Many Yalies I’ve spoken to since I arrived this fall have expressed readiness for Hillary. All would describe themselves as liberal or progressive, and many were disillusioned with our sitting president. This raises the question of what they think they are ready for.
I think the person who says she is ready for Hillary is saying she is ready for at least one of two things: for either Secretary Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 to be president or for Clinton’s ideas to become official U.S. policy or law. The second is the stranger reason because Clinton’s opinions are fairly centrist, if not conservative.
She voted in favor of the Iraq War in 2002. She voted for the PATRIOT Act. According to The Washington Post’s Joby Warrick, she toiled to win U.N. support for a NATO intervention in Libya. In an interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, she criticized the “failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad” as responsible for ISIS’s power in the country. Despite her professed support for what she calls “smart power,” she has supported American hard power for over a decade.
On the domestic front, Clinton is a tepid culture warrior. She has “evolved” to support gay marriage. She thinks abortion should be “safe, legal and rare.” She supports a higher minimum wage, thinks “trickle-down” economics fails and, as a senator, often voted against tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. But she has also voted to extend tax cuts on capital gains and dividends, made a “no new tax increases” pledge for incomes below $250,000 during the 2008 primaries and supported the welfare reform her husband signed as president that instituted work standards and cut payments. She thinks inveighing against Wall Street “needs to stop.” She supports fracking and is silent on Keystone.
I think the views mentioned above are much further from those of my liberal and progressive classmates than are those of, say, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. It therefore surprises me that many of the people I’ve spoken to at Yale who are passionate about issues such as the environment and corporate greed would support with equal passion such a milquetoast liberal. But in many cases, there’s another reason, often, in my experience, freely divulged: her gender.
Clinton’s election would be an historic one, an emblem of a century of victories for American women. Clinton is one of the most powerful women in American history. She was an active first lady, a senator and then secretary of state. And, she did all this while being a she, besting the sexism that has obstructed the careers of many American women.
For those who based their support on Clinton’s sex, I have two responses. The first is that hundreds of millions of lives and trillions of dollars will be affected by the next presidential election, and none of the effect will come from the president’s sex as such. There is no essentially female perspective, and there is nothing that Clinton, as a woman, can bring to the table that makes her the best candidate.
Surely, the people who want Clinton to be elected in part because of her sex do not believe that the historic nature of the election is worth bungling the economy and our foreign policy. Which brings me to my second response to the people who are ready for Hillary because Hillary is female.
Hillary Clinton is not the receptacle of anyone’s idea of what a woman should be like or of the views a woman should have. She is not simply a woman who might make a historical point. To make her any of these things is to objectify her.
Hillary Clinton’s opinions would guide her presidency. No doubt, her sex has influenced some of these views, but surely her opponents’ sexes have influenced their ideas no less. At any rate, anyone who cares more about the sex of the person with the ideas than the ideas themselves is comfortable enough not to have to care what the president thinks. At its best, identity politics is a means toward equal politics, ensuring that people are judged by the content of their ideas, not their demographics. If “Ready for Hillary” can honestly be rendered “Ready for a Woman,” identity politics has degenerated into an end in itself that may make the privileged few at Yale feel good, but will hurt the American people.
Cole Aronson is a freshman in Calhoun College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.