Clinton really, really needs to kill her incoherent “When women are [fill in the blank], families are [same word; slightly different meaning] slogan. Really.
When women are strong, families are strong.
— Hillary Clinton, repeatedly
When women are healthy, families are healthy.
— Hillary Clinton, a few days ago
Good news. According to National Journal journalist Molly Mirhashem and h/t’d by Anna North of the New York Times, the Clinton campaign is no longer taking women’s support as a given. So Clinton’s been demonstrating her commitment to racial and economic equality. By mentioning that the gender wage gap is wider is wider for women of color (presumably meaning black and Hispanic women, not Asian or Middle Eastern women) than it is for white women.
In other words, the news is not all that good, after all. It’s just okay. Progress, but not much.
Mirhashem’s article is titled “What young feminists think of Hillary Clinton” and subtitled “It’s not quite what you’d expect.” That, though, depends on who the “you” is, since it’s exactly what I expected.
The above-quoted sing-song slogans marry two of Clinton’s hallmarks: First, her belief that simply using the word “women” constantly is her ticket to victory—after all, isn’t that what matters to baby boomer feminists? Well, that, and the fact of her gender itself? Second, her preference for incoherent slogans intended just to indicate generic policy positions. Shorthand. Because, well, this is after all, the age of Twitter. And all that matters is that Clinton lets us know, generically, which side of a policy issue she’s on. The ones she wants us to know, anyway.
My reaction to her slogan, “When women are strong, families are strong,” each time I’ve heard or read it, is to think of the millions of women who hold down two low-paying jobs, some of them traveling to and from the jobs using uncomfortable and sporadic public transportation. By definition, at least by the usual definition, of the word, these women are strong. But some of them have families that are not strong.
And women who are seriously ill, say with cancer, may have strong families.
Taken at face value, the two slogans are incoherent. They’re non sequiturs. You get the general idea of what she means, but why doesn’t she just say what she means? Sound-bite slogans are useful when they’re coherent and state something specific. Clinton has borrowed Elizabeth Warren’s very effective slogan that the game is rigged, changing it to “The deck is stacked,” which means the same thing of course. Both phrasings are effective because they say something clear and pointed; they don’t need to be translated into a coherent statement. They’re not sing-song-y, they don’t use a play on a word, and they don’t mention gender or any such trigger. They tie together two things into cause-and-effect: The tiny handful of people who pay for political campaigns are the ones who write public policy; their politician benefactors are just their proxies, their puppets.
I’m no longer as hostile as I was to Clinton and her commandeering of the nomination process; the Democratic Party and the potentially strong but demurring progressive candidates such as Sherrod Brown have acceded to it. And she’s clearly decided to become the non-Hillary-Clinton candidate that we progressives have wanted to see enter the race.
But she and her political and policy advisers and spokespeople need to stop condescending to progressives and to the public in general. I don’t understand how a candidate who has so very many highly paid message strategists believes that nonsensical and pandering slogans and statements is the way to victory in the general election. She really, really doesn’t have to preface the word “potential”—as in, having the chance to live up to his or her potential—with the word “God-given.” She can just say that she and her husband are “going to fight to make sure that everybody has the same chances to live up to his or her own potential.” She may think it’s politically necessary for her to insert “God-given” before “potential”. But it just sounds like what it is: gratuitous and patronizing.*
Someone who isn’t paid vast sums to advise her should tell her that. Because none of the folks who are paid vast sums to advise her will tell her that. But she, of all candidates, should studiously avoid pandering. At least that sort of pandering.
In truth, the way to victory for her in the general election is to run against a Republican. And since that’s what she will be doing, she should start, now, being a candidate who appears to have the moral strength to walk away from the 1980s and ‘90s political obsessions. We Democrats are entitled to a standard bearer who has that. We are. Really.
*The full quote is:
Bill and I have been blessed, and we’re very grateful for the opportunities we had. But we’ve never forgotten where we came from, and we’ve never forgotten the kind of country we want to see for our granddaughter, and that means that we’re going to fight to make sure that everybody has the same chances to live up to his or her own God-given potential.
Added 5/20 at 10:41 p.m.
Spot on post Beverly. Agree completely. However fact/logic does not drive H’s speeches, it is focus groups. I remember the last election, speaking to an H a supporter: ” I like her stance on the children”
What the hell does that mean? Yet this is why she wanted Hillary for Pres,
Gee, people. Is Hilary Clinton perfectly pure and clean of any possible corruption? Her husband used to be POTUS. She and the Big Dog give big speeches. And earn a lot of money. Wow. No way she could attract criticism . Oh, yeah.
Just me talking, I wonder who cares about anything except can the candidate run the government. No one cares about ordinary people. So, good night. NancyO
I know. It’s just so infuriating when a politician panders to the 40% of the electorate who can elect her.
Instead of pandering to the two percent who can’t.
But are pure of heart and mind.
I’m not religious, but I think that, publicly at least, Hillary is. So I don’t mind her putting “God-given” in there (or “blessed”). The GOP likes to pretend they are the religious party, which isn’t true – they’re the party of the religious right. There are a lot of liberal Christians out there, and I don’t think it’s bad for people to be reminded of that. It’s true that Hillary didn’t have to put those words in there, but I doubt if it’ll put off many people.
