I’m With Her.
Hillary Clinton, social justice, and the feminist quest for progress.
Mission Statement: The point of this piece is to provide a positive, candidate focused view on why I like Hillary Clinton, particularly focusing on her record and goals for women’s & LGBTQ rights as well as on racial and family justice. Because there’s a lot of negativity going around and as much as I read why people dislike Clinton or Sanders, there’s little outside of either campaign’s spin as to why we should like them — at least without doing some massive digging.
Methodology: I opted to stay away from explicitly pro-Bernie or pro-Clinton sources in the hope of presenting information as free of bias one way or another as much as is possible. Further, I haven’t checked up on the authors of any of the pieces for their political leanings.
I have tried to keep my focus on a) policies introduced or passed, b) visible changes on state, national, or global policies, c) money acquired for programs, or d) critical speeches.While I appreciate a voting record in favor of equality, co-sponsorship of legislation, or favorable remarks, these are low effort political contributions and have thus not included.
I have not included anything pre-Arkansas because while she did work on southern desegregation, and migrants issues in law school and shortly after with Treuhaft, Walker, and Burnstein, as well as involvement with national political campaigns for Nelson Rockefeller and George McGovern and the impeachment inquiry committee for Watergate, I’m not sure to what degree she’s continued with that work since and feel reading too deeply into college activities is not tremendously relevant to adult politics.
What I have also excluded discussions or credit for Bill Clinton’s policies, unless, as is the case of Health Care or women’s issues, Hillary Clinton took a vocal, visible, or advocating role or worked on her own to initiate policies. There’s a dangerous sort of misattribution in giving Hillary the credit (or more frequently the blame) for Bill Clinton’s policies which serves to not only to discredit him but to attribute further failures to her while ignoring the massive and consistent strides forward Hillary Clinton has been able to accomplish..
I have done my best to link sources as possible, if they’re not visible, they should still be clickable.
A feminist argument for an ardent feminist
Hillary Clinton has made women’s rights — both at home and abroad — priorities through her career, through both political and social action in ways that have frequently reached out to disenfranchised and vulnerable women. In part, what she has been able to accomplish is due to the unprecedented access of her position first as first lady, then Senator, then Secretary of State, but a large part of this has to be due to her passion and political savvy as well. Even as a first lady, very few have been involved to the level of Hillary Clinton with the exception of
Early in her law career, Hillary Clinton did significant work in children’s rights and she has continued that through her work as First Lady of Arkansas, First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS) and Secretary of State as well as through her private work with the Clinton Foundation, funding education for girls globally. On the women’s front, the first major work I found was as a lawyer in AR, she published and edited the first three editions of the Handbook on Legal Rights for Arkansas Women and as a member of the ABA, rose to prominence for her writing on Children’s rights and was an inaugural member of the ABA’s Commission on Women and the Profession which created a Goal IX report card on increasing participation of women in the legal profession.
As FLOTUS, Clinton revitalized the position which since Eleanor Roosevelt (and before Roosevelt) had been mostly a diplomatic hostess position to advance her politics, including extremely importantly the first serious pass at an NHS which she presented to Congress, despite not having an actual vote in any legislature:
- she began Vital Voices Democracy Initiative with Madeleine Albright, an organization which sought to make women’s issues a consideration in US foreign policy, in a way presaging her work as SoS
- She also initiated the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancy which supports sex education, birth control, and abortion access to reduce teen pregnancies.
- She created the Office of Violence Against Women in the Department of Justice with Janet Reno.
- She publicly criticized China’s policies at the 1995 UN World Conference on Women, where she gave her “women’s rights are human rights” speech and was involved in these conferences throughout Bill Clinton’s presidency.
As a Senator (most of this I Pulled from Planned Parenthood’s blog explaining their endorsement):
- While both Sanders and Clinton have 100% voting records on women’s issues and have consistently co-sponsored and voted in favor, Clinton, even in 1/4 of the time in the senate has been far more productive introducing legislation.
- She introduced paycheck fairness acts in 2005, 2007, and 2009, a bill to restore funding to the UN Population Fund which pushes for global access to reproductive health and leads international efforts against FGM, and introduced 8 pieces of legislature aimed at protecting women’s health and providing compassionate assistant to rape victims. None of these passed from what I can tell, however, at least she tried. And as SoS she was able to restore funding to the UNPF.
