The latest round of scorn I have seen directed at the first woman to get within striking distance of the American Presidency is that she is ‘a weak nominee’.
Prior to that I have been informed that she is a crook, corrupt, beholden to Wall Street, a warmonger, a war criminal, too conservative, too close to the political establishment, uninspiring, fundamentally dishonest, homophobic, about to be indicted by the FBI, unlikable, charmless and just represents more of the same.
Phew! If all of that is true (or even just some of it) how on earth has such a twisted human being managed to attract any votes or supporters at all? Is she a witch? Has she cast a spell over the women, black & Latino voters and the working class neighbourhoods that are her strongholds? Or are they just dupes, blinded by Clintons gender into giving her their vote?
Indeed, just the other day I was surprised to find I was being accused of telling women to vote for Clinton just because of her gender. I racked my brain (and my Twitter feed) to see where I had ever said such a thing and drew a blank. What I thought I had been doing was rather the opposite – arguing that she should not be rejected or held to a higher standard just because she was a woman. I have been doing that a lot lately when people (oddly, mostly men, but then it’s a small sample) have patiently tried to explain to me why Clinton is all of the terrible things I have listed above. When I have reacted sceptically (I know, I am so naive) they have assured me that Clinton’s gender has nothing to do with their dislike of her. Some have even claimed not to ‘see’ gender at all. (What! Clinton’s a woman! I hadn’t noticed! And all the Presidents ever have been men! Nope, never crossed my mind!)
Well, maybe they are right. Maybe Clinton being a woman does bias me in her favour. Us women are like that, apparently, we vote according to gender unlike men who vote on policy grounds which is why it’s a complete co-incidence that men always seem to get elected. That’s not bias, you see, that’s merit.
So let’s take a look at all the criticisms aimed at Clinton and see if they are objective. First, that she is a weak candidate. Having followed Clinton’s career for decades now, I find it hard to believe she is weak in any way. She has doggedly stood up to more public criticism, public shame and vitriol than anyone else I can think of. Far from being weak, I think she’s like a Kelly doll. You knock her down and she gets up again. She fought for universal healthcare as First Lady, lost but did not give up on the idea (that’s why she now supports expanding Obamacare, on the grounds it’s achievable – well, she should know).
When no longer First Lady, she became the Senator for New York and is credited – even by opponents – with working long, hard and with humility to gain respect and the reputation as a colleague who was both effective and collaborative. As the new Senator for New York, just after 9/11, she voted for the invasion of Iraq – a vote she now says she regrets. This is the basis of the warmonger label. Of course, political realities being what they are, as the new Senator for New York in 2001 what else could she have done? I have had the same excuse offered to explain why Bernie Sanders voted against the Brady Bill (tightening gun control) 5 times. Apparently, he’s a Senator for gun-toting Oregon so what else could he do? Funny how wriggle room is given to him, but not to her.
In 2008 she stood as a candidate for the Democratic nomination and gave Barack Obama a real run for his money. Then, when he graciously offered her the role as his Secretary of State, she graciously accepted and was a dedicated, loyal and hardworking Secretary who is credited with putting the rights of women and girls front and centre of her term. Something that had never been done before or since. She also used her position and authority to deliver an uncompromising speech on the rights of LGBTI people all over the world and has changed her stance on marriage equality. This change has earned her the homophobic label, because she has not always supported gay marriage but, then again, she is 68. It would be a rare 68 year old who has not been on a journey towards more enlightened views on this issue.
But, she’s a woman, standing for President – get real – she must be perfect ideologically, personally & politically or she is obviously unsuitable.
And is she a crook – corrupt and financially dodgy, in the pocket of Wall Street from whom she has taken speakers fees? (I take speakers fees too, from all sorts of organisations, I’ve never regarded it as influencing my views on the world in any way.) Well, she is certainly the most investigated candidate for the Presidency ever and nothing she has been accused of has ever stuck. This leaves me with two possible conclusions; either she is a genius (a useful attribute for a President), or she is innocent. Investigative journo Jill Abramson who has investigated Clinton many times says she is fundamentally honest. But, then, she’s a woman so probably biased.
I don’t have room to go into all the other accusations that have been aimed at Clinton but you get the picture. She is not perfect. She has made mistakes. To get within cooee of the Presidency she has had to play the political game in a way her male opponents have not. What really gets me is that it is that same long, determined apprenticeship that is now being used against her. Once again a woman finds that she is damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t.
Of course it is legit to oppose Clinton on policy and politics. There are many valid criticisms that can be made about her. I am not saying she is above criticism. In fact, I am saying the exact opposite. The fact that she has made mistakes and can be criticised for them should not disqualify her from the Presidency, just as it does not for men.
Oh, and as for Clinton being more of the same unlike Sanders and Trump who, according to many pundits, are really revolutionary? Well, if you can’t see the flaw in that argument there’s no help for you.