Hillary Clinton: A multi-issue candidate for a single-issue electorate

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On the PBS Democratic presidential debate between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton finally seemed to find the essence of why she is the best candidate in the race: “I am not a single-issue candidate, and I do not believe we live in a single-issue country.”

Of all the candidates in either party, Clinton is clearly the candidate most qualified to take over the presidency. But in 2016, as we’ve seen with the rise of real estate mogul Donald Trump’s anger on the right and Sanders’ revolution on the left, many voters don’t seem to care about experience. Which is too bad — for them, and for the country.

The Clinton campaign took a major hit in New Hampshire, where she lost to Sanders by 22 points. Some of her surrogates on the campaign trail, such as feminist icon Gloria Steinem and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, haven’t been doing her any favors with some ill-considered words about why younger women aren’t supporting her, and why they believe that those women should support her.

Steinem was almost tricked into saying something dumb on Real Time with Bill Maher about young women supporting Sanders because that was “where the boys are.” (If you listen to the entire exchange, you get a very different take — she was talking about how women get more politically involved as they get older.) Albright reiterated her oft-repeated line that there was “a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women.” Steinem has apologized and walked her line back, as did Albright. But the damage was done; Sanders led in almost every age group in New Hampshire and even got the votes of 55 percent of women voters.

Which brings us to the latest debate, the last one before Democratic voters caucus in Nevada. A story on Vox with the headline “Hillary Clinton finally found her argument against Bernie Sanders,” describes the moment in her closing argument when Hillary Clinton hit the nail on the head:

  • It paints Sanders as a kind of protest candidate who’s just in the race to make a statement and shouldn’t be taken all that seriously.
  • It advances Clinton’s argument that she has broader experience and qualifications on many more issues — that she’s more serious than him.
  • It implies to women and nonwhite voters that Sanders just doesn’t care about issues important to them all that much.
  • It portrays Sanders’s diagnosis of what ails America — mainly the influence of big money — as simplistic.
  • It’s a reason that Sanders shouldn’t be the nominee, and it doesn’t require people who like him (as many Democrats and even Clinton supporters do) to stop liking him.
  • And, unlike many of Clinton’s other arguments against Sanders, it has the ring of truth to it — Sanders really does bring up Wall Street, corporations, and the wealthy in his answers to practically every question (in this debate he said he’d improve race relations by getting rid of “tax breaks to billionaires”). And he seems less comfortable when he discusses other topics.

To me, Clinton’s biggest strength is still her mastery of foreign policy. Her time as secretary of state taught her the importance of grasping large amounts of information and detail on a wealth of worldly matters, which she displays in every debate and in every interview. And despite what Sanders says about “experience and “judgment,” constantly bringing up Clinton’s 2002 vote for the Iraq War (a mistake, and she has admitted it), in today’s world, I would rather have Clinton and her expertise than a candidate like Sanders. A man who has been in Congress for 25 years shouldn’t sound like he’s taking Foreign Policy 101.

One of my favorite blogs is written by two octogenarians, Margaret and Helen, “best friends for sixty years and counting.” Helen, who says “It takes a lot of Bengay for me to feel the burn,” wonders why young women don’t realize the magnitude of the race and Clinton’s candidacy. “I didn’t put on my big girl panties for over 60 years fighting for this day just to have you ignore its importance. You don’t have to vote for Hillary but you have to at least recognize how significant this all is.”

If you insist on Sanders and he gets the nomination, I will join you in your revolution. And if Hillary gets the nomination, and I believe she will, I hope you will join me in finishing mine. You might be surprised, however, that Hillary could very well be the one you were looking for all along. She’s been fighting for the underdog all of her career.

Regardless of how you feel now, we all can agree on one thing: a Republican in the White House would be the end of both of our revolutions.

Feel free to ignore me. Vote for Bernie or vote for Hillary. I won’t get my feelings hurt. I haven’t the time. A woman of my age got over having her opinion ignored a long time ago. I hope you never do.

Sometimes we all need to listen to our elders.

 

 

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