- She, along with Sens. Mulaski and Murray, Clinton blocked the approval of GW Bush’s FDA head until they could get approval on legal, OTC access to Plan B.
As Secretary of State, Clinton constantly fought for women overseas, making Women’s Rights a matter of national security and progress. She pushed to increase the voice of women abroad in politics, business, and conflict resolution as well as their access to health care, abortions, and birth control:
- Clinton was criticized for meeting with too many women, frequently working and disenfranchised women in developing nations rather than political elites.
- She championed a 63 billion dollar Global Health Initiative investing in women’s, maternal, and children’s health in developing partner nations.
- She made gender equality one of the mandatory columns in the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review which helps implement long term goals in new state growth.
- She created the position for Ambassador at-large for Global Women’s Issues which Obama made permanent after she stepped down. Saying about the position, Clinton said:
we tried to make a very clear statement, that women are still largely shut out of the negotiations that seek to end conflicts, even though women and children are the primary victims of 21st century conflict.
- She oversaw the publication of the US Action Plan on Women, Peace, and National Security which put forward policies of increasing the presence and voice of women in conflict resolution roles, enhanced protections for women during and after conflicts, and increasing access to resources following conflicts.
Hillary Clinton’s always been damned if she does damned if she doesn’t on women’s issues, but her record (and my work’s by no means all-inclusive) speaks for a constant and unwavering support of women. She’s been condemned since the 90s as a radical feminist to the left of her husband, and by the left as pandering and selling out, She got to it a bit in one of her books, *Living History*
It seemed that people could perceive me only as one thing or the other — EITHER a professional woman OR a conscientious hostess. Gender stereotypes trap women by categorizing them in ways that don’t reflect the true complexities of their lives. It was becoming clear to me that people who wanted me to fit into a certain box, traditionalist or feminist, would never be entirely satisfied with me as me — which is to say, with my many different, and sometimes paradoxical roles.
In my own mind, I was traditional in some ways and not in others. I cared about the food I served our guests, and I also wanted to improve the delivery of healthcare for all Americans. To me, there was nothing incongruous about my interests and activities.
There are articles accusing Hillary of being a bad feminist, or not one at all, based on the same attacks Secretary Clinton has encountered throughout her career or articles which function by addressing only the impact of 90s era prison reform (for which Sanders, and basically everyone on both sides of the aisle, voted for), welfare reform (which Bill Clinton did veto twice before signing), and the Iraq War while ignoring the incredible work Secretary Clinton has done domestically and abroad.
To a point, this is a dangerous misattribution, giving Hillary Clinton credit for policies of her husband’s presidency as a means of both discrediting him and attributing further failures to her while ignoring the massive and consistent strides forward Hillary Clinton has been able to accomplish.
Hillary Clinton was a highly involved First Lady, and as FLOTUS, managed to advance her own politics frequently, most notably in her 1993 Health Care push, but she had no legislative power beyond the pulpit when it came to enacting laws and while Bill Clinton era policies in many cases have not aged well at all, Hillary Clinton is not ultimately responsible for the end content of her husband’s presidency anymore than Cabinet members or contemporary Senators or Congressmen.
“Gay rights are human rights”
Both Clinton and Sanders were similarly slow to evolve on LGBT, favoring civil unions and “state’s rights” well after many states had used those rights to pass marriage amendments and discriminatory legislation stripping LGBTQ Americans of rights and dignity. However, while Clinton has acknowledged that she has evolved on LGBTQ rights.
Compare Clinton’s 2013 “ think I’m American, and I think we have all evolved its been one of the fastest, most sweeping transformations that I’m aware of.” to Sanders’ 2015 “I’m not evolving when it comes to gay rights. I was there.”
As a student involved in Tennessee’s 2006 marriage amendment battle, where TN decidedly voted in favor of restricting marriage to a man and a woman, a move that was untouched until Obergefell v. Hodges, I was there in 2006. Senator Sanders, who in 2006 said “ “I believe the federal government should not be involved in overturning Massachusetts or any other state because I think the whole issue of marriage is a state issue,” was decidedly not.
