2008 Clinton’s Gender Politics
posted by November 2 at 13:10 PMon
Hillary Clinton has a problem.
Her campaign believes that women are going to be key to helping her win the Democratic primary and the general election. Her guru, Mark Penn, likes to remind reporters that women now make up about 54-percent of the electorate, and recently Penn suggested that in a general election, Clinton could win over as much as 24-percent of the Republican female vote based on the “emotional element” of potentially having the first female president.
Hence, the Clinton campaign is trying to stir up emotion among women. That’s why Clinton was at her alma mater Wellesley yesterday, telling undergraduates that “in so many ways this all-women’s college prepared me to compete in the all-boys’ club of presidential politics.” That’s why her campaign released it’s “Politics of Pile On” video in the wake of Tuesday’s debate and went about suggesting that a bunch of men had been mean to Clinton, as usual.
The Clinton campaign is trying to push women’s buttons, getting them to rally around Clinton out of a sense of shared victimhood. Maybe she’ll be effective in this. No doubt there are a lot of women out there who feel like they have to play in an “all-boys’ club.” No doubt there are a lot of women who have experienced something akin to “the politics of pile on” at work or in social settings. And no doubt there are a lot of men whose sympathies can be pricked with the image of a bunch of guys “piling on” one woman—an image that, taken to its logical extreme, brings up images of gang rape and its attendant male responsibilities (the responsibility to protect the woman, the responsibility to punish the male aggressors, the responsibility to make life better for the woman going forward).
But Clinton is also contending that she’s not running because she’s a woman. And she’s trying to show that she’s tough enough to defend herself (and the country) in a world full of bad men. Hence, on Wednesday, the day after the debate, when Clinton got the endorsement of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union’s president presented her with a pair of boxing gloves and said of the debate: “Six guys against Hillary. I’d say that’s a fair fight.”
Well, but: Which is it? A fair fight or not?
Right now the Clinton camp wants to have it both ways. It wants to say Clinton is strong enough to take on six men, and it wants to criticize those six men for taking on one woman.
This creates an opening for people to accuse Clinton of selectively playing the gender card, as Barack Obama did this morning. It gives grist to opinion writers, male and female, who think Clinton isn’t being sincere. And it also creates a danger that her posture will turn off men who find the back-and-forth extremely manipulative.