by Carol Hanisch“There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”
– Madeline Albright, first female U.S. Secretary of State (1997-2001) appointed by President Bill Clinton, hectoring women to support Hillary Clinton for U.S. president
Don’t look to this blogzine for regular analysis on the 2016 elections. We don’t believe that liberation comes from the top down, but from the bottom up, that people need to organize at the grassroots before any big changes will be possible. Even Bernie Sanders astonishing “social democratic” candidacy is a product of a growing organizing efforts by various activist groups like Occupy Wall Street, the $15 minimum wage campaign, and Black Lives Matter.
However, the kicking around of feminists who balk at supporting Hillary Clinton by the corporate media and by her supporters, including other feminists, cries out for analysis of her political background and activity. The vast experience she touts while at the same time claiming not to be part of the establishment by virtue of being a woman must be examined: “experienced” doing what exactly? Is it worse “to die without seeing the first woman president of the U.S.” or to vote for a woman who represents so much of what one has spent one’s life fighting against?
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In February as the election primaries heated up, Hillary Clinton called out some establishment big guns to try to guilt-trip the many young women supporting Bernie Sanders to support her candidacy on the grounds that she is a woman. It both backfired and called forth a closer look at Clinton’s political record.
One of those big guns was former Secretary of State Madeline Albright. Here’s how the New York Times described it:
While introducing Mrs. Clinton at a rally in New Hampshire on Saturday, Ms. Albright, 78, the first female secretary of state, talked about the importance of electing a woman to the country’s highest office. In a dig at the “revolution” that Mr. Sanders, 74, often speaks of, she said the first female commander in chief would be a true revolution. And she scolded any woman who felt otherwise.
“We can tell our story of how we climbed the ladder, and a lot of you younger women think it’s done,” Ms. Albright said of the broader fight for women’s equality. “It’s not done. There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”
Mrs. Clinton, 68, laughed, slowly clapped and took a large sip of her beverage.
One might ask Albright if the general election should end up with men representing both major parties if she will vote for Jill Stein, the Green Candidate for President, or prefer to burn in hell.
No doubt there are younger people who may not know how Madeline Albright, while ambassador to the U.N. (not incidentally appointed by Bill Clinton) responded to a segment on 60 Minutes in 1996 discussing the harsh sanctions on Iraq that preceded the Iraq War. Lesley Stahl asked her, “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” Albright replied, “We think the price is worth it.”
However, many feminists blowing Clinton’s horn who are old enough to remember apparently don’t care or have chosen to ignore it – or perhaps they agree with Albright that the price was worth the slow and painful deaths of those 500,000 Iraqi children deprived of healthcare, safe water, and starved to death in the period from the Gulf War (1990-91) during the Bill Clinton administration run-up to George Bush’s Iraq War of 2003 that deposed Saddam Hussein on the false pretense that Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks. The bitter irony is that Iraq under Hussein was one of the more secular and woman-friendly regimes in the area, which was also true of Libya under Muammar Gaddafi.
Establishment feminist Gloria Steinem, herself a Cold Warrior (see here and here), threw more fuel on the fire when she tried to explain the enthusiasm of young women for Sanders: “When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.’” She later tried to backtrack on the statement after indignant young women made their feelings known.
Indeed, Steinem may well have been thinking of herself when she made that remark. In 1972, she abandoned the Shirley Chisholm Presidential Campaign to assist that of George McGovern, which was presumably “where the boys were” at that time. She has tended to go to where the 1% are, keeping company throughout the years with some of the richest and most powerful men in the world.
One of those Steinem kept company with was Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State and National Security Advisor under Presidents Nixon and Ford in the 1970s. In addition to other actions that caused human rights proponents to cite him as a war criminal, Kissinger helped engineer the bloody coup that overthrew the democratically-elected Chilean socialist Salvador Allende. He now backs Clinton, who has stated that she welcomes his support, saying she has consulted with him. She even wrote a review to his 2014 book, World Order, for the Washington Post.
Their good words for each other must mean something. It is profoundly disturbing that many of my generation of feminists – many of whom called themselves radicals and who were active against the Vietnam War, the CIA atrocities, and so forth – have been advocating support of Clinton, given her history and “friends.”
