How Should Clinton Play the ‘Woman Card’? – Politico
“Frankly, I think if Hillary Clinton were a man, she wouldn’t get 5 percent of the vote,” Donald Trump told a crowd of his supporters in late April. “The only thing she’s got going is the woman card.” The casual slight set the internet alight with memes not seen since the days of Mitt Romney’s binders full of women. It inspired a parody commercial, and the hashtag was flung around by both haters and supporters. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton embraced the phrase: “If fighting for women’s health care and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the woman card, then deal me in!” she said shortly after Trump’s remarks. Her campaign is still selling official Woman Cards on their website.
On Tuesday Clinton became the first female presidential nominee in history. As she faces off against a competitor who has been frequently accused of misogyny and has a much publicized past with women, Politico Magazine decided to ask a group of leading female policy wonks, political minds and opinion influencers: Just how should Hillary Clinton play the “woman card” in 2016? Some think she needs to address better work-family policies, but be sure to include men in the conversation, too. Others think she needs to let Trump’s comments speak for themselves. And some were quick to dismiss the idea entirely, because, as one respondent said, “most women just have better things to think about than set-asides and handouts and identity politics.”
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Clinton should not rest her laurels on her gender.
Danielle Pletka is senior vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.
Hillary Clinton has already made clear she plans to play the “woman card” against Donald Trump. And it’s hard to blame her. The man’s had three wives, countless bimbos, and has a track record of behaving in porcine fashion towards women young and old, hot and not hot, smart and stupid. But Mrs. Clinton should resist the temptation. Yes, she’s the first woman to get this far. Yes, she’s going to keep reminding us she’s the first female nominee of her party. Yes, Barbra Streisand is really, really excited about the whole woman thing. Nonetheless, there are several solid reasons Hillary should not rest her laurels on her gender.
First, it’s true that Donald Trump has little respect for women. But the same can be and will be said of Bill Clinton. And no matter how many ladies the Clintons can persuade to tie their reputations to Bill Clinton’s libido and explain his foul peccadilloes away, the reality is that the nation neither needs nor deserves an election centered on the louche habits of powerful men, whether the candidate or the candidate’s spouse.
Second, as much as it hurts, surely Team Clinton has noticed that women, particularly younger women, aren’t really all that jazzed about the prospect of Madam President. Perhaps, as liberal echo chamber Vox explains, it’s because they’re dumb: “For them, the world may seem like a much more equal place than it actually is.” Or maybe it’s Hillary herself, saddled to a creepy old guy, enabler to a younger woman also married to a creepy old guy. Or maybe most women just have better things to think about than set-asides and handouts and identity politics. In other words, maybe most women are actually smart.
Third, gender politics are demeaning. Love me because I’m a woman. Treat me differently, or the same, but differently. Don’t judge me on the same standards, but pretend to. Treat me like a man, except when you’re rude, and then I’m a woman, and how dare you?
Finally, if Hillary were the trailblazer she pretends to be (because she totally would have been senator from New York without Bill), she would stand up and say, “I’m not going to play the ‘woman card’ because I don’t think I’m here because I’m a woman. I’m here because I won, and I won because I was better and the other guys were worse. I’m here because I have ideas that you like. I’m here because you don’t think of me as a woman, you think of me as president.” Yeah, in the end she may say that too. But my bet is that first she’ll play the woman card. It’s just too easy to hide behind the skirts of the women’s movement rather than admit that America has become a meritocracy where some women win and some women lose. Just like men.
She should talk about gender—in a way that’s celebratory and inspirational.
Liza Mundy is senior fellow at New America, a nonpartisan, non-profit think tank, and contributing editor at Politico Magazine.
Hillary Clinton should definitely talk about gender, and she should do so in a way that is celebratory and inspirational. The fact that a major American political party has (or shortly will have) a female nominee for president—at long last and for the first time in U.S. history—is a milestone not only nationally but internationally. It would be a mistake not to acknowledge that fact and invoke it.
When it comes to issues like workplace flexibility, maternity leave, or others that frequently come wrapped as “women’s issues,” Hillary Clinton should certainly discuss them, but she should not confine the conversation to women only. Workplace policy is very much about men as well as women. It’s not maternity leave that we’re talking about; it’s parental leave. It’s not about working mothers; it’s about working fathers as well. (And working daughters and working sons.) For women to advance in the workplace it’s important that men be able to avail themselves of work-life measures that allow men to fulfill their caregiving responsibilities and be part of family life. That part of the conversation needs to be very much gender-neutral, in order to ensure that men are a vital part of the work-family conversation.
In terms of assailing Trump for misogynistic remarks, it seems likely that he will do her work for her in that regard. That said, it probably will be hard to resist.
The Clinton campaign should not “play any cards.”
Anne-Marie Slaughter is the president and CEO of New America Foundation.
She shouldn’t. Even framing the question that way plays directly into Donald Trump’s hands and the hands of anyone who wants to turn this election into identity politics rather than national politics. If you think she would be a bad president but would vote for her anyway because she is a woman, then you are serving neither women nor the country.
