Is it too late to defend Hillary?

Recent research indicates that if Hillary Clinton is the democratic candidate, sexist bias against her could cost her a significant number of votes.  This should not come as a surprise after the months and months of vilification she has received; contrary to what is said, she is not the most the immoral, dangerous person to run for presidency.  What can we do?   Well, since we can’t roll back the times, perhaps there is little we can do now.

But some people are trying.   One is Jill Abramson.

Jill Abramson is a political columnist for the Guardian. She is visiting lecturer in the English department at Harvard University and a journalist who spent the last 17 years in the most senior editorial positions at the New York Times, where she was the first woman to serve as Washington bureau chief, managing editor and executive editor.

Do read her “This may shock you: Hillary Clinton is fundamentally honest” in today’s Guardian.  Of course, she may just be preaching to the choir.  Still, some snippets:

As for her statements on issues, Politifact, a Pulitzer prize-winning fact-checking organization, gives Clinton the best truth-telling record of any of the 2016 presidential candidates. She beats Sanders and Kasich and crushes Cruz and Trump, who has the biggest “pants on fire” rating and has told whoppers about basic economics that are embarrassing for anyone aiming to be president…

Colin Diersing, a former student of mine who is a leader of Harvard’s Institute of Politics, thinks a gender-related double standard gets applied to Clinton. “We expect purity from women candidates,” he said. When she behaves like other politicians or changes positions, “it’s seen as dishonest”, he adds. CBS anchor Scott Pelley seemed to prove Diersing’s point when he asked Clinton: “Have you always told the truth?” She gave an honest response, “I’ve always tried to, always. Always.” Pelley said she was leaving “wiggle room”. What politician wouldn’t?..

I can see why so many voters believe Clinton is hiding something because her instinct is to withhold. As first lady, she refused to turn over Whitewater documents that might have tamped down the controversy. Instead, by not disclosing information, she fueled speculation that she was hiding grave wrongdoing.

Still, Clinton has mainly been constant on issues and changing positions over time is not dishonest.

It’s fair to expect more transparency. But it’s a double standard to insist on her purity.


13 thoughts on “Is it too late to defend Hillary?

  1. The amount of subtle (and often not so subtle) sexist vitriol and venom spewed at Clinton *by supporters of her Democratic rival,* of all people, sometimes meets our exceeds the amount of double-standards and hostility that I’ve seen directed at her from the likes of Ted Cruz and Ted Nugent fans–evem from a good number of self-described feminists and feminist allies, many of whom I’ve been shocked to see gleefully and frequently disseminate sexist, right-wing hit pieces. “Enemy of my enemy”-type thinking can make many a person into the image of the very people whose “values” they once fight against.

  2. As has been pointed out (including in these pages), progressives have more than enough reasons not to support Hillary Clinton that have nothing to do with “sexist bias” and “vilification.” See the following, for example:

    Michelle Alexander,

    Angela Davis,

    Maria Bustillos,

    These women are progressive critics of Clinton, and only one identifies as a Sanders supporter. Clinton is a neoliberal (like Barack Obama), not a progressive. Here’s a helpful summary on neoliberalism:

    This debate among feminists is also worth checking out. An excerpt:
    Q: “Who are you supporting for president?”
    Sady Doyle: “Hillary Clinton. She has served for a long time and proven her right to be there. I’m 33, and as someone who’s grown up with Hillary and seen her uphill battle toward being anything other than a punch line, I have an emotional investment in her.”

    Enough said.

  3. Anon, I have suggested that the villification of Clinton could well make her a less effective candidate in the general election – supposing, of course, she is the nominee.

    The claim that there are good reasons to withhold support from her is not really addressing the main issue of the post.

    Hillary’s comment, made approximately two decades ago, about black youths in gangs is pretty horrible. Her temporising about it when it was brought up out of context by someone apparently crashing a meeting seems to me more understandable. I do worry that Hillary gets blamed for not meeting people’s expectations ASAP, a test few of us could pass, I would bet. Still, my own work on implicit bias has led me to think that way too many white people are utterly clueless about racism, and I include myself in the group, at least as a matter of policy. So I’m very reluctant to criticize the stellar women you link to.

  4. annejjacobson: I was assuming that the point was not really to call for prospective voters to check their bias and consider voting for Hillary Clinton based on their non-sexist perceptions of her merits. If such voters haven’t done that by now, on her second go around for the Democratic nomination, hope would seem dim — and it’s hard to see why Jill Abramson’s endorsement would help, as you seem to acknowledge. But who knows? It’s possible there is “a significant number” of sexist neoliberal “Hillary haters,” presumably among so-called centrist types, who might be willing to vote for her after all.

    If you have links to “left wing Hillary haters [who] give [Obama] a pass,” that would be helpful. I didn’t realize there were any “left wing” Obama supporters left, given that his neoliberal commitments were apparent long ago and early on.

  5. Anon, I wasn’t so much concerned with bias as with vilification; that is, language, not beliefs.
    A lot of people buy into the idea that Hillary is a liar, maybe even a pathological one. According to Abramson, the facts look different. Maybe that won’t change minds, but in fact I expect it might with undecideds.

    My worry, of course, is that Clinton will be the candidate and Trump will win. Too, too awful.

    I think everyone I know who is a Clinton hater but an Obama fan has expressed this in places I am reluctant to quote. E.g., Facebook.

  6. anon’: To be fair to Anne, I quite agree with her characterisation of Clinton haters giving Obama a pass. But I think part of that has to do with the political landscape of 8 years ago: yes, Obama may not quite have lived up to the promise, but he has to a large part. I just think we are more demanding of our politicians now than we were 8 years ago, when the economy was only just about to tank, and anything but Bush was looking mighty good. So they give him a pass because he pretty much did everything they asked of him 8 years ago. But that program no longer looks as progressive as it once did.

  7. Personally I’m much less demanding of my (presidential-candidate) politicians now than eight years ago, because eight years ago the Democrats had a realistic expectation of unified control of Congress and the executive, whereas this time around (barring Trump-driven chaos) the more progressive parts of a Democratic president’s agenda will be DOA in the House.

  8. Jill Abramson’s article doesn’t mention either of the two biggest progressive criticisms of Clinton: that she was for the Iraq war until public opinion turned against it, and that she was against same-sex marriage until public opinion was for it. These are two of the defining issues of the Democratic Party for this generation. It’s pretty weird to omit them in a discussion of why many Democrats oppose Clinton.

  9. Her attention is primarily on trustworthiness–she’s interested in why people *distrust* Clinton are are suspicious of her–that’s why she mentions a poll that found that Democrats “distrust” Clinton and Clinton’s changing positions on same-sex marriage and financial regulation. She should talk about this variety of virtues, as all influence trustworthiness. Trustworthiness is not a matter of truth telling alone.

    I take back part of what I said before–Abramson does mention the reversal on gay marriage. But she has practically zero to say about it. (Exactly zero to say about the reversal on war.) These reversals can’t just be written off as a common change of mind. To support the Iraq war, as Clinton did, exhibits too fundamental an acceptance of American imperialism/the military industrial complex. With gay marriage, it’s just too convenient that she changed her mind after the public did.

  10. Well, no matter what you think about the Iraq war or about gay marriage, Hillary is the only candidate you can endorse to prove you’re not one of those biased sexists.

  11. “contrary to what is said, she is not the most the immoral, dangerous person to run for presidency. ”

    What a ringing endorsement.

    But of course I agree with your point: she’s only immoral and amoral in the ways that are standard for mainstream candidates.

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