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September 18 2017

Why Clinton Shouldn't Blame Women For Her Election Loss

via Forbes
by Karin Agness

Hillary Clinton was the first woman to win one of the major party nominations for President of the United States. There are many positive lessons she could teach women candidates and women who aspire to run—it’s too bad that she is instead spending her time accusing women voters of being weak, and effectively discouraging other women from trying to run.

In her new book out this month, What Happened, Clinton casts blame on a variety of different people and groups for her loss, including women. In a NPR book publicity interview, Clinton recounted a conversation she had with Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In and someone at the forefront of the discussions about women in leadership:

And Sheryl ended this really sobering conversation by saying that women will have no empathy for you, because they will be under tremendous pressure—and I’m talking principally about white women—they will be under tremendous pressure from fathers and husbands and boyfriends and male employers not to vote for “the girl.” And we saw a lot of that during the primaries from Sanders supporters, really quite vile attacks online against women who spoke out for me, as I say, one of my biggest support groups, Pantsuit Nation, literally had to become a private site because there was so much sexism directed their way.

I don’t know who these women are that Clinton believes are being cajoled by the men in their lives into voting against her. The women I know vote for the person they think is the best candidate. Sometimes that is the same person as their significant other, sometimes it’s not.

Clinton set herself up as a trailblazer throughout her presidential campaign, with constant talk of breaking down glass ceilings and winning the highest office in the land on behalf of women. Yet Clinton herself has a pretty dismal view of women, suggesting that women don’t—and can’t—evaluate the policy positions of candidates and then make the decision of who to vote for on their own.

Clinton isn’t the first feminist to suggest that women are still, nearly 100 years after winning the right to vote, being used by men at the ballot box. Gloria Steinem gave a similar explanation for why young women were choosing Senator Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary season in a Bill Maher interview: “When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.’”

That’s profoundly insulting to the young women who supported Sanders based on the principled belief that he would have made the best candidate and was superior to Clinton, as a true outsider and advocate of radically transforming the American economy. Frankly, it’s the kind of sexism and belittlement of women that feminists are supposed to resoundingly reject.

Early feminists fought so that women could vote for the best candidate—regardless of whether that candidate was a man or a woman. That’s a very different vision than Clinton’s version of feminism—that women should always vote for the female candidate no matter what the voter thinks of her positions.

Maybe instead of trying to explain why she lost as a female candidate, Clinton might look around and learn from some successful female candidates. A New York Times piece headlined, The World’s Most Powerful Woman Won’t Call Herself a Feminist, describes how Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor, has taken a different approach as a female candidate than Clinton:

Angela Merkel has spent her political career playing down her gender: shunning a feminist label, offering modesty, caution and diligent preparation as an implicit contrast to male swagger. The chancellor seems to be coasting to re-election next Sunday as the most powerful woman in the world.

Not emphasizing the “she” part of her candidacy might have worked for Clinton or it might not have, but it’s refreshing to see a politician whose instinct isn’t to focus on gender identity first and blame sexism for every stumble.

While it would be tough for Clinton to celebrate women voting for someone else, in some ways, it is a victory for women that women aren’t a monolithic voting bloc, but instead vote for a variety of candidates based on a variety issues.

Ultimately, part of competing with men is learning how to handle both victory and defeat. Clinton’s post-election defeat blame game shows that’s a lesson that at least one woman hasn’t mastered.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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