Hillary Clinton is now struggling with young women voters, and it is not hard to see why. Andrea Mitchell on “Meet the Press” summed up her problem:
The party has moved. This reminds me of 1972 actually. She has lost the base. And she’s lost the women. And that is what is so stunning here in New Hampshire. And they are really, they can’t figure out how to combat that. So to try to attract young women whom she lost by such extraordinary numbers in Iowa and in the polling so far here, she brings in women senators, who by definition are part of the establishment, and there’s no female Marco Rubio.
Clinton keeps insisting that she is desperately needed to protect women’s gains, but it is her own credibility that is tripping her up. Women, like men, see how cagey she is on releasing her paid speeches. They understand that she keeps insisting her email server set-up was “allowed” — but the FBI keeps investigating. (“She doesn’t have a good answer on why she accepted the money for these speaking fees, I think in part because there isn’t a great answer,” Julie Pace of the Associated Press noted. “It was widely expected that she would run for president and she still went to these banks. We haven’t seen what she said when she spoke to Wall Street executives. And every time that Bernie Sanders brings that up, it reinforces a narrative about her, but also a narrative about him.”) The notion that gender solidarity trumps all is not panning out.
Her female allies only make things worse. Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, whom the average voter does not see as authoritative (if they even know who she is) pronounces, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” I suppose then she would support Carly Fiorina over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and quietly backed women candidates in 2014 such as Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah). No, I do not suppose so. The concept is foreign to many women, and in any event insulting. Neither Albright nor Clinton seem to grasp how tone-deaf their insistence on blind gender loyalty strikes their target audience. Aging feminist Gloria Steinem (who infamously defended Bill Clinton against female accusers) is equally off-key. She explained why young women are signing up with Sanders: “When you’re young, you’re thinking ‘Where are the boys?’ The boys are with Bernie.” Now, if this is not a smear of young women’s decision-making and values, I don’t know what is.
Clinton, Albright and Steinem seem of another era — and they are. The idea that gender excuses flawed judgment, ethics and records is distasteful to most people, of whatever gender, in large part because the country has come so far on gender equality. As for the challenges women and men face today, it’s hard to argue feminists fighting a 40-year-old war are the best source of leadership and advice.
The danger here for Clinton is not merely that her gender appeals do not work. It is that voters come to see her as manipulative and uninspiring, a mother (grandmother) who has to resort to guilt when all other arguments fail. No wonder the message from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) about turning the page on backward-looking liberals sends shivers down Hillaryland’s collective spine.