The Myth of ‘Pushing Hillary’

Barbara Kinney for Hillary for America

The most obviously sexist descriptions of Hillary Clinton and her nascent campaign for President come in slow-witted navel-gazing tripe like The Hill’s “Carly vs. Godzillary” column by Robert Hugins, the kind of piece that proves the theory long held by the great liberal blogger Melissa McEwan — who argues (convincingly in my view) that the Beltway media tries its best to make Hillary into a literal monster.

These obviously misogynistic attacks complement the more subtle memes trafficked by political journalists, the descriptions catalogued in the long list created by my #HillaryMen compadre Peter Daou, who argues that “mainstream media coverage of Hillary Clinton is soaked in veiled (and sometimes explicit) sexism, politically-charged framing and character assassination. When a New York Times or Washington Post article is indistinguishable from a rightwing publication, you know something is amiss.”

He’s right about that, and I’d like to add another subtle but pervasive meme that is endlessly served up by the villager press corps — the idea that Hillary Clinton is being “pushed” politically by virtually any challenger or progressive leader of her own party.

Bernie Sanders. Bill deBlasio. Elizabeth Warren. Martin O’Malley. Jim Webb. Lincoln Chafee. All of them have been credited with the powers of political super heroes. They are the mighty figures who can “push Hillary Clinton left.”

All, of course, are accomplished political leaders and public servants. I suppose it’s possible that they’re dedicating their lives to “pushing Hillary Clinton left” — but that narrative surely diminishes their own individual roles, ideas and ambitions. Are they mere levers in the real contest: to bend the former Secretary of State to someone else’s agenda?

In reality, they don’t matter in this particular frame — they’re bit characters being used to reinforce a specific set of descriptors long used to belittle the nation’s most prominent female public figure. If Hillary can be “pushed” by other’s agendas and candidacies, it lends currency to the bigger idea that she’s calculating, too ambitious, insincere in her beliefs, craven, hungry for power — a person (ok, a monster really) who will “do anything to win.”

So it’s not Hillary Clinton who heard the call of the brave Dreamer activists and outlined a bold and progressive vision for immigration reform.

It’s not Hillary Clinton who called for criminal justice reform and the end of mass incarceration in the United States.

It’s not Hillary Clinton who supports full marriage equality on a national basis.

And it’s not really Hillary Clinton who called for a constitutional amendment on campaign finance reform.

These are merely positions of convenience, because Secretary Clinton was “pushed” by the threat of a Democratic primary or a growing progressive resistance to adopt policies that “protect her flank.” When her campaign policy roll out continues with positions on taxes, the environment, trade, healthcare and education I boldly predict the chorus will be the same.

She’ll be portrayed as a weak political leaf, blowing in the winds of the poll-driven moment. What woman of her experience, after all, can really be a conviction candidate, driven the desire to improve the lives of Americans?

(Elizabeth Warren, you say? Ah, but she’s not running and that makes all the difference in the world).

But about those polls, just for a moment. Not a single poll testing the Democratic primary field has shown a hint of weakness for Secretary Clinton. Not one. She is regularly above 60 percent — nationally, in Iowa, in New Hampshire, in South Carolina — everywhere. Indeed, she polls highest with self-identified liberal Democrats. So how exactly is she being “pushed” — and where is that lever?

No, this frame of a weak, ideologically bankrupt, poll-driven Hillary Clinton is just another in a long line of character attacks designed to weaken her standing with voters — a meme intended to align with all the gender-based attacks that came before.

Here’s the thing: it’s not working. If there’s a single person in American public life whose determination and character are known to voters, it’s the former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State.

No one is pushing Hillary Clinton anywhere.