The Clinton campaign should not “play any cards.” It should present Hillary Clinton as the whole person she is: a First Lady, Senator, Secretary of State, presidential candidate, lifelong advocate for children and families, wife, mother and grandmother. Seeing her from all angles will connect her to women (and men) across the country who will understand just how important it will be to have a president who can represent all the different sides of their lives. This is what representative democracy is all about.
Her “woman card” shouldn’t just apply to white women.
Mahroh Jahangiri is Deputy Director of Know Your IX, a national youth- and survivor-led campaign to end gender violence in schools, and a columnist at Feministing.com.
Let’s be honest here: Trump voters don’t give a flying damn about misogyny in the general election (except for, perhaps, indulging in it). In this election, the voters who will care about gender—and more importantly, gender equity—are those of us on the left: We whose feminism is less concerned with how high one woman can rise within an oppressive power structure; we who wonder whether a candidate’s feminist lens will lead her to dismantle military, police, and economic violence; we who given all of this, are unsure of whether we’ll vote for a remarkably unprogressive candidate.
Our rejection of Clinton is a rejection of policies that we know have done little good—and have often done brutal, active harm—to hundreds of thousands of women (especially those of us of color) at home and abroad. It is a rejection of her support for the Iraq War, of her State Department’s expansion of drone attacks, and of her support for undemocratic and brutal regimes in Haiti, Honduras and Israel.
Reminding liberal voters of Trump’s sordid past won’t achieve very much—we have no doubt of Trump’s evil. But we also doubt that Clinton’s “woman card” has any substantive commitment to intersectional feminism. If Clinton wants to capture our votes, she shouldn’t just use gender in the general election, she should grow it into a broader feminism that is not centered exclusively around white women; it should speak to those who care about war and Walmart and prisons in addition to women-friendly workplace policies, and it must highlight true commitments to fighting all forms of violence enacted on women’s bodies.
But so long as Hillary Clinton’s feminism remains as shallow as a literal playing card, she’s losing us.
She has no choice. The Democrat Party has become a captive of identity politics.
Mary Matalin is a conservative strategist.
Whether or not it’s the best strategic course, Mrs. Clinton will run as the “I am woman, I am strong” candidate because she has no choice. The Democrat Party has become a captive of identity politics, and liberals-of-a-certain-age do not have the imagination or insight to consider any other strategy. And that strategy will fail.
If misogyny becomes Clinton’s primary line of attack on The Donald, his obvious defense will be a full-throated presentation of her misogynist complicity in her husband’s well-documented indiscretions. Further, if her gender becomes her main offensive play, she will drive away high-propensity male voters while ignoring the policy priorities of other key groups.
Older women, particularly married mothers, will be voting on economic and security issues. In our Obamanomics economy, the labor-force participation rate is at historic lows and 2 percent economic growth is the new normal. Working-age women will not care about Mrs. Clinton’s proposals to make the work environment more accommodating if they don’t have a job and lack any prospects of getting one.
Likewise, all available data show that millennials are not attracted to Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy based on her gender. In the primaries, they strongly preferred Bernie Sanders—clearly illustrating a vote-determinative preference for change, not gender. Whatever else Mrs. Clinton may be, she is most certainly not a change agent.
However different or disparaged a candidacy Trump represents, he is a change agent on a critical and salient issue: he is not a typical politician. But that fact alone is not enough to win. If he wants to build a majority coalition, Trump must get his act together and win over the constitutionalists and regular conservatives he now professes to disdain. The good news for Trump is that a gender-based campaign by Mrs. Clinton is unlikely to entice any would-be Republicans who are on the fence.
She should present the misogynists as weak and fearful.
Amanda Marcotte is a politics writer at Salon.
I reject the term “woman card,” which implies being female confers some advantage, which in turn implies the reason women are underrepresented in politics is lack of merit instead of the obstacle that is sexism.
That said, Hillary Clinton would be wise not to ignore the gender elephant in the room, especially since Donald Trump is clearly going to run by appealing to a cheap, misogynist model of masculinity that defines manhood as being the biggest bully in the room. This gives Clinton an abundance of opportunities to offer herself as an alternative not just for women, but also male voters who reject the mean, narrow view of masculinity that Trump has on display.
Clinton can even turn her rejection of that masculinity into an asset. In 2008, Obama trusted that Americans were smart and courageous enough to embrace the idea of a black president, and in the end, it became part of his appeal: When people rejected racism in their political choices, it made them feel good about themselves and increased his appeal as a candidate. Clinton could do the same with sexism, framing it as the strong and uplifting choice to vote for the woman, and a weak and fearful one to vote for the misogynist.
Her victory rally Tuesday night got off to a great start. By linking her campaign to feminist struggles of the past, she makes voters feel like they are taking part in history by voting for her. Anti-sexism can become a central part of her appeal.
In the end, both candidates will use gender to win voters.
Kelly Dittmar is assistant professor at Rutgers University-Camden and scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers. She is the author of Navigating Gendered Terrain: Stereotypes and Strategy in Political Campaigns.
