Over the weekend, feminist icons Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright gave stump speeches in support of Hillary Clinton. The pair voiced their frustration with millennial women for not lending more support to the first female candidate with a real chance of becoming president. “There’s a special place in hell,” Ms. Albright remarked, “for women who don’t help each other.”
It’s true: Hillary Clinton is a woman, and an extremely impressive woman at that. It’s hard to argue that she hasn’t helped pave the way for women in politics. But at a time in our nation’s history when we have more access to information than ever before, the truthfulness of a candidate’s platform can easily be called into question. Unfortunately for Hillary, a serious contender has emerged with a pristine record of voting for what he believes in. Bernie Sanders can be called many things, but he is not insincere.
It is a credit to Sanders’ popularity that despite his self-proclaimed background as a “socialist” – which many believed would be his downfall in the debates – it is Clinton who has had to defend her political motives. In the recent debate in New Hampshire, she was put under fire for changing her views depending on her political audience. Sanders questioned if she was truly the progressive she claims to be, or if she’s more of a “proud moderate,” which she has also claimed to be. All of this coming after her hairline victory over Sanders in Iowa, a state that she had initially been expected to solidly win.
If there’s one thing pundits can take away from this election cycle, it’s that the average American has rejected the pillars of establishment politics. As a result, it is hardly surprising that Sanders’ “political revolution” has resonated with voters, many of them millennial women. Clinton has a history of flip-flopping on the issues, including the war in Iraq (she voted in favor), gay marriage (opposed until 2013), climate change (she refused to take a stance on the Keystone pipeline until this fall), and trade (she supported TPP, then later came out against it), among others. She has been accused of changing her political views based on their popularity and pandering for votes. She has also accepted countless donations from big banks, billionaires, and her super PAC. This has perpetuated the belief that she is a “bought” candidate.
Meanwhile, Sanders has remained steadfast on the issues, and prides himself on being the only candidate in the race without a super PAC. His campaign is mostly financed by small individual donations. Voters think of him as someone who is willing to stand up for what he believes in. It is increasingly rare to see such integrity at this level of American politics, and young people in particular have responded to his message with unbridled enthusiasm.
And yet, according to Gloria Steinem, young women are supporting him merely because “that’s where the boys are.” This past weekend, Steinem appeared on the Bill Maher Show and said that she felt that millennial women were supporting Sanders “to meet boys.” She has since apologized (after intense backlash), but it was jarring to hear such a progressive woman say something so decidedly anti-feminist. To argue – as Steinem, Albright, and other Democrats have – that women should support Clinton because she is also a woman, is to reduce women to single-issue voters.
But we are not single-issue voters. Yes, we care about feminism – although it should be noted that the definition of feminism has evolved to include intersectional issues since Ms. Clinton and Ms. Steinem’s heyday. But we also care about global warming. We care about making college affordable. We care about avoiding unnecessary war.
Young people have a long history of being anti-war: a position that some might not realize is fundamentally at odds with Hillary Clinton’s record of practically neo-conservative foreign policy. When she first ran for president in 2008, she pledged to “totally obliterate” Iran if it ever attacked Israel – even if the U.S. was unthreatened and Congress had not authorized war.
In fact, Hillary Clinton has made a career out of supporting war. The Benghazi scandal generated so much press that her role in getting the U.S. involved in Libya in the first place is often overshadowed. It is no understatement to say that post-Gadaffi Libya has not been an improvement for its’ war-weary citizens, and Ms. Clinton spearheaded our poorly executed intervention there.
Maybe at her core, Hillary Clinton doesn’t want the U.S. involved in wars that kill thousands of innocent civilians. But the banks that support her and finance her campaign benefit from war. They also benefit from income inequality, blocking environmental reform, and unfair trade deals like the TPP. See a trend here? I don’t mean to call out only Hillary – most Washington politicians are corrupt. As the pro-Hillary All Caps Explosion of Feeling opinion piece reminded us last week, it’s how they “play the game.” But Bernie Sanders doesn’t play that game.
For us liberal young women who don’t support Hillary Clinton, it’s not because we’re uninformed or “bad” feminists. As millennials, we have a breadth of information at our fingertips, and we know how to use it. We also know that there is more to our identity than gender. Identity is multi-faceted, and in 2016, we feel empowered to vote for the candidate that best represents our beliefs, whether or not they’re a woman.
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