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IF HILLARY Clinton’s supporters wanted to confirm their image as irrelevant relics they couldn’t have done better than they have over the past few days. Madeleine Albright’s “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other,” and Gloria Steinem’s “When you’re young you’re thinking, where are the boys, and the boys are with Bernie” were of a piece with the generally tone-deaf nature of Clinton’s campaign.
Condescension, snark, resentment: Nothing is more certain to repel young women than Albright’s and Steinem’s remarks. Had Bernie asked them to make asses of themselves and help his cause, they couldn’t have done better.
Albright further said that “Hillary will always be there for you,” as if the interests of young women, indeed of anyone, can be encompassed by such a promise. If you’re a woman, young or old, who opposes the death penalty, intervention abroad, and sucking up to banks, in what way is Clinton there for you?
That young women need to be chided on these matter as if they were infants unaware of histroy is a sign that the work of a Steinem (I will say less about Albright, less a feminist icon than a political creature) paid off: Clearly young women don’t feel the need to retreat into identity politics as deeply as those of the women’s lib movement, as we all called it, did in their heyday.
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People like Albright can say that young women need to hear their story, but there is nothing extraordinary to a young woman in 2016 about a woman being a lawyer or a doctor instead of a secretary or nurse, so thinking that the struggles of the 1960s and ’70s will sway young people today is foolhardy. Indeed, didn’t Clinton say in the last debate, when Sanders talked about their respective Iraq votes, that “being right in the past is not a plan for the future?”
Except in the reactionary backwater of the U.S., it is not even that big a deal for a woman to be head of state. Has Albright never heard of Angela Merkel, the starver of Greece? Or Thatcher, the crusher of the working class? There’s a special place in hell for anyone who thinks the fact that they are women should convince other women to support them over a progressive male. Even Latin America, the home of machismo, has seen women as heads of state, like Kirchner of Argentina and Dilma Rouseff in Brazil.
It’s like Jews carrying on as they did when the reptilian Joe Lieberman was candidate for vice president, this after even a country like Austria had had a Jewish head of state after World War II.
Now of course the reductio ad absurdum of Albright’s statement is that women should even support a lying accessory to murder (for her statements about the Planned Parenthood tapes) like Carly Fiorina. Indeed, there is a special place in hell...
THAT YOUNG WOMEN in such large numbers support Bernie has to do with what too many people attack as his indifference to black issues and women’s issues, etc. it’s that Bernie is as old-school as Albright and Steinem, but old school from a noble school: that of class politics that refuses to treat every issue as one of identity politics. As a true socialist, Sanders views people as part of a class society whose interests are trampled on for that reason. Yes, there are special problems attendant upon being a woman, and being black, but Bernie, right or wrong, thinks, in the classic mode, that the real issue lies elsewhere. That is what appeals to young women, and young men, and so many others.
Let Clinton and her cronies scold us all: Their impact is nil because you don’t vote for someone because of what they lived through (and let us not overrate the sufferings of a young Hillary Clinton, who hooked her star to someone destined for the top); you vote for them because of what they stand for and the person they are. Bernie stands for more than Clinton and, as his refusal to engage in personal slurs attests, is a better person that she is. Perhaps growing up when she did encouraged Clinton to be the chameleon most of the electorate sees her as. That doesn’t mean anyone has to like it. Or that they should feel obliged to vote for her.
Postscript: So to top off the ignobility of the Clinton weekend, ex-President Bill Clinton saw fit to attack Bernie’s campaign for sexism and hypocrisy. Just as one would hope never to see the faces of Cheney and Rumsfeld ever discussing foreign policy (though we do), one would think that Bill Cinton would be reluctant to open his mouth on the subject of sexism. Yet in true Clinton fashion, with his (indeed, their) overriding sense that he is above the morality of common mortals, he dares to attack Sanders. And as for calling Sanders a ‘hypocrite,’ well, Bill Clinton’s picture should appear in any self-respecting dictionary next to that word. What must we do to be shed of this incubus?
Mitchell Abidor, a contributing writer to Jewish Currents, is a writer and translator living in Brooklyn. Among his books are a translation of Victor Serge’s Notebooks 1936-1947, May Made Me: An Oral History of My 1968 in France, and I’ll Forget it When I Die, a history of the Bisbee Deportation of 1917. His writings have appeared in The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, Liberties, Dissent, The New York Review of Books, and many other publications.