I never thought this would come to pass, yet here we are… I feel compelled to speak up in Hillary Clinton’s defense.
Let’s get a number of things clear: I hate the Clintons. I’ve hated them pretty much ever since the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” fiasco, and I’ve seen little in the intervening 16 years to do all that much to change my opinion of them. I’m a cautiously pessimistic supporter of Obama; I much preferred the way Edwards talked about issues of class, but hey – when the press massacres your preferred candidate early on, you adjust; you move on.
Still… I’ve been reading a lot of blogospheric bullshit lately about how sexism hasn’t played a role in shutting down Clinton’s campaign. And I gotta say – it’s pretty high-grade bullshit; but it’s still bullshit.
So – this bullshit – is it stupidity? Or willful ignorance? Or deliberate shit-stirring? Not that the three categories are mutually exclusive, of course…
Senator Clinton has been part of the national political scene since, well, Bill Clinton’s presidency. Since that time, Clinton’s name has been attached to insinuations of lesbianism; she’s been labeled a FemiNazi; she’s weathered a lot of attacks that use sexist language, imagery, and dogwhistles – and now, 15+ years later, she has extremely high negative ratings and an apparent ceiling of national support that has a hard time breaking out of the low 40s.
You can’t tell me that almost two decades of scurrilous attacks and insinuations haven’t had anything to do with that. The invective personally directed against her by Rush, North, Liddy, et. al., has been in remission since she seemed content to remain the junior Senator from NY – but once she declared her candidacy, that bile came spewing back out.
So, once and for all: to say that sexism played no role in hindering Clinton’s quest for the Democratic nomination is, well, foolish or ignorant. To say that this sexism was actively cultivated by the Obama campaign also strikes me as foolish or ignorant. It sets aside Clinton’s history, the very thing she’s promoting as an asset, and pretends that no one could possibly look at her and her qualifications and think, ‘you know… maybe we could do better.’ But to say that sexism played no role whatsoever in ending her campaign also misses an opportunity for us to do better.
I happen to believe that we can do better.