summers’ economic policy is how she plans to execute a hard left pivot. Clinton continues her long-standing association with the Bob Rubin crowd and her dependence on millions of dollars in contributions from the financial sector remains unabated. With Elizabeth Warren and others calling for the reinstatement and expansion of the same Glass-Steagall banking legislation Bill Clinton repealed in 1999, it is hard to imagine Clinton suddenly signing on to its re-enactment into law with any kind of credibility. Just as unimaginable is Larry Summers overseeing, again, any tweaking of the legislation he had a part in repealing. Banking legislation similar to or stricter than Glass-Steagall is key in avoiding a repeat of the near financial collapse of 2008.
Bill Clinton pushed for and got us NAFTA. Today, the Obama administration is pushing very hard for the ratification of its trade treaty, the TPP, which was negotiated in secret and which most Democrats now strongly oppose but Republicans favor. While we still don’t know Hillary’s official position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), her opposition to it would be inconsistent with Clinton doctrine and, likely, all of her big donors’ positions. Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, a potential primary candidate, is a very strong proponent of restoring Glass-Steagall and blames its repeal for the gradual degradation of the banking system, leading up to the financial crisis that started the Great Recession.
Ethics have plagued Hillary and Bill Clinton’s political careers. Before “Money in Politics” became a thing, we were talking about Friend of Bill in reference to money and influence. Clinton has recently taken the heat for accepting tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments through the Clinton Foundation, in spite of her agreement with the Obama administration not to do so. It was revealed last week that Clinton also reneged on an agreement to divulge the list of donors to the Clinton Foundation Health Access Initiative.
Authenticity may well elude Clinton again, this cycle. Reading through commentary from readers in the major newspapers and on social media, the common thread is a reluctant acceptance – barring another strong female candidate – that they will likely hold their noses and vote Hillary. It’s a pretty sad state of affairs when we still have a couple of years to go and no Democrat has, as of yet, announced they would run against her.
The left-leaning mass media has provided Clinton with a wall of silence when it comes to any possible dissent from the progressive quarter. It has also provided her with the cover of minimizing every misstep we’ve seen so far. Most of the left-leaning pundits have pronounced the new Hillary email flap as a non-issue with voters now, as well as in the long term, based on a poll that shows her as having a substantial lead against a field of potential Republicans. CNN’s write up alludes to some loss of ground on the part of Clinton, due to the email controversy. To add to the atmosphere of collusion, there is this week’s very oddly-timed interview of former Congressman Barney Frank in which he expressed his support of Elizabeth Warren’s decision not to run because “she would lose the credibility she now has.” Former Representative Frank also criticized Vice President Joseph R. Biden on former CNN host Larry King’s cable show: “Joe is his own worst enemy, he can’t keep his mouth shut or his hands to himself.”
While Hillary has been very active on women and girls’ issues internationally, through the Clinton Foundation’s Women and Girls initiative, we don’t know what policies she has in mind to combat sexism and bring about gender equality in America in general, but especially in communities of color. With reproductive rights and equal pay under attack, Clinton has two feminist issue she can easily and credibly rally around in pushing back against the GOP’s continued “War on Women.” Those two issues hardly cover the spectrum that is women’s rights. Polling over the last few years has shown that millenials’ views are decidedly progressive when it comes to the issues that matter most to feminists. Currently, the feminism movement seems to be at a standstill, with no new agenda other than regaining lost ground.
There is still a deep divide along racial lines, with the interests of Black and Latino women still being seen as separate, and white women’s feminist issues along neoliberal lines. But are they really? The Great Recession has impacted the position of women of all ages and backgrounds in ways that should have redefined women’s issues as a whole, and not only as a response to the impact of actions taken by red state legislatures. Virulent sexism has been on the rise in politics and in the workplace (including racially-tinged anti-feminism directed at Black women), our education systems are under attack, and in many a legislature women’s reproductive rights have been significantly rolled back. It should be a matter of course that the democratic presidential candidate, male or female, to address women’s issues thoroughly and showcase them at the top of their agenda.
While we don’t currently have a national economic crisis unfolding, we are still left with significant issues to resolve; namely, a pronounced mistrust of our institutions, deep social and political divisions exacerbated by voter suppression, gerrymandering, widespread police brutality, systemic racism, and an economy that is still producing low-wage jobs and robbing young college graduates of equivalent career tracks to their elders’.
It seems that a Democrat is in the best position to win the presidential election. Even the strongest of Republican candidates, would have need the votes of all of the GOP base, a chunk of the rightmost voters on the Democratic side, as well as the now left-leaning independent voter. Given the abandonment of the GOP by women and minorities, such a win is highly unlikely.
So, is this abject fear of considering a Democrat who isn’t Hillary justified? Could Martin O’Malley or some as-of-yet unnamed, better-qualified male candidate win the party’s nomination over Hillary and go on to defeat the best the GOP has to offer? It doesn’t seem like such a possibility is even being considered at this point in time. It’s as if people have decided that since an African American was elected into office, a woman must follow, no matter what. One of the most important lessons we’ve learned from 2007 is that President Obama’s win was not the advent of post-racial America. A defeat of Hillary Clinton in another primary would not necessarily mean that America is retro-feminist, but merely confirm the voter’s choice.
It is troubling that, at this early stage, the mainstream press has thrown itself behind Clinton, without first initiating any deep discussion on the meaning of what possibly could be the feminist decade ahead. The press has, instead, been reinforcing what it has decided is an inevitable Clinton candidacy and presidency, without explaining why.
Is this determinism a feminist behavior? I would have to say no. To quote Professor Bell Hooks: “Imagine living in a world where there is no domination, where females and males are not alike or even always equal, but where a vision of mutuality is the ethos shaping our interaction.”
“As all advocates of feminist politics know, most people do not understand sexism or if they do, they think it is not a problem. Masses of people think that feminism is always and only about women seeking to be equal to men. And a huge majority of these folks think feminism is anti-male. Their misunderstanding of feminist politics reflects the reality that most folks learn about feminism from patriarchal mass media.” — Bell Hooks
The argument that men and women would much rather vote for Warren, but fear that not voting for Hillary will get Rand Paul or Ted Cruz elected is a null one. The last Democratic primary proves it. One of Hillary Clinton’s great advantages over Barack Obama was the promise of a two-fer as the nation had begun its descent into the Great Recession. Mass layoffs were being announced on a daily basis, and voters were hyper-aware that a severe economic downturn was peaking. Logically, Hillary, with Bill Clinton as the presumptive First Husband, should have been best placed to win the nomination, what with Bill’s stellar economic reputation. But it wasn’t to be. The public chose the nominee it trusted more. With no declared Democrat as a candidate, there are no indications, one way or another, that this couldn’t happen again. Not yet.
I am not ready for Hillary. Am I still a feminist?
There is a big difference between promoting equality between the sexes and elevating one woman without regard to fitness, out of some entitled notion that the time has come for a woman to lead. Such a preconception is indicative of matriarchy. If there is a better-qualified, less flawed and more trustworthy candidate whose views and policies are more in line with public opinion and he happens to be a man, I, for one, don’t think my choosing him over a woman would make me less of a feminist. The goal should always be the common good.