It is disappointing that the Democratic Party seems to be refusing to conduct any objective national nominating process and simply has conceded the ballot place to Hillary Clinton. Whether she is the best candidate or not never seemed to enter the discussion.
From all that has transpired since Hillary Clinton was first lady to her time as Secty. of State, it seems unlikely that she will have any reasonable control over the legislative process if she is elected President. I mean that given the assumption that the Republicans retain control of both sides of the Congress. For me Obama’s biggest failure was his inability to over come the personal animosity shown by those same Republicans. I don’t see that Hillary Clinton will be any stronger in that regard. If, by some electoral miracle, the Democrats regain Congressional control her Presidency could prove to be effective given that she may have to contend with the more progressive members of her own party.
Mike, you’re absolutely right that Clinton has been a practicing Methodist all her life. I don’t begrudge her her right to make that point and mention Methodist teachings as Methodist teachings. And it did occur to me that by inserting “God-given” there, she thinks it could help persuade religious Christians who don’t think of trying to make sure that everybody has the same chances to live up to his or her own potential as something that government should do.
But I actually listened to the video she put out on Mother’s Day, in which she used the line about “God-given potential.” Most of the video was about her own mother’s life, and was really poignant. Her mother was truly a pretty awesome person who had had a really sad childhood. Clinton didn’t detail it in the video, but the tone of her voice in referencing it was touching enough that I checked out her mother’s biography on Wikipedia.
But near the end of that otherwise un-phony, touching video, when Clinton used the line about “God-given potential,” the word “God-given” was emphasized in a way that sounded like she had recut the video to insert that word, at the suggestion of some political adviser. She didn’t say “God-given”; she said “GOD-GIVEN.”
I myself would love to hear her talk about Christian teachings about caring about others—but as Christian teachings that nonetheless aren’t the exclusive property of Christians, or of religious people.
My problem with Clinton is that she’s incessantly invoking her gender, her Christianity, her … hit-the-political-buttons, early and often. I keep automatically comparing her in my mind to Warren, who never, ever highlights her gender and doesn’t incessantly (or ever) appear to base her support for, say, meaningfully increasing the minimum wage on the fact that about two-thirds of minimum-wage earners are women. And, yes, universal access to quality child-care, and reliable work schedules, and other tremendously important work issues that Clinton and Warren both discuss, would make a difference to far more women than men, but Warren recognizes that it is utterly unnecessary to point that out.
No one thinks of Warren as a woman politician; they think of her as a tremendously articulate politician who has deep policy knowledge about certain economic and financial issues, and who is leading a progressive political movement. So she’s the ultimate feminist politician. But neither does anyone think of Warren as a Christian, or non-Christian, or religious, or non-religious politician. Her statements are purely policy-related, and the fact that her policy positions fit nicely with certain Christian teachings is irrelevant. She doesn’t mention it, and she knows she doesn’t have to.
I agree with the general thrust here, but if that’s the worst she does she’s a lock. It’s a common expression that carries very little religious content, and any time she can credibly remind voters that Republicans are not “the party of religion,” why not?
Every politician today must — must — use polls to figure out how to say things for maximum effect. The ubiquitous, 24-hour media make that a necessity. It’s one thing to use polls to figure out your position, which is what centrist Democrats have been doing with toxic effect long after Clinton did it when it was arguably necessary (after 12 years of Reaganism). Figuring out ways to say what you mean that will not turn people off or will sound better to an important contingent of voters — or maybe most important, is insulated as much as possible from twisting out of context by Republican media manipulators — is something else. This whole notion that Hillary is somehow more willing to go with the polls — with the less-than-subtle corollary message that she is somehow less “authentic” than other candidates — is the exact meme that the right wing wants us to repeat. It’s an insidious form of the circular firing squad.
I love Warren, too, but I’m not sure she doesn’t play the gender card — which is OK by me — when she refers to her father all the time as “Daddy.”
If the Democrats are going to make progress on the legislative front, they cannot just rely on the normal Presidential election turnout boost and Hillary’s coattails. Obama won relatively handily in 2012, yet Democrats only picked up four seats in the House (after the disastrous 2010 midterm, and before the even more disastrous 2014 mid-terms). The DNC, DSCC and DCCC, besides giving money to potential winners (and maybe finally realizing they do not know how to message in those elections), must focus on re-building the Democratic Party as a brand that is vastly superior to the Republican brand. That means drawing clear distinctions and hitting the American people over the head with those distinctions time after time. The progressive organizations should reserve large resources after the primaries (when they should support viable progressive candidates or pushing probable winners towards more commitments to progressive positions) for a massive campaign to make a quantum change in turnout for both Presidential elections and mid-terms — for making disillusioned and non-participating Americans realize that the more they decide not to bother voting because there is supposedly no difference between the parties, the more they turn the country over to big money.
Unfortunately, I fear the Democrats are going to do nothing of what they need to do to get a Democratic Congress. As long as the power structure is run out of the insulated bubble of DC, where they all are doing fine, thank you very much, things won’t change.