In this extract from her volume, Susan Bordo asks how the most qualified nominee ever to run for president “ve lost my” apparently unloseable election

Many books have been written about the way racial differences among feminists both subdivided and pushed feminist thoughts and practise forward over the past several decades. In the 2016 election, nonetheless, it was not race but generation that was the dynamic factor among left-leaning ladies. Ladies like me, who experienced many cultural duels in the gender campaigns firsthand from the first contemptuous commentaries that writers had heaped on womens libbers, to the public shaming of Anita Hill, to the renewed threats to bodily rights that we thought we had won decades earlier brought to the 2016 campaign a personal knowledge of the fragility of feminist accomplishments and an identification with Hillary that was deeper and longer than any current headlines.

We may have winced as I did when Madeleine Albright quoted a coffee-cup version of feminism or Hillary said deal me in. But we understood that behind every seeming appeal to sisterhood was the history of what was indeed a revolution and one that was far from over. We knew the role Hillary had played in that revolution, and the cost she had paid for it. Many of us, too, had followed Clinton through such courses of her public career, had read her autobiography, and knew very well that the accusation that she had come to issues concerning racial and economic justice late and for political intents was among the most extraordinary fabrications of the campaign.

Many younger women, on the other hand no less feminist , no less is fully committed to gender equality had formed their notions about the Clintons, as Savannah Barker reminds us, in the shade of 20 years of relentless personal and political assaults. Few of them as I know from decades of teaching courses on feminism, gender aspects, and the social movements of the 60 s were aware of the living history( to borrow Hillarys phrase) that shaped the woman herself.

Former
Former US secretary of state Madeleine with Clinton at a campaign stop.
Photograph: Adrees Latif/ Reuters

These young woman werent around when the GOP, scandalized that liberals like the Clintons had somehow grabbed political power, began a series of witchhunts that have never purposed.( Hillary was remedy: it has been a vast rightwing conspiracy, from the Spectatormagazines Arkansas Project, designed specifically to take Bill Clinton down, to Kenneth Starrs relentless delving into Bills private life, to the Benghazi and email investigations .)

They hadnt experienced a decade of culture campaigns in which feminists efforts to bring histories of gender and race fight into the educational curriculum were reduced to a species of political correctness. They didnt witness the complicated tale of how the 1994 misdemeanour bill came to be passed or the descents of the super-predator label( not coined by Hillary and not referring to black youth, but rather to powerful, older drug dealer ).

It isnt necessary, of course, to have firsthand knowledge of history in order to have an advised mind of events and issues. When it came to Hillary Clinton, nonetheless, sorting out fact from politically motivated fiction was a difficult task, especially if ones knowledge was filtered through the medium of election-year battles.

The 2016 election was no academically rigorous history course; it was is characterized by versions of Hillary Clinton constructed by her political opponents and transmitted by reporters who usually dont consider offering context as their job and dont have the time( or, for some, the inclination) to sort fact from fiction. And then, too, after decades of harsh schooling in the ways of politics and the media, Hillary herself was no longer the outspoken feminist who scolded reporters when they questioned her life options, but a cautious campaigner who measured her terms with care.

I knew just what one of my graduate students entail when I asked her how millennial feminists ensure Hillary and she said a white lady. A white woman herself, she wasnt referring to the colour of Hillarys skin, or even her racial politics, but rather what was perceived as her membership in the dominant class, all cleaned up and normalised, aligned with establishment power rather than the strengths of opposition, and stylistically coded( her tightly coiffed mane; her neat, enduring pantsuits; her circumspection) with her membership in that class. When I looked at Hillary, I saw someone very different but I understood the basis for my students perception.

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Any rift between feminist generations, nonetheless, would almost certainly have been healed by Donald Trumps outrageous comments and behavior, had younger progressives not become bonded, during the primary, to a Democratic male hero who both supported the issues they were most passionate about and offered young women independence from the stale and, in their view, defunct feminist past. These young woman werent going to rush to ordering a plastic woman card for successful candidates that had been portrayed by their hero as a hacker of the creation. They didnt believe in sisterhood a relic of a period when, as they had been told( often in womens investigates courses) privileged, white feminists clasped hands in imagined gender solidarity, ignoring racial injustice and the challenges of the the working class.

They didnt want to be dealt any cards at a bridge play organised by Gloria Steinem or Madeleine Albright or Hillary Clinton. They wanted Bernie Sanders.

Sanders brands Hillary as establishment

Before I go any further, let me throw my own cards on the table. The demolition of Hillary Clinton, I firmly believe, while propelled by a perfect storm of sexism, partisan politics and media madness, was bookended by two vastly powerful assaults. One was the inappropriate, inaccurate and inflammatory interference in the general elections held by FBI director James Comey. The other arose much earlier, during the primaries, but its consequences are felt even today. I know I will construct some of my younger feminist colleagues( and other left leaners) furious, which was distressing to me then, and still is.

