Editor’s Note: The author’s opinions are her own; Nursing Clio does not officially endorse any candidate.
In February, the New York Times published a photo of me. I had been canvassing in Carson City, NV for Hillary Clinton, and a photojournalist followed me around, taking a million pictures (it was pretty cool). A few days later, I volunteered at the badly organized but nevertheless interesting Nevada Democratic Caucus. I was neutral that day, registering people to vote. I didn’t caucus myself (I’m a registered voter in California), but it’s always fun to watch a tie decided not by a coin toss but by a high card. That’s Nevada for you. After, I was chatting with some caucus-goers about their experience, and one guy assumed that I was a Bernie supporter. When I told him otherwise, he was surprised. I’m a white, educated middle-class female. Maybe it was my youth that convinced him I was a Berner, as many young females do support Bernie, much to the dismay of older feminists. (Is this what feminist hell looks like?). But I’m with her. So as Hillary pulls ahead in the primaries, I thought I’d give some reasons why:
Hillary has always vocally supported and fought for women’s rights. At the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, Clinton gave an inspiring speech in which she pronounced “human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.” During the current campaign, she has put paid leave and equal pay at the center of her agenda. This is a continuation of decades of championing women’s rights in the public sphere.
She staunchly defends women and children’s health, including abortion rights. As First Lady, Hillary worked with both democrats and republicans to pass the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which reduced the number of uninsured children in the country by half. Today, she advocates for child care tax credits and universal prekindergarten. And she has unwaveringly supported family planning, reproductive rights, and access to abortion. In fact, her rejection of the Hyde Amendment in January went beyond typical pro-choice rhetoric to encompass a larger reproductive justice framework, tying abortion access to economic and social justice. Compare this to the fact that Sanders has barely mentioned issues like reproductive justice and abortion rights.
She’s a technocratic, Washington “insider” with a pragmatic bend. Many Bernie supporters have disparaged Hillary for being part of the establishment. But I think that’s an asset. For women and minority candidates, often a strong position in the party is the only way to succeed in politics. And Hillary is an established politician. She’s been in Washington three times: as First Lady, senator, and Secretary of State. Critics on both sides of the aisle say a Hillary presidency would be the “same old, same old,” with Washington politicians pulling behind-the-scenes strings. Well guess what folks, that’s what politics actually is. It’s networking, connections, and negotiations. Hillary’s pragmatism is an ideology (and one that I subscribe to) just as much as Bernie’s democratic socialism is. But Hillary supporters — by not explicitly supporting her pragmatism as an ideology — let ourselves be critiqued by the Washington “outsiders” who espouse their views as political principles. Neutralism, pragmatism, centrism — these are not natural “truths” just because they appear to be common sense. Rather, they are political maneuvers that need to be espoused as such. Hillary is damn good at them, and that’s why I like her.
Her racial politics are not perfect, but at least she has them. We all know that Bill Clinton did more to exacerbate the problem of mass incarceration in America than any other president in the last half century. And Hillary supported his policies. Hillary has admitted it was a mistake (finally). And Bill has too. But to reject her only because of past policies doesn’t explain away the high level of support she receives from the African-American community today. And it also discredits the long-standing relationship she has had with black Americans. As historian Gil Troy has argued, “the Clintons’ relationship with the African-American community has been deep and mutually beneficial, and it’s showing in the election tallies.” According to Gil, Sanders’ bewilderment that his economic justice message hasn’t wooed the black vote, is only surprising to “whites who caricature black politics as blindly radical.”
I’m a woman, and she’s a woman. Yep, everyone, I’m pulling out my v-card. And with pride. I want to see a woman in the White House. And, no, I didn’t support Sarah Palin because she was a woman. Her views and policies didn’t align with mine. Clinton’s do. To say that a woman voting for Hillary means she would vote for any woman is a sexist slippery slope argument that makes no sense. I want someone who has dealt with sexism on a daily basis to lead our country. And the sexism Clinton has faced is no joke. While Sanders has acknowledged that Clinton faces misogynist backlash, he has also perpetuated it within his own campaign. When rapper Killer Mike told the public that “a uterus doesn’t qualify you to be president,” Sanders responded by saying that “people should not be voting for candidates based on their gender, but on what they believe.” Newsflash. Hillary’s gender — and her lived experience of being female in a misogynistic world — completely shapes what she believes in and advocates for. And for all you out there who think it’s just ridiculous that I would let my vagina do the voting, read the words of journalist Jill Filipovic: “As much as Clinton’s detractors accuse supporters of voting with their vaginas, the truth is that for two centuries Americans voted with their metaphorical dicks. Less than 100 years ago, you couldn’t vote with your vagina, because you had to have a penis to vote.”
I think many people, including women, dislike Hillary not only because she is a powerful woman but also because she is just plain ambitious. She wants power. She is not ashamed to show that. And that isn’t something that women are supposed to do in the public sphere — despite all the leaning in we have done. That’s a man’s job. I remember Tina Fey’s and Amy Poehler’s SNL skit from 2008 that took on the sexism of that year’s presidential campaign. While it critiqued misogyny, it simultaneously reinforced it by criticizing Clinton for her quest for power. When Sarah Palin (Fey) happily states that “It’s time for a woman to make it to the White House,” Clinton (Poehler) responds, “Noooo. Mine! It’s supposed to me mine! I just want to say something. I didn’t want a woman to be president. I wanted to be president and I just happen to be a woman.” In other words Hillary, “you can have ambition, but not too much.” Well, I say, get it girl!