Susan Bordo published an extract from her forthcoming book in the Guardian, under the title: The destruction of Hillary Clinton: sexism, Sanders and the millennial feminists.
A quote from the piece:
They didn’t witness the complicated story of how the 1994 crime bill came to be passed or the origins of the “super-predator” label (not coined by Hillary and not referring to black youth, but rather to powerful, older drug dealers).
Go ahead, watch the video:
Your lying ears are probably telling you Hillary Clinton just said “they’re often the kinds of kids that are called super-predators”.
That’s because you’re an empty-headed, inexperienced, young millennial who doesn’t have the benefit of Bordo’s spidey-senses. Which is why you don’t know “kids” is actually a secret code-word for “powerful, older drug dealers”. Silly you.
Sanders’s branding of Hillary as establishment, however, seemed vastly unjust and corrosively divisive to me, especially when delivered to a generation that knew very little about her beyond what Bernie told them.
Not only are you too dumb to understand what “kids” means when Hillary Clinton says it, you’re also largely ignorant about politics in this country over the past 25 years. This generation doesn’t know much about politics or the Clintons and so abjectly failed to recognize HRC as the superior political product.
It’s really quite lamentable how impressionable and stupid we are, to fall for the rock-star charisma of a 75 year old grandpa, and that too only eight years after we fell for the rock-star charisma of a 47 year old black guy:
As I watched Sanders enchant the crowds, it was something of a deja vu experience to see a charismatic male politician on stage telling women which issues are and aren’t progressive.
The entire extract is meant to tell Bernie supporters they’re rubes without any agency of their own, incapable of discriminating between candidates. Apparently, millennial feminists weighed down by student debt were seduced by Bernie’s charisma, not his steadfast call for public colleges to be as affordable as when he (and Bordo and Clinton) attended.
On the off-chance that someone remembered there were substantive policy differences between Bernie and Hillary, Bordo is standing by to explain how silly we are to think that should matter.
As Jonathan Cohn wrote, in May: “If Sanders is the standard by which you’re going to decide whether a politician is a progressive, then almost nobody from the Democratic party would qualify. Take Sanders out of the equation, and suddenly Clinton looks an awful lot like a mainstream progressive.”
Let me paraphrase Jonathan Cohn’s prescription, quoted admiringly by Bordo:
First, forget that strong tea you tasted yesterday. We’re going to give you this weak tea, and just to make sure your little young heads don’t get all confused about it. The weak tea is what you get, and you will and should like it.
Earlier in the piece, Bordo is incensed that Bernie claimed the mantle of “progressive” from HRC, going into a long explanation of what “progressive” has meant over the years. And a couple of paragraphs later, she admits that you can only get Hillary to “mainstream progressive” if you remove Bernie from the data-set.
There’s a rank stench of paternalism, yes paternalism, wafting from this piece.
Bordo knows what is progressive and the silly Bernie supporters seduced by his “charisma” know less than nothing, we were just easy marks for a slick Burlington salesman. That paternalism might explain the next phenomenon that catches her attention:
too many young Democrats made it very clear (in newspaper and internet interviews, in polls, and in the mainstream media) that they were only voting for Hillary Clinton as the lesser of two evils, “holding their noses”, tears still streaming down their faces over the primary defeat of the person they felt truly deserved their votes. Some didn’t vote at all.
Ah yes, the crime of insufficient enthusiasm, which all Bernie supporters are forever guilty of. Of course, this couldn’t have anything to do with the candidate, it’s a product of Bernie supporters’ inherent moral failings, along with their youth, ignorance and inexperience as explained above.
This whole line of thinking is so ridiculous that even Bordo manages to lose the plot:
He was the champion of the working class (conveniently ignoring that black and white women were members, and that their issues were also working class issues)
Yes, for once I agree with her. Working class issues are indeed issues that impact black and white women, and all working people. Bernie reminded us of this throughout the campaign. For example, in his announcement speech:
Now is the time for millions of working families to come together, to revitalize American democracy, to end the collapse of the American middle class and to make certain that our children and grandchildren are able to enjoy a quality of life that brings them health, prosperity, security and joy – and that once again makes the United States the leader in the world in the fight for economic and social justice, for environmental sanity and for a world of peace.
Or when his campaign developed a comprehensive position on racial justice (before HRC’s did). Those are all reasons his campaign spoke to me, and why I knew he was more “progressive” than HRC. Jonathan Cohn’s attempt to adjust the curve and make HRC a “mainstream progressive” wasn’t compelling during the primary. Bordo echoing him a year later won’t do it either.
HRC had an opportunity to join the Congressional Progressive Caucus during her eight year senate career. It counts several dozen representatives as members. She did not.
Which allows me to remark on another prejudice that Bordo has managed to imbibe:
if Clinton had more support from the Democratic party, that was due in large part to the relationships she had cultivated over the years, working with others – something Sanders was not particularly good at.
By the way, that is the same CPC that Bernie helped found when he arrived in the House. So much for not being “particularly good at” working well with others. It’s also worth noting that the CPC overlaps significantly with the Congressional Black Caucus.
The fact is, HRC is a relatively “conservative” Democrat who inhabits a space between the right (on economic issues) and the left (on social issues). During her ascent (as part of a power couple) to the height of political power in our country, she had to make hard political choices, and there were reasons for making those choices. Some of them had to do with her priorities and what she believed, others with the circumstances. For instance, while serving as a board member at Walmart:
Fellow board members and company executives, who have not spoken publicly about her role at Wal-Mart, say Mrs. Clinton used her position to champion personal causes, like the need for more women in management and a comprehensive environmental program, despite being Wal-Mart’s only female director, the youngest and arguably the least experienced in business. On other topics, like Wal-Mart’s vehement anti-unionism, for example, she was largely silent, they said.
HRC was appointed to the board while her husband was governor of Arkansas (where Walmart is headquartered), to address the criticism that the board was composed entirely of white men. While in that role, she advocated for women in managerial roles, but not for rank and file working class women at Walmart who would have benefited from a union.
Some of those choices have been personally taxing for Hillary. For instance, her support for the Welfare Reform act caused a long-lasting rift with Marian Wright Edelman that has never been repaired.
In the end, Bordo’s long essay boils down to, us young ones don’t know what Hillary Clinton had to go through. If we accept that argument, then why not make it in defense of Lindsey Graham? Do we really know what Lindsey Graham had to go through, why he made the political compromises he did? Maybe we should cut him some slack and vote for him for president? Of course that’s a bad idea because much as there is to admire about Graham, his politics don’t align with ours, which is why we’re not enthusiastic about the prospect of voting for him.
The sad fact is that HRC was the wrong candidate for 2016. This was an anti-establishment cycle and she was the establishment candidate. She would have been the establishment candidate with or without Bernie. Without Bernie in the primary, her campaign might have made an even stronger pitch for suburban voters, by down-playing progressive economic issues. Would that have enthused millennial feminists?
There is much to admire in Hillary’s career and life, and even her two unsuccessful campaigns. Appreciating that does not require infantalizing those who supported Bernie as Bordo does.