Whether this was anomalous in his voting record or not, Clinton’s admission of her flawed views and evolution on them is honest, Sanders comes off disingenuous. Because the fact of the matter is, while both have been to some degree allies to the gay community neither of them are firebrands of the gay or any other civil rights movement.
So we have to look at what they have done. Though Clinton did not publicly endorse gay marriage until leaving her Secretary of State position, Clinton was working for LGBTQ issues and HIV/AIDS activism for decades prior. Her roles as FLOTUS and SoS may have allowed her to do more damage, it also allowed her to speak for LGBTQ rights within the state department, abroad.
- In 1987 (Bill) Clinton, nominated Dr. Joycelyn Elders for director of the Arkansas Department of Health. Elders started a program that distributed condoms, teen pregnancy information, and HIV information to people in Arkansas. While this was Bill Clinton’s nomination, Hillary Clinton was highly involved in Children and family services both as a lawyer and as first Lady of Arkansas and this is similar to her efforts with the As FLOTUS, Clinton started the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancy as FLOTUS.
- And she was also, further the face for her husband’s 1992 campaign within AIDS activism circles such as APLA and ACTUP.
- As a Senator, added amendments specific to low-income HIV positive individuals to the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007.
- As Secretary of State, Clinton expanded LGBT protections at the State Department and in Foreign Service. She added gender identity to the Department’s Equal Employment Opportunity Statement in 2010 and made it easier for trans people to make the sex on their passport match their identified rather than biological sex. She extended benefits, visas, and other rights to partners of LGBT diplomats in 2009 which kickstarted a domino effect in other nations. Additionally, under her guidance, USAID become the first Federal Agency to publish recruitment specifically aimed at the LGBT community.
- In 2011, Hillary Clinton launched the Global Equality Fund through the Secretary of State’s office of Global Partnerships. The GEF is dedicated to small loans and funding supporting LGBT rights and individuals globally. Further, as Secretary of State, Clinton added consideration of a country’s LGBT rights record as a parameter in granting foreign aid.
- As Secretary of State, Clinton led efforts which to the UN’s adoption of their first ever Resolution on LGBT rights in 2011, and in 2010 led the push to reintroduce sexual orientation on the UN’s resolution on executions.
- As Secretary of State, Clinton was a keynote speaker at 2012’s International AIDS Conference and reported 150 million dollars of funds to help decrease HIV transmission in sub-Saharan Africa through antiretrovirals and circumcision, decrease HIV transmission. This movement **doubled** the amount of people receiving antiretrovirals.
The Bill Clinton era had some major setbacks for LGBTQ rights as Bill Clinton’s push for open service backfired leading to DADT and the early demand for increased rights for LGBTQ people wanting to reclaim ground lost in Reagan and GHW Bush era setbacks to gay lib brought people out of the closet and into the public (and thus legislative light). Perhaps he pushed too hard too soon, it backfired. If I squint, I can understand the rationale for DADT within the context of the military in the early 90s, DOMA I have and probably never will be able to entirely reconcile, if nothing else at least viscerally. But while Hillary frequently contributed to her husband’s policies as first lady, we can’t attribute everything he signed, entirely to her nor can we divorce them entirely from their time period.
However, problematic as DOMA is, Hillary Clinton and most, if not all, of the democratic party has evolved. The specificity of Clinton’s LGBT equality page and the language she uses working the LGBTQ community into her stump speeches, debates, and policy make me feel she’s engaged in the discussion around LGBTQ rights and is more sympathetic to LGBTQ issues, and has a solid and specific plan going forward, while the vagueness in Sanders’ fails to.
Someone to think of the children
Children don’t frequently come up on the national stage, and for decent reason. People seldom oppose children’s issues at least on paper, but they also seldom make them a central concern. Hillary Clinton has worked arguably as long and as hard in Children’s Rights as she has on Women’s Rights.
- Wrote a 1973 article “Children Under the Law” that was among the first to argue for legal rights for children outside of their parents and that children should not be seen as innately incompetent to speak for themselves in a legal setting. In a 1977 paper “The Children’s Cause” Clinton (then Rodham) argues for the necessity of increased social programs with the following quote that seems to sum up her stance on all social justice:
There is nothing wrong with pressing for better programs for the needy, but Steiner sets his sights too low.
