Making a Difference in American Families’ Lives by Crying ‘Wolf’ about Sexism

“Her campaign has been about how to make a difference in American families’ lives – a cause she’s fought for her entire life,” said [Clinton campaign] spokeswoman, Christina Reynolds. “It’s a shame Senator Sanders’s campaign has decided to make the campaign about political attacks. Voters want to hear about how their candidate will fight for them, not fight each other.”

Bernie Sanders Walking the Line Between Personal Attacks and Political Critiques, Patrick Healy and Maggie Haberman, New York Times, today

Absolutely, Clinton’s campaign has been about how to make a difference in American families’ lives, and voters want to hear about how their candidate will fight for them, not fight each other.  Which is why Clinton three times within two days publicly told those very voters and all the world that Sanders told her, and her alone, that she should stop speaking in a literally loud voice about the issue of gun control legislation, and that he did so because she is a woman and he is sexist.

This will make a difference in American families’ lives.  At least the lives of hardworking ones.

Ditto for why she told Democratic voters and everyone else on Oct. 13 that Sanders, rather than proposing universal healthcare insurance, tuition-free access to public universities and colleges, a reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act, mandated paid family and medical leave, government-subsidized daycare, an increase in the minimum wage, massive infrastructure projects, aggressive enforcement of antitrust laws, and enactment of provisions that greatly strengthen employees’ bargaining power, is instead proposing to nationalize all American businesses, not just the healthcare insurance industry.

Voters want to hear about how their candidate will fight for them, not fight each other.  And so Clinton has told them how she will fight for them, not fight Bernie Sanders.

The Healy and Haberman article said Clinton had “twisted [Sanders’] remark about people ‘shouting’ in support of tougher gun laws.”  Actually, Sanders’ remark was about people on both sides of the gun-laws debate, male and female, figuratively shouting.  But the accurate characterization of Clinton’s accusation and twisting Sanders’ remark—which many news organizations now have noted that Sanders had used multiple times in the last several months preceding Clinton’s Oct. 5 announcement of stringent gun-control legislation that she was proposing—is, apparently, starting to backfire.  Thus Ms. Reynolds’ pronouncement that it’s a shame Senator Sanders’s campaign has decided to make the campaign about political attacks.  Unlike her own candidate patron, who has absolutely, completely refused to do that.

The most thorough takedown of Clinton’s “shouting” shouting (figuratively, folks; just figuratively) is an article by William Saletan of Slate published there on Sunday.  It’s titled “Hillary Clinton Is Smearing Bernie Sanders as a Sexist” and subtitled “It’s ridiculous. Bernie’s record as a feminist is as good as Hillary’s.”  The first paragraph says:

Hillary Clinton has found a new wedge issue against Sen. Bernie Sanders. The topic is gun control, but the angle is gender. Clinton is framing Sanders as a sexist who accuses women of shouting when they try to speak up. It’s a lie. She’s manipulating women and abusing feminist anger for her own advantage.

The last paragraph says:

Enough. Sanders’ record as a feminist is as good as Clinton’s. No honest reading of his career or his comments about guns can construe him as a sexist. Clinton is trying to connect with women who have felt bullied by men, and to turn them against Sanders, by smearing him. And what’s true of racism and anti-Semitism is just as true of sexism: The more seriously you take the real thing, the more you should revile people who use it as a fraud.

I couldn’t have made the point in that last sentence better.  Although I tried on Sunday.

The Times article reports that Sanders’ chief campaign adviser, Tad Devine, said the campaign is now finalizing its first set of ads.  I hope it subtly questions Clinton’s premise that such things as universal healthcare insurance, tuition-free access to public universities, and government-subsidized daycare would amount to turning our backs on what built the greatest middle class in the history of the world.  And why she thinks the policies of the last 30 years or so haven’t amounted to exactly that.

This is my third, and final, post on the shouting/sexism controversy.  And I want to make clear why I’ve written three posts on it: Clinton is likely but not certain to be the nominee, and it strikes me as an obstacle to a general election victory that she believes that these zingy one-sentence, non sequitur, whiplash-inducing soundbite accusations that she tacks on at the end of what would seem to be a point about something else is the absolute ultimate in clever campaigning.

It is not.  Unless, that is, the voters you are targeting like being mislead and treated to juvenile gimmicks rather than substantive sentences and consecutive sentences about policy.  Which apparently are exactly the voters that Clinton is targeting, since she actually almost never speaks in substantive sentences and consecutive sentences about policy–a big reason to worry about her general election appeal.  Or would be if she were going to be running against a candidate with actual legitimate-sounding policy proposals, which is something we Dems don’t have to worry about.

Ms. Reynolds is right that voters want to hear about how their candidate will fight for them, not fight each other.  But she is wrong that voters mistake Clinton’s attention-grabbing red herring slings for policy statements.  Male voters.  And female ones, too.

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UPDATE:  These two articles, juxtaposed on Politico today, together sum up why I dislike Hillary Clinton.

I can’t even imagine Clinton making the sort of extended comments that Elizabeth Warren made this morning at that Politico breakfast discussion. And I don’t just mean the substance of those comments.  I mean also the several consecutive and related sentences about specifics, completely devoid of juvenile zingers, sleights of hand and soundbites.

I’d just bet, though, that Bernie Sanders thinks Warren was shouting.

And I can’t even imagine Clinton not taking the position—loosely defined—that she took this morning at that town hall-style meeting in New Hampshire.

Added 10/28 at 3:27 p.m.  

Update typo-corrected and reformatted 10/30 at 4:45 p.m.

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