Photo by Billy Hathorn
So much for scolding young women into voting for Hillary.
Bernie Sanders’s landslide victory over Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire included a massive outpouring from young people—including young women. Sanders won 83 percent of voters under 30 and about the same margin of young women.
Overall, women voted for Sanders over Clinton by a margin of 55 to 45.
Not so Madeleine Albright, whom Clinton embraced, laughing and clapping, when she told young women they needed to support Hillary because “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women.”
Judging from the New Hampshire results, fire and brimstone feminism was a flop.
Clinton seemed to recognize that in a concession speech that acknowledged Sanders voters’ very real concerns about economic inequality and shrinking opportunity.
“I know I have some work to do, particularly with young people,” she said. “Even if they are not supporting me now, I support them.”
That’s exactly the shift in tone the campaign needed to make—away from the idea that Hillary Clinton is entitled to women’s votes, or that young women and progressives are fools if they don’t support her, and toward a recognition of what the huge populist movement behind Bernie Sanders is trying to say.
“Tonight, with what appears to be a record-breaking turnout . . . we won,” Sanders told the cheering crowd at his victory rally in Concord. “We harnessed the energy and excitement that the Democratic Party will need to succeed in November.”
Sanders was taking a shot at people who say Clinton is more electable—even as her campaign struggles to gain traction with actual primary voters.
He went on to “serve notice on the political and economic establishment of this country,” calling for an end to money-dominated politics, ginning up his impressive small-donor base, and laying out, once again, his ambitious agenda for free college, higher wages, and universal health care paid for by a tax on Wall Street.
Clinton did not call the Sanders agenda silly. Instead, she, too, sounded like a populist.
“People have every right to be angry,” she said. “But they’re also hungry. They’re hungry for solutions.”
She went on to tie together the plight of lead-poisoned children of Flint, Michigan, African American mothers who fear for their children’s lives, and undocumented immigrants living in fear of “a knock on the door,” as well as women and LGBT Americans struggling for equal rights.
She even took a shot at Wall Street, saying, “I will fight to reign in Wall Street,” and adding, “No bank can be too big to fail and no executive too big to jail.”
Nonetheless, her campaign continues to refuse to release the text of speeches she was paid more than $600,000 to deliver to Goldman Sachs—an issue that keeps giving her trouble.
Clinton still has to battle the idea that she is the “establishment candidate.” In New Hampshire, she moved beyond her claim that being a woman is enough to refute that charge.
Moving into South Carolina, Clinton’s significant support among African American voters will no doubt help her case.
As racial justice, labor, and international activist Bill Fletcher observed the morning after the New Hampshire primary on Pacifica Radio, Clinton has done a better job than Sanders of speaking fluently about racial justice issues as part of a broader vision of a more just society.
Oddly, Hillary’s discussion of race in America has been more nuanced and savvy than her message on sexism and women voters.
Sanders has worked hard to make up a big gap on race. He has responded specifically to Black Lives Matter, added police violence and institutional racism to his list of wrongs. But, Fletcher notes, while Sanders no longer seems to assume that racism will be solved simply by addressing economic inequality, he now makes a nod at race issues in his stump speech in a way that seems tacked on to his main point.
That’s not a small matter, for the Sanders campaign, or for the progressive movement generally.
As much as Sanders has shown that there is a great, big voting base that yearns for a more forward-leaning, idealistic progressive message, that base is still largely white.
If Sanders can begin to expand his message and his organization to significantly appeal to people of color, and to connect the dots on racial justice and economic inequality, it would be a big deal—not just for his campaign’s prospects beyond New Hampshire, but for a broader progressive movement generally.
Ruth Conniff is Editor-in-Chief of The Progressive Magazine