Posted by Rojas @ 8:00 pm on April 4th 2007

Gender Wars: a Hillary strategy suggestion

It’s time for us to rescue Hillary Clinton. In the single arena of her greatest advantage–fundraising–she appears to have been pimp-slapped by a rookie.
Her “aura of inevitability” is more or less a joke at this point; she has been getting a relentless pounding from the netroots; her campaign has absolutely zero sizzle to it. And she seems unlikely to be able to regenerate any of said sizzle through stump oratory, given her speaking style: droning, patronizing filler punctuated by random screechy crescendos. It’s like listening to a prozac-addicted kindergarten teacher give birth to a wolverine.

So the easy thing to do would just be to write her off and be done with it. But there’s more fun to be had, and certainly more challenge, in trying to formulate a strategy by which she could regain momentum and seize the nomination. My proposal: Hillary should turn the entire series of Democratic primaries into a massive gender war.

I have been told (by a highly knowledgable source, though I cannot find print verification from a mainstream source) that 58% of voters in Democratic primaries are women. Given the party’s ideological orientation and the fact that the American electorate skews slightly female anyway, that doesn’t seem like an unrealistic number to me, at any rate. Let us be blunt: the one intrinsic advantage Hillary has always had, image-wise, is her simultaneous status of careerist feminist icon and wronged wife. It is time for her to take that image to the bank in the biggest way possible.

Hillary needs to start getting fiery on the stump about the “old boys club” that rules American politics. It is her only opportunity to make herself into the “charismatic outsider” in a political fight against John Edwards and Barack Obama. We need to hear sneaky references to the other candidates’ personal issues, like thus: “For far too long, America has been ruled by a class of men who talk long and loud about addressing women’s needs; yet when it comes time to make the big decisions, they put their career first. It’s time for us to stop putting our faith in these politicians, and to put a woman on top for once.”

Hillary’s new agenda needs to be dominated by “women’s issues”–expansion of reproductive choice, federally sponsored day care, equal pay in the workplace, HPV vaccination. When she attacks proposals like Edwards’ health care plan, she needs to do so from the standpoint that it neglects womens’ health issues or concerns, such as breast cancer and prenatal screenings. Her Iraq vote needs to be spun into an extension of the Clintonian Victim Framework–just like with Bill, she trusted men to tell her the truth, and they let her down. Her campaign song needs to be “Sisters are doing it for themselves.”

She needs to strategically leak the rumor to the press that she is considering initiating divorce procedings against Bill. She shouldn’t actually DO so, and she should refuse to answer questions about it either positively or negatively–just get the idea out there; turn herself into a resurgent post-Ike Tina Turner in the public consciousness. We need to see less of him on the campaign trail and more of Chelsea.

Above all else: she needs to win Oprah Winfrey’s open endorsement for President, and she needs to win it BEFORE New Hampshire.

One of the things that I like a lot about this strategy is that I can see Hillary actually pulling it off with a fair amount of verve. Hillary is at her least dynamic and least interesting when playing the policy technocrat, but she’s always done the “strong woman” meme well. I think she believes in it, to the extent that she believes in anything anymore.

Moreover: broadening the gender gap strikes me as a solid way for Hillary to make herself more electable against a Republican opponent. For one thing, I don’t know how many more votes are out there for her to be lost this way; most of the male voters who buy into the “Hillary as man-devouring harpy” thing are going to the polls to vote against her in any event, even if the Republicans nominate Sam Brownback or a vampire bat. Why not make use of an energized female constituency to counter those votes? Once again, remember: on the whole, the electorate skews female.

Plus: post-primaries, we can have a wonderful reconciliation scene in which suprise VP nominee Barack Obama electrifies the crowd. “I am proud to stand with Hillary Rodham Clinton tonight, and I reject the sentiment that to be a man, I must reject this woman. Hillary Rodham Clinton has never been anti-man, but pro-mankind. She speaks for everyone–male and female–who has been dismissed, disparaged, or otherwise dissed by a savage system. Hillary’s fight is every person’s fight, and come November, she’ll be every person’s President. Yes, a woman’s place is in the house–the White House.”

If nothing else, you’ve got to admit, it would make her campaign a hell of a lot more interesting. And real interest is what this campaign needs. Needs BADLY. Needs RIGHT NOW.

How about some alternative strategies?


  1. If she tries it, you’re going to look really prescient.

    So far, our two investments in prescient fame on the internerd are Ron Paul and Hillary the Outsider. A Clinton-Paul election is going to make you and Brad look like genii. I had better get a prediction of my own if I am to share in this bonanza.

    Comment by Adam — 4/4/2007 @ 8:18 pm

  2. What a horrible idea, though I don’t for one minute think you are at all serious. I don’t really think she is in dire straits. It’s easy to say she is on the ropes, that her march to the oval office is no longer a straight line of destiny, but, really, if her campaign was always so fragile as to need that fiction then anyone supposing she had a real shot was foolish from the start.

    Comment by tessellated — 4/4/2007 @ 8:32 pm

  3. I am somewhat serious, actually.

    If I was going to be totally non-serious about this, I would propose that she offer the VP slot to Elizabeth Edwards.

    As I said, I welcome alternate strategies. She clearly needs SOMETHING. If not this, then what?