Like any good candidate, I think that Hillary Clinton will—and has already—created a contrast between herself and Donald Trump. Part of that contrast is in the candidates’ respect for women and prioritization of gender equality. As has been evident in Clinton’s comments to date, she will include Trump’s misogyny among the many examples of his divisiveness and disrespect for those who are different from him. In contrast, she positions herself as someone who believes we are “stronger together,” inclusive of diversity across race, gender, religious, generational, and geographical lines. It is not up to Clinton to detail the many instances of Trump’s sexism (she will leave that to others – whether media, surrogates, or outside groups), but she can take advantage of how that characterization contrasts with her own history and record of fighting for women’s rights.
In doing so, Clinton importantly shifts from distinctions in personal character or behavior to policy debates. If either candidate wants to effectively characterize the other as “bad for women,” he or she needs to back that up with substantive evidence that the policies the other supports will have a negative impact on women’s lives. Clinton has just begun to take on Trump’s policy positions more explicitly, but will surely continue in that direction. She has already offered voters insights into how her policy positions, plans, and priorities will be good for women, whether by incorporating issues typically deemed “women’s issues” on her primary policy agenda or by talking about the ways in which her plans for economic growth, criminal justice reform, or college affordability (among others) will benefit women and men.
In my book, I argue that campaigns are gendered institutions, meaning that gender dynamics are at play at all levels and for all those engaged in them. That means that no candidate can simply set aside gender in waging a campaign. The important question is how to navigate gender in strategy, tactics and messaging. Whether and how Clinton talks about gender, appeals to women (and men) voters and addresses the merit her own gender might bring to the Oval Office is just as worthy of debate and analysis as the extent to which Trump performs and touts his masculinity, how he tries to appeal (or not) to women or men, and the ways in which he characterizes the status of gender equality in American society today. In the end, both candidates will be guided by a combination of personal principles, professional advice and election polling about just which gender strategies will be most effective in winning the majority of voters in November.
She can put Trump on his heels by engaging with him on gender policy.
Debra DeShong, EVP of Subject Matter, former Senior Advisor to the 2004 John Kerry Presidential Campaign and former Chief of Staff to Ambassador Caroline Kennedy.
Fighting for the policies and paths that would help women is not playing any “woman card.”
Being a woman isn’t just biology. It’s something that impacts your daily experiences, shapes your values and informs your perspective on everything from the workplace to health care. Did the dozens of presidents who precede her play the “man card” when they—or many of them, anyway—allowed and/or advocated policies that helped men? She should not be expected to ignore her gender any more than we would have asked George W. Bush to not talk about how being from Texas shaped his political perspective.
Call me an optimist, but I expect we will eventually move beyond the conversations about Trump’s vile rhetoric (which, vile though it may be, has certainly been a gift to her in the election so far). In doing so, Hillary should put him on his heels by simply engaging him on his actual policy positions that impact women: reproductive rights, equal pay and Supreme Court nominations, for starters. We should not forget that Trump advocated punishing a woman for having an abortion. If outlining how women would be impacted by a Trump administration is playing “the woman card,” then so be it. Whatever one calls it, it’s a card that must be played.
Clinton should go after Trump’s past and present.
Stephanie Cutter is founding partner at Precision Strategies, a consulting firm, and former senior adviser and deputy campaign manager to Barack Obama.
Trump is very clear who he stands for—people who like him, think like him and agree with him. When they see Donald Trump engage in bigotry, misogyny or racism, women across the country cringe. The thought of a Trump presidency scares them because they know that Trump will treat them like that if he wins the White House. Hillary can play the “women card” by simply pointing that out—how Trump is acting now or acted in the past is a good indicator of what he’d be like as president. Whether it’s saying our wages are too high, wanting to outlaw abortion, or calling a woman ugly, this is the guy who wants to run our country. He’s not fighting for you. Period.
Gender should be just one part of her message.
Elizabeth Holtzman represented New York’s 16th congressional district from 1973 to 1981.
Hillary Clinton, now the presumptive Democratic nominee, has forged an amazing first in American politics. She doesn’t need to play the woman card by attacking Donald Trump. On the other hand, she should not downplay her historic success. As she did on Tuesday in Brooklyn, she needs to continue to point out that her getting this far is a reaffirmation of America’s promise of opportunity, this time to a majority of America’s people, its women and girls.
On the campaign trail, she should discuss the need to eliminate the barriers that still block women’s equality, including the gap in pay and promotional opportunities and the problems of sexual harassment and violence—just as she should discuss the barriers to racial and ethnic equality that still linger, particularly in employment and in the criminal justice system. Making America work for all people should be an explicit and implicit theme of her campaign. After all, she embodies that ideal. But she needs to enlarge her appeal beyond gender, and focus, for example on some of the issues dear to the Sanders supporters, particularly younger voters, such as making college more affordable, and on other economic issues such as making the economy work more effectively for Americans.
Hillary’s message of renewing hope and possibility, and strengthening opportunity and equal rights is one that should resonate strongly against someone who preys on and fosters fear, despair and bigotry, as her major opponent does.