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Meanwhile, the insinuation that millennial women are just ignorant and don’t know or care about Clinton’s record gets blown out of the water here and there. Take for example articulate young feminist Holly Wood writing in the Village Voice:
If anything concerns me at this pivotal moment, it’s not the revolutionary tremors of the youth. Given the Great American Trash Fire we have inherited, this rebellion strikes me as exceedingly reasonable. Pick a crisis, America: Child poverty? Inexcusable. Medical debt? Immoral. For-profit prison? Medieval. Climate change? Apocalyptic. The Middle East is our Vietnam. Flint, the canary in our coal mine. Tamir Rice, our martyred saint. This place is a mess. We’re due for a hard rain.
If I am alarmed, it is by the profound languor of the comfortable. What fresh hell must we find ourselves in before those who’ve appointed themselves to lead our thoughts admit that we are in flames? As I see it, to counsel realism when the reality is fucked is to counsel an adherence to fuckery. Under conditions as distressing as these, acquiescence is absurd. When your nation gets classified as a Class D structure fire, I believe the only wise course is to lose your shit.
The reason Wall Street is dropping zillions of quarters into Hillary’s Super PAC-Man machine isn’t because it wants change — it’s because Wall Street sees revenue in her promises of keeping things much the same. Under Hillary, our prisons will continue to punish for profit. Our schools will continue to be sold off to private contractors. And despite 87 percent of Democrats standing behind universal health care, Hillary insists it will “never, ever come to pass.” Not from her, I guess, since she’s taken over $13 million from the health care industry.
We really can’t, America, says Hillary. Nope. Not ever. We are a powerful nation, kids, but one run by the Great Market God.
Writer Susan Faludi tried to divert the feminist debate by weighing in with her “mommy theory” of generational differences between feminists, though not all older feminists support Clinton by any means. In fact, there is even a Second Wave Feminists for Sanders. While formulating this mainly as another daughter vs. mother pop psychology phenomena, she does give a cursory nod to the fact that there might be differences in some of the objective conditions that young women are faced with today, like huge college debt, but this is overwhelmed by the usual guilt-tripping and fear-mongering to send voters into the Hillary camp:
[M]ore seasoned voters may rightly consider a romantic Democratic insurrection the height of elitist privilege when what’s at stake are the lives of underprivileged women of all ages and races, women who will be the prime victims when social welfare programs are laid waste, Roe v. Wade overturned, Social Security gutted, and national health care shredded by whoever beats Mr. Sanders in November.
Faludi’s disingenuous and snarky comment about “whoever beats Sanders” conveniently ignores that most polls have Sanders beating Donald Trump by a much larger margin than Clinton. Faludi apparently has also ignored Clinton’s record on such issues as welfare, national health care, war (which benefits few women and children, especially those whose countries she has advocated the bombing of), and even abortion, which Clinton has said should be “safe, legal and rare.” [Emphasis added.]
Sarah Leonard did a better job in The Nation with her article, “Which Women Support Hillary and Which Women Can’t Afford to”:
[E]xample and representation is probably pretty important within a class—it’s hard to prove, but our gut tells us that role models matter. The mere existence of female leaders can inspire confidence in others who have opportunities and just need that extra strength to seize them. What representation is pretty bad at doing is affecting who gets those opportunities—if you’re poor, no positive example is gonna just boost you out of it. That’s an old right-wing myth—if you can look up at your superiors, you can tug your bootstraps in their direction.
Others have catalogued Hillary Clinton’s opposition to policies that would redistribute wealth and power toward women a la the Nordic [Scandinavian – eds.] model, so I’ll keep that brief here. Suffice to say that she has spoken about women caring for their children on welfare with venom and has made herself an enemy of the poor. She is surely not the most egregious opponent of women’s well-being—she is, after all, pro-choice—but her allies, practically speaking, are big donors like Goldman Sachs and Wal-Mart, which lobby hard against redistribution and good treatment of women in the workplace. Voting for Hillary is, unfortunately, a strike against poor people.
Hillary promoters promise incremental change, which she likely has no intention of delivering, given her record of talking Left and acting Right. And she is now talking more Left than she was before the enthusiasm for Bernie’s message gave her a shove. We’re told she started out as a Goldwater Girl in the 1964 election, something she was probably too young to be held accountable for now. But she has since accumulated quite a political record that should give any feminist pause. For starters, she along with husband Bill, had a guiding hand in moving the Democratic Party sharply rightward by orchestrating a takeover of the Party by the Democratic Leadership Council, and later the New Democrats. They pushed the Party to join Republicans in clamping down on the poor with “ending welfare as we know it”, grossly increasing the prison population with mean-spirited drug laws, and much more, while greatly ensuring corporate/Wall Street power. Glass-Steagall was slowly decimated over a decade by a coalition of Democrats and Republicans doing Wall Street’s bidding and with Bill Clinton signing the final repeal bill. Hillary has said she would not reinstate it.