Clinton
Clinton and Sanders in the first official Democratic debate. He had said he was sick of hearing about the damned emails. Photograph: Lucy Nicholson/ Reuters

These people, in so many styles, are my natural colleagues, and most are as upset as I am by Trumps victory. But they played a big role in the thin boundary( not a landslide, as Trump would have us believe) that committed Trump the election. For while Trump advocates hooted and cheered for their nominee, forgiving him every lie, every misdemeanour, every bit of disgusting behaviour, too many young Democrat made it very clear( in newspaper and internet interviews, in polls, and in the mainstream media) that they were only voting for Hillary Clinton as the lesser of two evils, holding their snouts, tears still streaming down their faces over the primary defeat of the person they felt genuinely deserved their votes. Some didnt election at all. And as much as I am in agreement with many of his ideas, Bernie Sanders splintered and ultimately sabotaged the Democratic party not because he chose to run against Hillary Clinton, but because of howhe ran against her.

Sanders often boasted about the importance of the issues rather than individuals, of not playing dirty politics or running nasty ads in his campaign. And its surely true that he didnt goo Hillary by bringing Bills sex accusers forward or by recommending that she be put in jail, as Trump did. He also seemed, at the beginning of the primary season, to be refreshingly dismissive about the email scandal: Enough already about the damned emails! he screamed at the first debate, and I recollect guessing Good man, Bernie! Way to go! But within months, taking advantage of justifiable annoyance with politics as usual( a annoyance more appropriately aimed at GOP stonewalling of Democratic legislation ), Sanders was taking Hillary down in a different way: as an establishment tool and creature of Wall Street.

I think, candidly, he said in January, campaigning in New Hampshire, its hard to be a real progressive and to take on the creation in a way that I guess[ it] has to be taken on, when you come as dependent as she has through her super PAC and in other styles on Wall street and drug-company money.

Progressive . Its a term with a long, twisty history. In the 19 th century, it was associated with those who argued for the moral cleansing of the nation. A century ago, both racist Southern Democrats and the founders of the NAACP claimed it for these objectives. The Communist party has described itself as progressive. By the time Sanders argued that Clinton was not a true progressive, the word was not very useful descriptively one can be progressive in some way and not so progressive in others, and no legislator that I know of has ever struck every progressive chord. Context things, too. As Jonathan Cohn wrote, in May: If Sanders is the standard by which youre going to decide whether a legislator is a progressive, then almost nobody from the Democratic party would qualify. Take Sanders out of the equation, and suddenly Clinton looks an dreadful plenty like a mainstream progressive.

For Sanders advocates, nonetheless, progressive wasnt an ill-defined, historically malleable label, but rather a badge of honor, a magical talisman for the persons who considered themselves anti-establishment. It may have been a fallback identifier for pretty much anyone The Nationand its journalistic kin smiled upon( as Michael Kazin described it ), but it was an identifier with a great deal of effectivenes, particularly for a younger generation longing for lives organized around something other than job hunting. When Sanders denied that badge of accolade to Clinton he wasnt recognise his agenda from hers( their positions on most issues were, in reality, somewhat similar ), he was omitting her from the company of the good and pure and in the process, restriction what counted as progressive induces, too. His listing didnt include the struggle for reproductive rights or affordable child care. Nor, at the beginning of his campaign, was there much emphasis on racial justice.

***

As I watched Sanders enchant the crowds, it was something of a deja vu experience to find a charismatic male legislator on stage telling ladies which issues are and arent progressive. Culture histories of the 60 s rarely accept what a sexist decade it was. We imagine that breaking through the suburban 50 s fantasy meant that old-fashioned gender roles and postures had been disposed. Far from it.

Supporter
Sanders advocate holds placard outside Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
Photograph: Adrees Latif/ Reuters

In fact, in many ways the activities of the decade was more male-centric than the 50 s; it just privileged a different kind of male. Those humankinds loved having us as uninhibited sex spouses and helpers in their political complains, but they never let us forget who was in charge of creating the platforms or who belonged in the political spotlight.

Working in countries of the south for voting rights, young activists such as Casey Hayden and Mary King had gained sophisticated organising experience and find strong girl role models they could respect in the older black women who were such a central the members of the civil right motion. But by the mid-6 0s, as black patriotism, the student motion and antiwar complains moved to the centre of cultural importance, white activist ladies received themselves both unwelcome within black identity politics and demoted within the other motions.

