26 January 2016

Millennials, feminists have little love for Clinton


Last night’s Democratic Townhall debate on CNN was much of the same for anyone who has watched previous debates between socialist Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. At the last debate, Hillary stumbled over her words and at this one, she appeared to have downed several cans of the energy drink Red Bull before coming on stage. A discussion of winners and losers is almost pointless, Hillary is already the presumptive nominee, which is why Sanders continues to refuse to get into a punching match with his competition for the Democratic ticket.

Few Democrats are energized by the process of picking their nominee this time around. Despite the fact that he’s an elderly white Senator, Sanders has drawn the most excitement out of any of the three Democratic candidates. One young questioner at the Townhall event in Iowa even said as much to Clinton when he was handed the microphone, explaining that many young people find the former First Lady “dishonest.” Despite the fact that Hillary has been able to garner several celebrity endorsements, the youth vote which mobilized for Barack Obama in 2008 can’t be bothered to do the same for the potential first woman President.

One of the reasons why is Hillary’s checkered past as a feminist. Despite the fact that Hillary has thrown charges of sexism at every possible juncture against her Democratic and Republican opposition alike, few on the Left are biting. Even one of her celebrity endorsements, Lena Dunham, has privately expressed concern over Clinton’s history as it pertains to women’s issues. The New York Times covered a feeling that many on the feminist Left feel about Clinton,

But at an Upper East Side dinner party a few months back, Ms. Dunham expressed more conflicted feelings. She told the guests at the Park Avenue apartment of Richard Plepler, the chief executive of HBO, that she was disturbed by how, in the 1990s, the Clintons and their allies discredited women who said they had had sexual encounters with or been sexually assaulted by former President Bill Clinton.”

In a blog post for TIME, Caitlin Flanagan, who is a self-declared Democrat, said the same, explaining that after Juanita Brodderick’s accusations hit the mainstream press, she was conditioned to be skeptical of any Bill Clinton accuser. Flanagan explains how,

By then, I had learned to doubt. By then I had learned to ask questions I never had asked about rape victims before. Why had she waited so long to tell the story publicly? Why had she chosen that particular moment? Why did small details not add up? What did she stand to gain from telling it? The Clinton machine taught me to ask those questions of rape victims.

Not anymore says Flanagan. Now she agrees with Clinton who has made this more of an issue by declaring her support last fall for all victims of sexual assault.

During the debate, Hillary appeared to want to have it both ways. On one hand she cited her record with healthcare while her husband was President, portraying herself as the victim of a massive hit campaign against her character and her work as she attempted to upend how healthcare was delivered in the United States. But if Hillary wants to talk about her record from that time, she should seriously consider how much she wants to be held accountable for her actions as First Lady.

Millennial voters may not have first-hand memory of the scandals of the Clinton era, but that doesn’t mean they’ve disappeared down the memory hole. As unpopular it was in the 1990s to be a misogynist, radical feminism has, in many ways since the Clintons left office, become mainstream feminism. Celebrities like Dunham might be willing to swallow their ideals in order to elect a Democrat, but many other feminists are likely to side with Flanagan, and like her choose instead to stay home on Election Day.

Bethany Mandel writes on politics and culture.