- As a lawyer in Arkansas, Hillary Clinton co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children & Families which among other things, led to the 1983 overhaul of AR juvenile justice system following a report that found minors were frequently not advised of their rights, seen without adequate representation, or able to confront their accusers at trial.
- As First Lady of Arkansas, Clinton chaired the Arkansas Educational Standards Commission working to raise educational standards in the state. She also initiated the Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) program which sought to increase access to resources for home-schooled parents.
- In 2000, Clinton launched a White House program to increase warning labels on Ritalin and Clonidine in children under five in response to rampant increases in prescriptions and accompanying troubling research into late in life impacts of the drugs.
- In 2009, with the Clinton Foundation and One Hundred Black Men, Inc, opened the Eagle Academy to provide education to an underserved, predominantly black, area of the Bronx. The Eagle Academy has since expanded to other buroughs.
- With Univision, the Clinton Foundation helped start “Too Small to Fail / Pequeños y Valiosos” aimed at closing the word gap in low income children in 2014.
In her 8 years in the Senate, Clinton was extremely prolific, introducing over 700 bills, resolutions, and amendments. Among these Health and Education were two of her top three categories (65 pieces and 29 pieces respectively), with Families coming in 6th at 19 pieces. Though the divisive nature of Bush era politics made successfully passing legislation difficult, Clinton introduced bills indicating the prioritization of children’s and women’s issues as well as healthcare.
- Clinton Introduced (unsuccessful) bills to reduce taxes on received child support, stricter labelling of violent content in video games, and support child care development initiatives.
- She introduced (unsuccessful) bills and resolutions to increase funding to childhood diseases such as cancer, immunodeficiency, autism, eating disorders, asthma, and to increase vaccine availability and extension of SCHIP to immigrant children.
- Clinton served on the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee and was a key member shaping the No Child Left Behind Act.
- Her 2007 Lead Elimination, Abatement, and Poisoning Prevention Act called for the EPA to establish a Task Force on Children’s Environmental Health and Safety. While her legislation was unsuccessful in 2007, President Obama saw to its creation in 2010.
- Clinton successfully added an amendment to the 2009 budget to provide $100,000 to increase nutritional value of school lunches.
Intersectionality in Racial Justice and Immigration Reform
Her stances on racial issues have been mixed. Welfare reform which her husband signed into law on its third iteration did predominantly affect people of color and prison reform / tough on crime measures of the 1990s have been agreed to have been a mistake on both sides of the aisle. Comments on the 1999 Elian Gonzalez matter were troubling from an immigration standpoint but in keeping with her work in children’s rights. Sometimes her own narrative overstates the significance of anecdotes on racial activism from her childhood or co-sponsorships of token legislation. However, I think Sanders does the same in the interest of crafting a narrative.
Sanders marched on the South, Clinton worked within the legal system to fight for migrant workers, but as with gay lib, neither of them are/were major in the civil rights movements. Both of them were, and still to some degree are, activists.
But like I think she clearly shows that she’s trying now, working LGBT rights into her stump speech, meeting with Black Lives Matters activists, And more importantly, than listening, I feel that Hillary Clinton is adapting her message — much more than Bernie Sanders who still has a tendency to refer to black people as “the blacks” and offer an “all wallets matter” view on income inequality.
Hillary is not perfect on race, but she’s trying, and you can see the progress. In 2008, she had a 75% voting record with the ACLU (up from 60% in 2006) which supports a mixed record, but a forward progress. It’s a 96% from the NAACP suggesting pro-affirmative action stances. On Latinx issues, she has an 8% voting record from US Border Control which suggests fairly strongly supporting open borders and a 95% rating from the Council of La Raza.
Historically, her biggest successes on racial issues are, perhaps as expected, in child & family issues and in health care. In the Senate, Clinton has advocated for expansion of SCHIP to illegal immigrants and much of her work with the Clinton foundation has been based in equalizing educational opportunity to poor black students, or children from poor or households where English was not a primary language.