    Comment by Rojas — 4/4/2007 @ 8:33 pm

  4. Yeah, Adam, you should go with hmmm, Oliver North. Some retard on the Hannity radio show was wondering in earnest why that true american hero wasn’t running, especially considering the undeniably obvious ground swell of support he would have. The best part was listening to Hannity slowly back away from the caller without bursting his bubble.

    Comment by tessellated — 4/4/2007 @ 8:36 pm

  5. Ok, the reason why I think it’s a non-starter is because, even if we totally disregard any concern about the general election, I don’t see how polarizing the base along gender lines is a net positive for Hillary unless the vote has nigh 100% fidelity which is, on its face, ridiculous. Imagine the legions of male voters she would utterly alienate. Also, I think you must be aware that feminism hasn’t been frozen in amber since Hillary’s college days. I don’t think it is as monolothic, today especially, as some of us on the outside are wont to think. The result is that I could imagine some women’s voters either moving away from or not moving to her position.

    There is a reason Hillary goes to such pains to portray herself as strong, responsible, and considered. These are stereotypical male traits and no doubt her polling is telling her that it is with the male crowd that she will win or lose.

    Comment by tessellated — 4/4/2007 @ 8:47 pm

  6. I’m not sure why the strategy, as I outline it, turns the entirety of the male gender against her. As noted above, there is a definite segment of the male electorate which sees Hillary in this light already; I would argue that most of the really rigid opponents of this style of liberal (as opposed to radical) feminism are already in the “anybody but Hillary” camp. And as mentioned, there’s always Barack to bring ’em back at the convention.

    Granted, the snide remark I suggest she make about John Edwards would probably drive a few undecideds away.

    I guess that, at the bottom of it all, I don’t see Hillary as having a lot to lose at this point. Her candidacy is losing steam fast, and other candidates are picking up the undecideds fairly rapidly. Unless she does something significant to energize core Democratic support, and does it soon, she’s going down in flames. I don’t know that she has any better inroad into the primary base than through her status as a champion of women.

    But as mentioned: my main purpose isn’t to defend my own strategy, but to generate strategic proposals from others. Bill suffered from a similar malaise early in the primary season, but he had more innate campaign skill than his wife. How do we bring Hillary back?

    Comment by Rojas — 4/4/2007 @ 9:09 pm

  7. Well, note that I didn’t say “entirety” but “legions” when referring to lost male votes. I just don’t hear a convincing argument for how becoming female-centric provides a net gain. Both of us are running on vague reads without polling data so, fair enough, I suppose that your read is different. I do agree, that she’s a bit flat right now, but there is oh so very much time left. I think, thus far, Hillary’s biggest stumbles have been reactionary and panicky in nature. Barack isn’t her big problem. Her biggest problem, in my view, is the Iraq war and her early position on it. THAT is what is killing her with the base.

    Comment by tessellated — 4/4/2007 @ 9:26 pm

  8. Itís like listening to a prozac-addicted kindergarten teacher give birth to a wolverine.


    Itís time for us to stop putting our faith in these politicians, and to put a woman on top for once.

    Even better.

    Comment by weltschmerz — 4/4/2007 @ 10:44 pm

  9. Hillary on the Democratic side is much in the same position as McCain is on the Republican side–both were viewed a year ago as the favorites for their party’s nomination, and both have been overshadowed by those who most people wouldn’t have interpreted as serious candidates a year ago (while Guiliani had the stature, I don’t think most people thought he would run, especially in light of his social views). My read on Clinton’s status is similar to Rojas’–she’s in trouble and fading fast. His strategy seems as good as any out there–she’ll have trouble winning on real issues that matter, because she’s either on the “wrong” side of them (Iraq), or where she has similar positions as other Democrats (health care), she lacks the ability to present it without appearing shrill; she can’t win with her warmth and charm, so her best chance probably lies with some sort of modified gender war.

    Comment by Laura — 4/4/2007 @ 11:07 pm

  10. Please, no more predictions/advice on what we think the candidates WILL do, but for the good of America they should not do. After reading your gender wars poast today, it is clear that Senator Clinton, is reading this blog. Who knows what other candidates are reading it! You all have additional responsibilities, now, as advisors to the future leaders of our great nation.

    In terms of substance–sadly, Rojas, I completely agree. Sen. Clinton has no zing in her candidacy, and is also very predictable. You can take the girl out of Wellesley, but you can’t take the other Wellesley girls out of the…nevermind. I also agree with your school-marm/wolverine-mum synopsis of how she comes off in the press. And, if we’ve seen nothing else from America, people will, it seems, vote for how they “feel” about someone from what they see in the press.

    Ever since the Kennedy/Nixon debates it’s been clear that there is a real problem with democracy and television in the US. TV leads us to focus on how the person looks instead of the substance of their views. In 2000, it seemed to me that too many people voted for G. Boo II because he was the candidate with whom they most wanted to have a beer. They just liked him. He made them FEEL good.

    I’d be interested in hearing Adam’s views about how/whether UK laws limiting television coverage for candidates running for office improve the quality of presidential elections/debates and the voters eventual decision making in the UK, and whether he thinks similar laws would improve quality of electoral debates/information on candidates in the US.

    Comment by Leotie — 4/8/2007 @ 12:16 am

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