Every Friday, Diane Rehm hosts her weekly domestic politics hour on NPR. This past Friday, the question of the hour was why millennial women weren’t supporting Hillary. Despite the fact that the roundtable participants explained in detail why their millennial daughters were supporting Bernie, and despite the numerous millennial women who called in to explain their views, the roundtable participants seemed legitimately puzzled: Hillary’s a woman who could make history becoming the first woman president; half of millennials are women. Why aren’t millennial women flocking in droves to vote for Hillary as she embarks on her history-making presidential run?
As I fall into this demographic category that they find so puzzling, I thought I’d explain why I don’t support Hillary.
Let me start by saying–and I apologize for the weasel lawyer thing I’m about to say–that I reject the premise of the roundtable’s question. It’s offensive. I have NO IDEA why millennial women aren’t supporting Hillary. Perhaps it’s because we’re a completely diverse group, separated by race, age (millennials can be as young as 18 and as old as 33), socioeconomic status, marital status, sexual orientation, educational level, religious affiliation, place of residence, and so on and so forth. The fact that the media (a very common example of a sentence in a news article: “It is somewhat remarkable that Sanders was able to win among any female subgroup given Clinton’s historic potential to be the first female presidential nominee for a major party.”) and Hillary’s campaign managers seem to think that millennial women should support Hillary “en masse” regardless of who we are as individuals, and what political issues we find most important is patently absurd. Unbelievably, offensively so.
So this blog post is about why I don’t support Hillary. My reasons for this are unique from my 18-year old sister’s reasons for supporting Bernie, and my 26-year old sister’s reasons for supporting Bernie.
To begin to actually answer the substantive question–why not Hillary?–I guess we should start with gender, as that’s why everybody assumes I, as a fellow woman, should support Hillary.
First, from what I can understand from the media, it seems that feminists in the style of Gloria Steinmen and Madeline Albright seem to see their gender as the most important thing about them. They think that, as a woman, I have to support Hillary because women should support other women. For them, it’s pretty clear: gender trumps whatever real differences women may have with other women, and the most important thing for women is the symbolic image of a woman as President.
I, on the other hand, am not solely defined by my gender–or rather, I am, but only in part. In equal other parts I’m a person, a US citizen, a progressive, a sister, a daughter, and a spouse, all in addition to me being a woman. My gender is not the most interesting or important thing about me. I would never support somebody solely based on some immutable, biological trait. I would not vote for someone because they are a woman any more than I would do so solely because they were white, gay, or six foot five.
Perhaps this is surprising to Madeline Albright, but I, as a reasonably intelligent voter and citizen, support candidates and people because of substantive issues. The political issues I care most passionately about–the environment, corruption on Wall Street, the excessive political power and influence given to lobbyists and the rich, and the broken criminal justice system–have nothing to do with my gender. And despite what Hillary likes to say about those issues now, her actual record on those issues, especially when you compare her to Bernie, is spectacularly unimpressive and somewhat in line with moderate Republicans (more on the actual issues in a later post).
Of course none of this means that I don’t want to see women succeed in public life. I, too, would like to see a woman (and a Jewish-American, and a Muslim, and a Latino, etc.) as President one day, and find it tiring how much boring old white men dominate politics, there are simply too many pressing, concrete issues to deliberately choose to vote for a woman, when, in my opinion, that woman is a distinctly inferior candidate to her boring old white Jewish man rival, and whose policies will not do as much good for my fellow citizens (men and women). The day will come soon when a candidate whom I absolutely love and agree with on most of the issues just happens to be a woman (Elizabeth Warren, perhaps?). And then I will happily and excitedly vote for her (much in the same way I voted for Obama. I loved almost everything about him…the fact that he happened to also be the first black President was just the cherry on top).
[As an aside: isn’t this outcome what the earlier feminists, like Steinem, fought for? For men and women to be, act, and be viewed as equal and as distinct individuals? I don’t need to see a woman as President to finally think that my worth, as a woman, is validated. Nor do I need to see a woman as President to think society has finally validated the worth of women, as a whole.]
Second, I’ve heard several people (President Obama the most recent) say that Hillary needs to break that “final glass ceiling” so that little girls can dream of being the president someday. That’s absurd! Are little girls so lacking in imagination and creativity that they think they can only fulfill traditional female jobs when they grow up? Does President Obama think that little girls right now only dream of nursing and teaching elementary school? Come on! It’s 2016!!
Apparently this is surprising to others in the media, but my parents brought me up to believe that if I worked hard enough, I could do whatever I wanted to do with my life. Whenever I announced a new dream occupation (President of the US, veterinarian, doctor, teacher, etc.), my parents stressed the importance of working hard and getting a great education. They never told me I couldn’t do something because it wasn’t a job for women. And I didn’t need to see women fulfilling those jobs to believe in myself and my abilities. It’s sad that so many people think women are unable to dream big and to dream of breaking gender barriers on their own. I grew up doing everything the boys did, and, I like to think, I did it better.
(It’s also worth pointing out that Madeline Albright’s comment kind of sums up why I hate the all-women-for-Hillary attitude. If Madeline Albright believes all women have to support all other women, where was she when Sarah Palin ran for vice-president? Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t see her giving any speeches for Carly Fiorina. Did you?)
We’ll get a female President before too long. And if I vote for her, it will be because she impresses me as a politician and a person of integrity and good political sense who cares about my issues. It will certainly not be because she’s a woman–although that will be a wonderful secondary effect. Unfortunately for Hillary, her record and stances on the issues I care most about are deeply unsatisfying to me, and, according to the exit polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, most of my fellow millennials agree.