To me, the largest difference between Clinton and Sanders’ policies on racial justice comes down to the following quote
Racial inequality is not merely a symptom of economic inequality. We need to address both. — Hillary Clinton
The Clinton campaign does not send a message that “her platform is best for everyone, if you just understood it better” and she doesn’t claim that it’s a one-sized-fits all solution, adapting her economic, environmental, and LGBT policies to accommodate the different challenges faced by people of color. Sanders’ racial justice page reads very similar to his economic policy page, suggesting that he feels fixing the economy will fix racial disparities on its own. It’s far less intersectional and lacks nuance.
Media Portrayal and What Not to Wear
I have big trouble with the “liar” narrative built up around her because of the historical campaign to discredit, villify, and trivialize her accomplishments. And don’t think she’s intrinsically more or less dishonest than any other politician, more cautious, yes, but she’s shown to be equally if not more honest than Sanders and any Republican running.
But I do think she’s unfairly portrayed.
As a young lawyer up until today, Hillary has been excoriated by the right as supporting a radical antifamily and feminist agenda. Her 1973 work insisting children be treated as citizens rather with rights outside of their parents was interpreted by conservatives as attempting to undermine the nuclear family, as was her 1996 book on her vision for children, It Takes a Village. Clinton has been frequently called secretly gay if not a man (because no real woman could be ambitious and intelligent) and compared to Lady MacBeth in dozens of articles before Bill had even been sworn in — when all that was known about her was her work with child and family services and the ABA. They saw an intelligent woman as a threat and have never revisited that narrative. Even now she’s framed by the right as a dangerous extremist for her insistence on women’s rights to birth control, family planning, and abortion.
But to the left, she’s not and will never be good enough.
And maybe her feminism’s not perfect. It’s tinged with the second wave she’s come up in and sometimes she struggles to meet third or fourth wave demands for intersectionality. She’s never going to be a revolutionary in the vein of Audre Lorde, but failure to be a radical feminist does not equate to failure as a feminist and the public and populist nature of a presidential candidate necessitates some degree of centrism in politics.
Dr. King had been leading a movement. But Dr. King understood that there has to be a coming to terms of our country politically in order to make the changes that would last for generations beyond the iconic, extraordinary speeches that he gave. That’s why he campaigned for Lyndon Johnson in 1964. That’s why he was there when the Civil Rights Act was passed. Does he deserve the lion’s share of the credit for moving our country and moving our political process? Yes, he does. But he also had partners who were in the political system. — Meet the Press, Jan 2008
Hillary believes in working within the systems, and is campaigning to bring feminism to a nation that really struggles with feminism even when Beyonce does it. She’s not just pitching to radical feminists (and I don’t think she is a radical feminist strictly speaking), but it’s disingenuous to call her a bad feminist.
She’s a transnational feminist, through her work as Secretary of State campaigning for women’s issues in global politics; she’s a socialist feminist, though not in the same sense as Bernie Sanders is a socialist, but in her pushes to legally empower, grant access to healthcare, and provide for impoverished women. I think she’s even trying for intersectional feminism based on her recent overtures to the African American and Latino communities. But she’s working for change within the system.
And even as a woman in politics, she has a hell of a lot of privilege that allows her to do this. But it’s worked for her — really well. I think if anyone can make a case for “dismantling the Master’s house with the Master’s tools,” it’s Hillary Clinton.
But if she’s moderate, male privilege has a lot to do with Sanders having the ability to speak and live as radically as he does when Clinton has been crucified for 25 years for far less, and I think because of that backlash, she’s done a lot of course correcting to her public persona. But I think looking at her record, she’s not done so in her personal beliefs. As as Michelle Goldberg said in the Slate piece:
She’s now struggling to convince voters that she is the person she was once widely assumed to be.
And while that doesn’t dismiss concerns of her feminism being too moderate, it does explain some of how it came about, why she’s built this wall around herself, and why she can’t be and isn’t as vocally radical as a lot online feminists who don’t answer to voters are, but in her case, I think she has an internationally proven record of speaking and acting up for women across the globe and across class lines. I feel she’s making a solid effort on race and LGBTQ issues. And I’m with her.
I will be upfront that economic analysis of Clinton’s versus Sanders’ plans is ot my strength, however, while criticism of Clinton frequently takes the form of criticizing her involvement with business, I figured I would link to relevant legislation Clinton introduced during her 8 years on the Senate that are anti-business, pro-accountability and transparency, and pro-worker or -student.
