Hillary, Likability, Feminism and Bernie

Hillary is one of my heroes,  a true role model and someone who has persevered in the face of continued and extreme antagonism. In 1992 she became our First Lady and as a young working professional I remember the “conversations”. It was inconceivable that she was considering continuing her work. It was inconceivable that she might have a role working beside her husband. It was inconceivable that she might advance a legislative cause, one that has been a cause for decades; universal health care.  She worked on it and she was crucified for it. They hit her hard and it wasn’t just a fight about health care. The attacks were harsh and personal and they were continual. She was accused of things as insane as murder and all through it she held her head high and she continued to work. She wasn’t successful at universal health care but she did help get 6 million kids covered and that was a big deal and an important first step. She also put the dream of universal health care into our consciousness. She helped make it a more than a dream. It is critically important to remember that through this all she was First Lady.

What makes me so angry when Bernie attacks her today is that he ignores that history or uses selective pieces against her. At some point he decided that his big crowds and his passion surpassed her skills and years of experience. Perhaps it was when she framed him as a one issue candidate. Maybe it was when she questioned his records on guns, when she used his record against him. Maybe it was when his co-workers fell almost entirely on her side. Maybe it was when Civil Rights icon, John Lewis, said that his presence had not been felt in the civil rights movement.It was certainly when she questioned him after his Daily News interview. She was questioning him on issues, but that didn’t matter SHE was questioning him. A newspaper had a headline saying she had questioned his qualifications. As was usual, the media was making headlines. Bernie didn’t bother to find out more. He attacked.

He went past the insinuations he had been making, the attacks on her character, the demand for her speeches, a request that had never been made before. He went straight for her jugular, and at that moment he attacked us all. Without ever looking deeper than a headline he went out and said that Hillary Clinton was not qualified. The MOST qualified PERSON in the race, was dismissed in a flat minute. HE failed an interview, she was asked about it, she said that perhaps he hadn’t done his homework and questioned that he had stumbled badly on his signature message. For all those who pushed back that it was the interviewers fault that their understanding might not have been as complete as it should have been – it just doesn’t matter. Even if the interviewers didn’t know their stuff he should have. He should be able to explain how his signature issue should work. He also should have answers on foreign policy questions. The number of I don’t knows in that interview should be worrying to anyone. If she hadn’t answered questions about it when asked she would have violated that other thing that we ask from her – honesty. Even then, when she was asked again and again if she thought Bernie was unqualified she didn’t say that he wasn’t. She didn’t say it because she doesn’t think he isn’t qualified. He isn’t ready. He doesn’t know the issues the way she does but she would not take the bait. He did. He took it based on a headline. He might have done it just as a way to take the attention off of his own bad performance.

Whatever his reason, Bernie did what happens to often and not just to her. He came right out and said Hillary Clinton was unqualified. This is where he truly crossed the line. You can not say that you are a feminist when you reach out and attack the most visible, most qualified woman in this country by saying she is not qualified to be President.I know the arguments that come when anyone dares call out anyone, especially Bernie Sanders, for sexism or misogyny. Much worse is going to happen to her in the general election, she should be able to take it. She can’t cry sexism or misogyny because…

I’m not calling it out for her or because she can’t take it. I want people to recognize it because that behavior is being seen by young men and young women and it sets an example for another generation. Women have not reached a place of equality yet. We aren’t paid the same. We have to work harder, be better to get to a place where we have an equal position so we can be paid less. We are still raped and abused and told it is our fault. Look at history, look at this race, Hillary Clinton is being held to a higher standard, people in the media say it in one breath and go on to continue to do it in the next. By questioning her qualifications Bernie is continuing that narrative. It doesn’t matter that he backed off two days later. He said it and words matter. He didn’t apologize for it either. He said it was her fault. She said it first, only she didn’t. He changed the narrative as he went it moved to a question of her judgment and quickly from that to her being corrupt. When asked Bernie can’t come up with one example of Hillary changing a vote based on influence. Still he continues the charge. What does that tell every young woman who is seeking higher position?  You will be questioned and attacked no matter your ability and it will not be your actual abilities and qualifications that will be questioned. It also says that a woman is not to be believed.

Her actions don’t matter. She isn’t to be believed. She is asked to do something no candidate has ever been asked to do and again it is because she is being asked to prove that she has integrity. She is being called a whore, accused of making a deal with the devil, all because she was paid well for making speeches as a private citizen. That she earned less than men of similar background is not considered. That she donates most of those fees is not a factor. No, a woman who is running fur President against Bernie Sanders dared to be a success story. It doesn’t matter that her mother grow up very poor and she had a middle class upbringing. She has been a self-made woman. She is not given credit for that. Why do I emphasize this?

Hillary Clinton is a success story. She is role model and Bernie Sanders cannot and does not challenge her on policy. Despite his words he can’t challenge her qualifications. When he tried he came up mostly that she got paid for speeches, which she hasn’t released, and she voted for the authorization of military force (or as he calls it the Iraq War), and she “voted” for all of the “disastrous” trade deals. To take it in order, she does not have to document speeches she gave, read her speech on the Authorization for use of military force -it was not a vote for war, and she has not voted for all of the disastrous trade agreements. She couldn’t have voted for NAFTA – she was First Lady at the time. More than anything her positions on free trade need to be examined in context of the situations and unilaterally condemning trade is ignoring that we must have trade. In other words, support or not is not disqualifying and it does not show judgement that is disqualifying in any way, shape,or form. You can challenge her on the policy, but you can’t tell lies about her and you can’t say votes that didn’t happen make her unqualified.

Finally, likability, it’s a constant question. How often have you heard her asked the question “why aren’t you liked? Why aren’t you trusted? Its particular focused on her & its a media narrative that has become a self-fulfilling prophecy when asked, but no one can say why. Hillary is winning the popular vote. She has more votes than any other candidate in the race. As soon as she is in a job she is very popular. The primary time her likability” is questioned is when she is seeking office. It can’t be questioned that a woman seeking “power” is perceived differently. Look at the criticisms – she is to shrill, she is to hard, she is yelling, she is to quiet – it’s about being a woman and especially it’s about being a woman who is seeking power. Hillary Clinton has been under attack for decades and those attacks, though all have been proven false, have a lasting impact. People remember the attacks more than they remember the resolution. When Bernie Sanders makes more unsubstantiated attacks he continues the perception that women are not to be trusted.

Why should Bernie Sanders, or his supporters, care about any of this. Hillary Clinton can take it. She’s heard worse and we all know that these attacks will continue and be worse in the general. The thing is I expect better of a Democrat in the year 2016. I especially expect more of a senator who promised to not go negative, to focus on the issues. I expect more of a progressive who claims to care about and support women’s rights. This is about more than Hillary. It’s about every woman who has been treated this way, it’s about every girl who is told the world has changed and it is most especially about every boy, every man who hears and sees the treatment and is reassured that this is all right. When you call a woman a Whore, when you shush her, when you question her qualifications for no good reason, you are questioning every woman and you telling women who are thinking about going into public service that they will continue to face horrible attacks and that you think that is just fine.

We can all take it but change and revolution don’t happen when you continue doing the same thing. Bernie and his supporters still have the chance to lead the way and focus on issues and not personal attacks and take the better path. I hope they do.

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