The blatant racism and sexism of the Republicans make it harder to draw out and critique the more subtle but arguably just as deadly imperialist, racist and sexist policies of the liberals, but the Democrats haven’t been fighting in recent decades for the 47% who Mitt Romney attacked as “paying no income tax” but still thinking they are entitled “to food, to housing, and you name it.” Nor have they mounted much of a fight for the rest of the 99%. Lesser evil admonitions don’t mean as much when you’re screwed either way. As Rob Urie wrote recently:
Mr. Trump was born into the class that establishment Democrats and Republicans have spent the last four decades making so wealthy that it separates them from the consequences of their socially destructive actions. … It is hardly an accident then that Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton have been friends for over twenty years. … The Democratic establishment is in the process of shoving Bernie Sanders out of the way to put Hillary Clinton forward as the candidate to beat Donald Trump.
Mrs. Clinton is a war-monger, free-trade-agreement loving friend of Wall Street at a time when a fair portion of the conscious public would just as soon burn the whole mess to the ground with Mr. Trump. The question for those who would vote for Mrs. Clinton to “stop” Donald trump is: who are you going to vote for to stop Hillary Clinton?
As Michele Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, wrote in The Nation in the article “Why Hillary Clinton Does Not Deserve the Black Vote,” the problem lies not just between Clinton or Sanders, but in the Democratic Party itself and the ongoing lesser evil voting it demands:
But recognizing that Bernie, like Hillary, has blurred vision when it comes to race is not the same thing as saying their views are equally problematic. Sanders opposed the 1996 welfare-reform law. He also opposed bank deregulation and the Iraq War, both of which Hillary supported, and both of which have proved disastrous. In short, there is such a thing as a lesser evil, and Hillary is not it.
The biggest problem with Bernie, in the end, is that he’s running as a Democrat—as a member of a political party that not only capitulated to right-wing demagoguery but is now owned and controlled by a relatively small number of millionaires and billionaires. … I hold little hope that a political revolution will occur within the Democratic Party without a sustained outside movement forcing truly transformational change. I am inclined to believe that it would be easier to build a new party than to save the Democratic Party from itself.
Of course, the idea of building a new political party terrifies most progressives, who understandably fear that it would open the door for a right-wing extremist to get elected. So we play the game of lesser evils. This game has gone on for decades. W.E.B. Du Bois, the eminent scholar and co-founder of the NAACP, shocked many when he refused to play along with this game in the 1956 election, defending his refusal to vote on the grounds that “there is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I do or say.” …
[Hillary] may be surprised to discover that the younger generation no longer wants to play her game. Or maybe not. Maybe we’ll all continue to play along and pretend that we don’t know how it will turn out in the end. Hopefully, one day, we’ll muster the courage to join together in a revolutionary movement with people of all colors who believe that basic human rights and economic, racial, and gender justice are not unreasonable, pie-in-the-sky goals.
Fear or opportunism may again bring many to the Clinton table, but people who pull the lever for her should at least understand just whom they are voting for and whom she truly represents, and therefore what they can expect her to fight for – and not fight for. That means examining her political record, including her financiers. It is equally true that the political record of Bernie Sanders, the lesser of the lesser evils, be scrutinized and understood. Sanders would be hamstrung as president not only by the Republicans, but also by many Democrats, who like Clinton, are invested in protecting their corporate masters. Further, he doesn’t seem to be addressing the fact that his program is impossible to carry out as long as this country is spending trillions on waging wars. But at least he starts from a position of being more beholden to the people than to Wall Street (or beholden to nobody like Trump who’s rich enough to buy the presidency outright). That has to count for something.
There have been so many unexpected twists and turns to this election, who knows how it is going to turn out and what it will mean down the road. It’s mind-boggling! It seems clear the Republican Party will never be the same (if they survive) and perhaps the Democrats as well. Whatever, this country is experiencing a wakeup call on so many fronts. For better or for worse is not yet clear. Probably both.
Rather than being blindsided (yet again) by the wishful thinking of desperation, we must face up to the necessity of looking and planning outside and beyond the election, no matter the results.
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Further recommended reading:
“Race, Gender, and Class Politics in the U.S. Primaries” by Vicente Navarro
“Hillary Is the Candidate of the War Machine” by Jeffrey Sachs