Charged with making coffee while the male politicos speechified, screamed down and humbled for daring to bring up the issue of gender inequality during rallyings and leftist gatherings, their early calls for sexual equality were seen as trivial, hormonally inspired, and counter-revolutionary. Inspired by the Black Panthers to look to their own oppression, ladies began to speak up about what came to be known as personal politics. But unlike the Panthers, ladies were told over and over that they had to subordinate their requirements to larger induces in the interests of the free movement of persons. They received themselves simmering and stewing as boyfriends and husbands defined what was revolutionary, what was worthy, and what was progressive.

It was both an exhilarating and a frustrating time to be an activist woman. Some, like me, plummeted out of the fight for a period. Others became more violently countercultural and joined the Weather Underground. Others still became leaders of the emerging womens motion. In 2016, nonetheless, many activists ensure that motion as part of establishment politics and no longer requiring their revolutionary fervor. As one Sanders supporter wrote 😛 TAGEND

Yes, equal rights for women and minorities are critically important. To consider these ideals progressive, nonetheless, seems pass. At this level, its more fair to propose “they il be” traditional. Gender and civil rights and equality may remain under attempt from the right, but these ideals are positively engrained in two generations of Americans. Progressive voters, at this stage in our young countrys political history, wishes to challenge corrupt systems. The prison-industrial complex, the military-industrial complex, the financial-industrial complex, and the other foyers that control our politicians and our government, for example.

Im reasonably certain that Sanders himself doesnt consider equal rights for women and minorities as so firmly inscribed in our culture as to be traditional or pass. Nonetheless, Sanders committed Clinton no credit for her longstanding progressivism in these areas, while identifying her with the corruption he was dedicated to cleaning up. Organising against the abuses that he made his signature induces was indeed a worthy progressive agenda. Portraying Clinton as the foe of systemic change, on the other hand, is not merely factually incorrect, but proved politically disastrous in the general election.

Sanders was the perfect vehicle to revive political fervour both amongst the older left, revitalised by being on the side of the revolution again, and a younger generation who had yet to experience the sense of rightness, community, and idea in the opportunities offered by radical change that nourished us in the 60 s. Here was this guy who had lived through it all, who looked like a granddad but spoke like a union organiser, who was making it seem possible again but in words that spoke to the present, to their issues. He was ferocious, he was uncompromising, and he wasnt afraid to call out clear adversaries, which revolutions ever need to rally around. Wall street. Greed. Big money. Super PACS. The establishment.

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Donald Trump greets Clinton following his inauguration. Photograph: Molly Riley/ AFP/ Getty Images

***

Initially, I liked Bernie Sanders a lot, and identified with him. In words of class, geography, and belief, I actually have much more in common with him than I do with Hillary Clinton, whose background was solidly middle class, Methodist, and Midwestern. Sanders and I share the same immigrant, working-class Jewish roots. The neighborhood he grew up in in Brooklyn looked very much like the one Id grown up in in Newark, New Jersey. Although Sanders was a few years older than me, we had belonged to the same leftwing groups Sanders while in college, I while in high school. We even went to the same college University of Chicago and I sometimes wondered whether Id ensure him on campus when I was a freshman and he a senior. As his campaign took off, and despite my support for Hillary, it induced me smile to hear a person who had voiced like he could have been a relative deliver speeches to mass audiences.

Sanderss branding of Hillary as establishment, nonetheless, seemed vastly unfair and corrosively divisive to me, specially when provided with a generation that knew very little about her beyond what Bernie told them. Like progressive, establishment is a somewhat meaningless term, especially when thrown at one Washington politician by another. Neither Sanders nor Clinton had been working outside the system.

Appearances to the contrary, Sanders was not a union organizer, but rather a longtime member of the Senate. And if Clinton had more support from the Democratic party, that was due in large-scale part to the relationships she had cultivated over the years, working with others something Sanders was not especially good at. Nonetheless, for weeks during the early months of the primary, I listened to 19 -year-olds and media pundits alike lavish praise on Bernie Sanders for his bold, revolutionary message, and scorn Hillary for being a part of the establishment.

They described him as heart and her as psyche a bitter irony for those working of us familiar with the long history of philosophical, religious, and medical diatribes disqualifying ladies from leadership positions on the basis of our less-disciplined feelings. He was seen as authentic in his progressivism while she was pushed to the left by political expediency as though a lifetime of fighting for equality and childrens rights intended nothing. He was the champion of the working class( conveniently ignoring that black and white ladies were members, and that their issues were also working class issues ), but her longstanding commitments to universal health care, child care, paid sick leave, racial justice, the repeal of the Hyde amendment, and narrowing the wage gap between operating men and women apparently evaporated because shed accepted well-paid invitations to speak at Goldman Sachs.

Read more: https :// www.theguardian.com/ us-news/ commentisfree/ 2017/ apr/ 03/ the-destruction-of-hillary-clinton-sexism-sanders-and-the-millennial-feminists