Wednesday, October 19, 2016

October 19, 2016--Hillary's Gender Problem

It has been widely reported that Hillary Clinton and her team are distressed that polls show she is doing less well with young woman than among middle-age women who form the heart of her base.

Madeleine Albright summed up these feelings back in February when she said something in public that she had been saying in private--that there's "a special place in Hell for women who don't help each other" i.e. who don't vote for Hillary.

It is understandable that she and Hillary Clinton would feel a version of this--

Why weren't the younger generation of women grateful for the changes Albright and Clinton have helped to bring about? Fair question because it is true that they both, and now especially Hillary, broke and are breaking through the most important and formidable glass ceilings.

Why were so many young women flocking to Bernie, a late-middle-age white man who is more like their fathers or grandfathers than feminist movement leaders such as Albright and Clinton?

Partly because he is a sort of grandfather type (though a bit strident and know-it-all in my view) and many young people seek grandparents who often understand them better than their own parents. Partly because Hillary's has a schoolmarmish public speaking style that sets off unpleasant bells and whistles and on the stump and TV can sound more preachy than empathetic.

But more profoundly, many professionally successful young women feel that much of the struggle is either over or what's left of it should be focused on the kinds of issues they face in their careers and family lives and which they feel Hillary doesn't understand or "get."

They are less interested in equal-pay or affirmative action, for example, then what Sheryl Sandberg wrote about in Lean In--how women should no longer doubt their ability to combine work and family and thus do not need to avoid demanding assignments in anticipation of having children. And that, as the result of the positive outcomes of "leaning in," put themselves in a better position to ask for what they need and to make changes that could benefit others.

But this may be about to change. And, if I am reading the situation correctly, it will ironically be because of Donald Trump ever-more-disgusting misogyny.

The so-called Billy Bush open-mike tape where Trump joked so graphically about his sexual stalking is hopefully the last in a long list of last straws that should have much earlier doomed his candidacy. But somehow didn't.

From his slander about John McCain, to his boasting that his supporters would stay with him even if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue, to his mocking and abuse of female reporters, Mexicans, and people with disabilities, to egging on "Second Amendment people" to "take care"of Hillary, to his . . .

Many of us have our list of his worst calumnies that should have brought him down, but up to now, in spite of what he has said and tweeted, no matter how offensive he has been, he wiggled free and in some cases perversely seen his poll numbers rise.

But not this time.

Young women especially, very much including those who have fought on campuses against date rape and other offenses directed at women, are now seeing support for Hillary Clinton coinciding with their feminist agenda.

They also are seeing that the agenda is not in fact completed and that it is important to work on that and to do so in solidarity across generations. Equal pay, for example, may now be seen to be very much a practical and symbolic issue.

Young women may not feel fervent about Hillary for some of the reasons noted above, but because of what she would do about court appointments and pressing a gender-aware social policy agenda as well as the metaphoric power of what having a female president would mean, I am sensing that this generation of women will now vote heavily for Clinton and likely contribute to a landslide.

There will be no more examples of Trump wiggling free. This is the last straw.

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