Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Sexism, Nostalgia, and Hillary Clinton

posted on 4/15/15 by the Salt City Sinner

Due to the total lack of media coverage, you probably haven't heard that, over the weekend, former Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton formally announced that she is running for the presidency.

To celebrate this completely shocking and unforeseen development, I'd like to take the opportunity to address two points regarding Hillary Clinton: first, the question of Clinton and sexism (in the media and elsewhere), and second, the phenomenon of “Clinton nostalgia.”

Never think for one second that sexism isn't a factor in opposition to Hillary Clinton's campaign. The Christian Right has been especially egregious in this department. The examples are so numerous they deserve their own post at this point, but as a representative sample enjoy this, via the Huffington Post:

A female CEO in Texas has come under fire this week for saying a woman “shouldn’t be president” because of “different hormones” and “biblical sound reasoning.” 
Cheryl Rios, CEO of Dallas marketing and public relations firm Go Ape Marketing, wrote on Facebook that she’d move “to Canada” if Hillary Clinton became head of state. 
“With the hormones we have, there is no way [a woman] should be able to start a war,” she wrote in her post, per KTVT. “Yes I run my own business and I love it and I am great at it BUT that is not the same as being the President, that should be left to a man, a good, strong, honorable man.” 
Rios said she supports “equal rights,” but stressed that “there’s an old biblical sound reasoning why a woman shouldn’t be president,” according to the station. Rios, however, did not cite a particular biblical verse to support her view. [I love that last sentence so much that it's difficult to convey. -Ed.
Now, keeping that caveat (and it's a big one) in mind, there's an unfortunate tendency among Clinton die-hards to chalk up any and all criticism of Clinton to simple sexism. A friend of mine went so far as to say that people (like myself) who have stated that they simply will not vote for her, full stop, are sexists because any other candidate would be met by shrugs and “lesser of two evils” justifications .

I responded to this by saying that if that was the case, it was exceptionally odd that the preferred candidate of most sexist, anti-Clinton lefties is Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Melissa Harris-Perry (from the Nation and MSNBC) made a similar ridiculous claim about liberal opposition to some components of President Obama's policies in 2011. Her thesis? That many policies that Obama was criticized for were similar or identical to policies that Bill Clinton put forth. The problem with that is, of course, that lefty progressives -- and I was one at the time, instead of a "burn the whole fucking system and salt the ashes" anarchist like I am today -- were incredibly critical of Bill Clinton's policies as well as Obama's (if you'd like a longer treatment of Harris-Perry's claim, my original post on the topic is right here).

Just like Harris-Perry's claims, the claims of some of Hillary Clinton's backers that criticism of Clinton's Wall-Street-friendly, hawkish “centrist” Democrat stances are automatically fueled by sexism are silly when you look at actual examples of sexist treatment of Clinton.

 (For the record, the most frequent and flagrant sexism I've noticed in the media's treatment of Clinton is the frequent use of “Mrs. Clinton” in referring to her, rather than “Senator Clinton” or “Secretary Clinton,” which are both more appropriate prefixes, both stylistically and out of respect.)

Another strange trope I've observed regarding Hillary Clinton is “Clinton nostalgia,” or a yearning for the good old days of the first Clinton Administration, a phenomenon that is especially pronounced among Baby Boomers. I'm well aware that Americans have horrifyingly short memories when it comes to politics, but allow me to point out a few things about those golden, sun-drenched years.

It was Bill Clinton who helped to ruin politics in the US in the 1990s at least as badly as the Republicans did: the GOP by drifting further and further right, and Clinton by moving so far right of the liberal Democrat model (call his approach the Democratic Leadership Counsel / "centrist Democrat" thing if you like) that there is little to no meaningful opposition to said rightward drift.

Obama has governed a lot like Bill Clinton in many ways. Most of his stances (a hawkish foreign policy, health care reform that was invented by the conservative Heritage Foundation and first tried out at a state level by Mitt Romney, etc. etc.), when looked at objectively rather than through the murky lens of Tea Party gibberish, sound much, much more like Ronald Reagan's than FDR's or Carter's, not that either of those fellows were saints. Clinton was the creator of "Don'at Ask, Don't Tell;" Obama was anti-gay marriage until he was forced to support it by his Democratic base and changing poll numbers.

Is Hillary a better choice than any of the GOP candidates currently running or likely to run?

That's a stupid question – of course she is -- and none of her critics, including me, are saying otherwise. The problem is that conservative Democrats like Clinton, by using that argument to get votes, box out any meaningful opposition to the rightward tumble of American politics. This tired, familiar “lesser of two evils” shtick is the attitude that allowed Bill Clinton to oversee the repeal of Glass-Steagall ("The Glass-Steagall law is no longer appropriate" were his exact words in 1999) which caused in no small part the 2008 financial crisis.

These games of political triangulation have real consequences for real people. Playing to the right of the middle and being slightly less awful than Republicans allowed Bill Clinton to throw tens to hundreds of thousands of single mothers off of public assistance through welfare "reform." It's the same phenomenon that allowed President Obama to continue the TARP and bailout programs that George W. Bush started, and it's worth remembering that Obama's Justice Department made sure that not a single upper management Wall Street asshole saw the inside of a jail cell after the dust of the financial crisis had settled.

Clinton nostalgia is the basis of a conservative Democratic tendency that pretty much ensures that the US will continue to drift further and further into batshit crazy conservative country. Speaking strictly as a political junkie and observer who plans on writing in a vote for a Bruce Wayne / Dick Grayson ticket in 2016, I think the question liberal Democrats should be asking themselves is this: was the Clinton administration actually good for liberals?

And if not, why are they lining up for round two?

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