I’m probably voting for Hillary, but her gender has nothing to do with it
In the never-ending clown show of the 2016 primary race, certain observations are frequently rammed down our throats (as Marco Rubio would say twice in a row). Chief among them on the left is the reminder that Bernie Sanders — a 74-year-old curmudgeon who can’t pronounce “Snapchat” correctly — has lit a fire under the nation’s youth. This is a big deal. Young people are far less likely to vote than their older counterparts. Conventional wisdom is that they’re lazy cynics who take their civil liberties for granted. So if they don’t have a candidate that they truly believe in, they’ll probably just Netflix and chill on election day.
I’m 27, which means I’m young enough to be lumped in with this elusive “young voter” crowd. But I’m also old enough to have voted for Obama in 2008, which I did. I was totally swept up in the Shepard Fairey HOPE momentum. I stood in the rain for hours on my birthday to cast my vote. The night he was elected, people set off fireworks and danced in the street. I cried watching his acceptance speech. My ultra-liberal college campus held a spontaneous dance party. Today Bernie Sanders — sincere, anti-establishment, and unapologetically pissed off — is getting that same treatment. And once again Hillary has been pushed to the sidelines (if not downright vilified) by young liberals.
There are plenty of explanations for why Hillary Clinton still fails to inspire. There are legitimate reasons to distrust her and doubt her integrity. Her wealth and chumminess with Wall Street — while par for the course among politicians of her stature — look shitty in light of Sanders’ populist diatribes. And idealism will always make for better soundbites than pragmatism. But in 2007, Americans were clamoring for change, and Clinton reeked of more of the same. Now they’re clamoring harder, and Clinton reeks even worse.
In the Feb. 5 debate, Clinton challenged Bernie’s assertion that she represented the establishment saying “Senator Sanders is the only person who I think would characterize me, a woman running to be the first woman president, as exemplifying the establishment.” It wasn’t convincing. Which in a way is weird. Because the first female president SHOULD feel groundbreaking, should feel like sticking it to the (literal) man, should be a big fucking deal. So why don’t I, as an American woman, feel impassioned and energized at the prospect of a vagina-having commander in chief?
Clinton de-emphasized her gender when she campaigned against Obama. That was deemed a mistake, and she’s tried to make more of it this time around, but it doesn’t seem to be working. Is this because Clinton, after a lifetime of trying to be taken seriously in a man’s world, is such an establishment figure that her gender doesn’t even read anymore ? Or are we reaching a point where gender inequality simply doesn’t feel like a pressing enough issue?
Madeleine Albright suggested recently that there was a special place in hell for women who didn’t vote for Hillary. Gloria Steinem went so far as to suggest that naive Millennial gals were just emulating “the boys” with their Bernie support (gag, Gloria, gag). But these two groundbreaking women, baffled at why younger women fail to recognize the revolutionary shift that Hillary’s election would represent, are the product of an earlier time. A time when sexism was rampant and blatant and visible everywhere you turned. For many, it still is. But even though I am a woman with strong feelings about gender equality, in 2007 I supported Obama in part because I felt it was more pressing and significant to elect the first black president than the first female one. I still feel that way. And while I’ve spent most of this election cycle assuming I would vote for Hillary in the primary, it’s always been a cerebral choice, not an emotional one. I feel like if elected she would continue the largely good work Obama has done on domestic policy, but that her experience as Secretary of State would make her stronger on foreign policy. And maybe the fact that she’s kind of a shifty opportunist might actually help ease the congressional gridlock a little. And I don’t NEED to love the president, dammit, so long as they’re competent and on the right side of history. But my reasons for supporting Hillary really have nothing to do with her gender, and I bet she’d prefer it that way.