Clinton Policies Have Hurt Women

Clinton Policies Have Hurt Women

Yves here. This post is an indictment of the policy positions that Clinton has taken on issues that affect women.

Another disingenuous element of the “women should vote for Hillary” campaign is that the efforts she’s been touting to prove her bona fides, such as her intent to name a Cabinet withhalf the posts filled by women, is that she’s selling trickle-down feminism. The tacit assumption is that breaking the glass ceiling is an important breakthrough for women. In fact, that is a concern of elite women. As Hillary’s own record attests, and that of women CEOs (Linda Wachner to Marissa Mayer) or women in Congress (Diane Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi are prime examples, as are Republicans like Joni Ernst from Iowa and Shelley Moore Capito from West Virginia), women in positions of influence more often identify with members of their class (well off, well educated women) than middle and lower class people of either gender.

Although there is much to be said for the critique in this article, I’m leery of the “feminist values” framing. It reinforces gender stereotyping. And Hillary making her status as a female candidate a prime reason for voting for her preserves all of that cultural baggage. tIn classes as big as men versus women, the differences among the members of the class are greater than the differences between classes.

By Anis Shivani, whose books in the last year include Karachi Raj: A Novel, Whatever Speaks on Behalf of Hashish: Poems, and Soraya: Sonnets (forthcoming June 2016). His new novel is A History of the Cat in Nine Chapters or Less. Originally published at Huffington Post

“I strongly argued that we had to change the [welfare] system…I didn’t think it was fair that one single mother improvised to find child care and got up early every day to get to work while another stayed home and relied on welfare…The third bill passed by Congress cut off most benefits to legal immigrants, imposed a five-year lifetime limit on federal welfare benefits, and maintained the status quo on monthly benefit limits, leaving the states free to set benefit limits…I agreed that he [Bill] should sign it and worked hard to round up votes for its passage…Weeks after Bill signed the law, Peter Edelman and Mary Jo Bane, another friend and Assistant Secretary at HHS who had worked on welfare reform, resigned in protest.” – Hillary Clinton in her 2003 memoir Hard Choices.

Not liking Hillary has nothing to do with her being a woman. It has everything to do with the hypermasculine values she espouses.

Hillary is that rare combination, even in our grotesque political landscape, of a smooth-talking neoliberal with the worst tendencies of a warrior-neoconservative. You couldn’t say that about Bill to the same extent, but there isn’t a regime change opportunity, a chemical or conventional arms deal, an escalated aerial (or lately drone) war, or an authoritarian friend in need, that Hillary hasn’t liked. If we get her, we will only be setting back feminism by decades, because her policies—like welfare “reform”—have always come packaged under the false rubric of caring for women and children. It’s like George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism,” the rhetorical cover she needs to enact policies, time after time, that erode women’s and children’s standing even as she claims to be their steadfast advocate.

It has been disheartening for me to read some female intellectuals, particularly in the New York literary world, rage against any criticism of Hillary. We are told it’s only sexism that makes us speak. We’d better check our feminist credentials. Are we, who criticize Hillary, misogynists? Then why do we have kind words for, say, Elizabeth Warren?

We’ve had similar criticisms of Condoleezza Rice, Sarah Palin, and Carly Fiorina. Fiorina, for me, was the scariest person running for president this cycle; you felt that poor autistic Ben Carson, if you begged and pleaded with him for your life, just might spare you, but not Carly! Carly even made a virtue of dragging Hewlett Packard down into the pits, which is not much different than Hillary’s indifference to the erosion that occurred in foreign policy during her tenure as Secretary of State, as she failed to move into a more liberal paradigm, insisting on sanctions and other punitive regimes, in countries like Iran, that disproportionately hurt women. John Kerry, once he took over, quickly picked up the dropped ball and achieved diplomatic success on a range of fronts, including climate change, where Hillary had failed.

There is a palpable deficit of feminist values in this country’s politics, after sixteen dark years of war, surveillance, vigilantism, police controls, economic servitude, and debt. To the extent that we can generalize about feminine and masculine values, the country desperately desires—well, two-thirds of it anyway, those besides Trump and Cruz fans—a reinjection of feminine values. That means compassion, acceptance, and understanding for those left behind by misguided economic policies. That means valuing, once again, as this nation has done for the periods it has shone brightest, imagination, beauty, soft-spokenness, and unexpected generosity.

In the early 1990s Hillary did represent, to some limited symbolic level, a change for the better in terms of feminist values—though this certainly didn’t translate into actual policy improvements for women or children or minorities, rather the opposite occurred in policies engineered by the Clintons. Furthermore, one could argue that it was George H. W. Bush who prompted the relative humanization of the 1990s, after the harsh Reagan-era rhetoric, promising a kindler, gentler nation, and aspiring to be the “education president” and “the environmental president.” The elder Bush’s policies were to the left of either Clinton, when it came to immigration, civil liberties, clean air, disability, and many other issues.

The Clintons went out of their way to pursue—often gratuitously—policies that hurt women and children. The reelection seemed safely in their pockets, yet they went ahead anyway with harmful laws on crime, welfare, telecommunications, immigration, and surveillance, legitimizing right-wing discourse that was to bear full fruit in the following decade. It was the Clintons who set the stage for the massive harm that was to befall women, immigrants, the poor, the elderly, and children once they provided liberal cover to social darwinist ideas that had been swirling around in maniacal think tanks but had not been able to make it through Congress.

The Clintons have somehow managed to convince half the sane world that they should be the natural recipients of African-American votes, despite everything they have done, when in power, to erode the economic security of African Americans and other minorities; the false hope raised during the 1990s was that the economic boom, itself a mirage as it turned out, would eventually lead to significant wage gains, but that never happened.

Poor and minority women and children were drastically hurt by the welfare bill the Clintons so enthusiastically pushed through Congress, and likewise all the policies, from trade to student aid, they pursued in the name of fiscal responsibility, cutting the deficit and the debt, and playing by Wall Street’s tune. On neoliberal disciplinary virtues (which in Hillary’s mouth are twisted in a rhetoric of “empowerment”), she’s little different than Milton Friedman, the greatest post-war popularizer of the “free market” mythos. “Personal responsibility,” separating the virtuous from those deserving of sanctions, is as much a credo for her as it was for Reagan, as it was for Barry Goldwater.

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