Pardon My Splain

« February 2016 »

Memo to everyone who doesn't understand identity politics: YOU ARE DUMB.

So, the big conversation around the Democratic primary seems to be around women voters. Especially young ones. Especially young ones who support Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton.

This particular issue came to a head last week thanks to a pair of quotes - one, from Gloria Steinem, suggesting that college girls are supporting Bernie because they want to date college boys. Which is, to use the language of identity politics, problematic. And the other, from Madeline Albright, suggested that women have an obligation to vote for Hillary Clinton because she's a woman.

Now, technically, I'm doubly unqualitied to speak on this. First, I'm a dude. And second, I don't get to choose between Sanders and Clinton, because Minnesota does caucuses these days, and caucuses are for people with faith in the political system and free time on their hands. So I'm out. But still, I think there are some aspects to this debate that people seem to be missing, so I'm gonna personsplain it anyway.

Because here's the thing. Pretty much everything I'm about to lay out applies to men as well as women. Because unless you're a Return of Kings-style douchebag, men and women both have an interest in electing the first woman president. It's important. It needs to happen. What's being argued about here is the specific calibration of that importance.

And obviously there's some calibration. She's out of the race now, but when these quotes were made, neither Steinem nor Albright were suggesting that women should support Carly Fiorina over Sanders. So policy can trump (if you'll pardon the word) gender. So the question at hand is, are the policy differences between Sanders and Clinton enough to override the chance to elect the first female president?

The answer is a clear maybe. I mean, Elizabeth Warren vs. Bernie Sanders? Warren all the way. Clinton versus Sanders? Here's where the Clinton years come into play. The history of centrism, of triangulation. Of the Defense of Marriage Act, mandatory minimum sentencing, welfare "reform", and a whole host of other policies. The Clinton presidency may have been a success, but it arguably set back the cause of liberalism to such a degree that it still hasn't recovered.

But that's what I think. I've decided that, all things being equal, hell yeah I'd vote for the woman. But all things not being equal, I'd have to go for the person with the kind of politics and policies I think we need to be hearing, even if they don't get passed. I've had eight years of pragmatism and watched the window of acceptable discourse slide even farther to the right as a result. Odds are, Hillary would continue that approach.

But here's the thing. That's super-easy for me to say as a dude who's not going to a fucking caucus. If someone else decides that they're voting for Hillary because she's a woman, I'm fine with that too. There's a lot of value in just the concept of "first woman president", and it's totally understandable that other people wouldn't value the Overton Window as much as I do.

Where Steinem went horribly wrong is belittling the thought process that led to a different decision than the one she arrived at. It's a common failing. It's cheap, it's easy, and because a lot of people are stupid, it's right a lot of the time. But it's not a smart tactic to employ here. And where Albright went wrong, to a lesser extent, was that weighing these factors against each other would be a foregone conclusion for women, when clearly it's not.

So there's no right answer. And the only wrong answer is assuming that there's a right answer. Well, that, and voting for whichever Republican dude wins the nomination, of course.