This is not comprehensive by any means, but I found evidence of Clinton introducing bills suggesting that her view is more nuanced. These bills supported:
- facilitated financial accountability between the government and government contractors
- cap the amount that executives could acquire in golden parachute or shareholder-granted bonuses
- proposed an increase in minimum wage to $9.50 by 2011
- proposed a Student Borrower Bill of Rights in 2006
- the “Patients before Profits” act in 2006, limiting out of pocket costs and insurance providers’ ability to pay.
So Why Clinton?
I’ve heard the argument “We don’t need another Clinton.” I feel that would have been a fairer assessment in 2008 when she ran off her experience as a lawyer and junior Senator, but also heavily on her experience as FLOTUS. At this point, Hillary Clinton is an accomplished stateswoman with her own voice, and accomplishments that rival, if not surpass, her husband’s. Bill is almost an afterthought to the Clinton campaign at this point and if anything at this point, Hillary Clinton’s another Obama (but it’s also possible she’s her own political mind.)
I think it’s important to analyze a candidate’s history, but think it’s dangerous for them to rest entirely on that. Analysis of the viability, inclusivity, and adaptability of current policies is also critical to selecting a candidate for President and I feel in that regard, Clinton greatly exceeds Sanders.
- Her women’s rights page is similar to Sanders’. However hers includes violence against women which feels a very important omission from Sanders’. Clinton goes a step further to have a page on campus sexual assault. On womens’ issues, Clinton is stronger both in record and on policy.
- Her LGBT Issues page is thoughtful and specific, mentioning PrEP, sexuality and gender identity in non-discrimination and hate crime ordinances, streamlining changes to identification papers for trans individuals, and protections for minors against homelessness and conversion therapy, and discrimination at school compared to Sanders’ which is very vague. It reads that he would “support (good) policies”, and “oppose (bad) ones.” On LGBT issues, Clinton has a similar record, greater accomplishments, and stronger policy.
- On racial justice, Clinton has one page. Until recently, Sanders had one page as well. In recent weeks he has added policy pages for native Hawaiians, Puerto Ricans, and Native Americans. Though stances for Hawaiians and Puerto Ricans largely rehash his environmental and economic policies, his Native American page is pretty impressive and he advocates for Puerto Rican statehood.
My consistent criticism of Sanders’ racial platform has been that he takes his economic or environmental policy and copies it over without factoring in the differences race might have on the experience of economic disparity, policing, and other realms. These new pages, don’t entirely fix that, but suggest he’s finally showing some growth on racial issues, which by and large, is a positive. Given that. Sanders has a slightly stronger record owing to votes against welfare reform, though complicated by votes for Clinton era Tough on Crime initiatives and anti-immigration votes and more extensive policies. However, Clinton’s policies are more intersectional and may serve non-white women and children more extensively than Sanders’. Though I would hesitate to call either candidate powerhouses of racial justice.
There are certainly reasons to criticize her. She’s less isolationist than Sanders both financially and militarily. She recognizes the role that Wall Street and investment plays in the economy, retirement, and savings of many Americans which can be dissatisfying to an OWS narrative and she doesn’t go as far as Bernie Sanders on issues like taxation or free college, but Hillary is consistently rated highly in middle class protections by the drum major institute.
There are also valid reasons to criticize her record, any career politician has problems, but what I have tried to show with this report is I don’t think there is a basis to call her anything but comparable or exceeding Sanders. More Attacks tend to be much more personal than political with regards to Hillary.
I think discourse on what we like about our candidates goes much farther than suggesting people supporting the other candidate are stupid, not true scotsmen, or traitors to political ideologies, whether from Clinton Supporters like Gloria Steinem who claim feminists must support Hillary, or Sanders supporters who claim that African Americans would totally support Sanders if they were smarter or not brainwashed.
And ultimately, we’re going to have to support the Democratic nominee, it does us more good to focus on what we like about our candidate and than why we dislike the other. If someone would like to write the counterpoint to this essay, a positive, candidate-focused analysis of Bernie Sanders’ history, successes, and policies for women, LGBTQ Americans, and people of color, I’d happily share that reciprocally.