Clinton ’16 Gives Gender More of a Role

clinton

…Than Clinton ’08 Did…

The last time Hillary Rodham Clinton ran for president, she seemed torn over whether to emphasize her chance to make history, or to play down her gender and reassure voters that she was tough enough for the job.

This time there is no question: Mrs. Clinton’s potential to break what she has called “the highest and hardest glass ceiling” is already central to her fledgling 2016 presidential campaign.

But rather than the assertive feminism associated with her years as first lady, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign message will be subtler. It will involve frequent references to being a mother and grandmother and to how her family has inspired her to embrace policies that she believes would help middle-class families.

As one Democrat close to her put it, voters have learned that she is tough; now she can also present herself as a sensitive candidate capable of nurturing the nation at a difficult time.

The world is no less scary a place now, but Mrs. Clinton’s calculation about the electorate’s expectations for its president has plainly changed. After a relatively quiet public schedule this year, Mrs. Clinton spoke at a women’s conference in Silicon Valley on Tuesday — the first in a series of addresses in the coming weeks focused on women. Ever since the birth of Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky, in September, Mrs. Clinton has infused her public comments with references to being a new grandmother.

And some of her longest-serving advisers are open about their intention not to repeat what they see as one of their most crucial mistakes from the 2008 primaries.

Ann Lewis, a senior adviser in that race, called the decision not to accentuate Mrs. Clinton’s gender — which ceded the mantle of barrier-breaker entirely to Barack Obama — the “biggest missed opportunity” of that primary contest. “It was not a major theme of the campaign,” Ms. Lewis said.

“I think she clearly understands this time the significance of having a woman president of the United States,” said Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, who served as Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman in 2008. He added that Mrs. Clinton’s gender was “a tremendous asset.”

Mrs. Clinton herself acknowledged the criticism on Tuesday, in a question-and-answer session after her paid speech here before a crowd of female tech professionals. When asked whether she would make child care and paid leave central to a campaign, and whether she should have done so more forcefully in her 2008 campaign, she said, “I certainly am trying to learn from what I did right and what I didn’t in thinking about doing this again.”

In the same appearance, she described how her granddaughter’s birth made her even more invested in the country’s future; recalled being pregnant with Chelsea as a lawyer in Little Rock, Ark.; and described struggling as a young working mother.

“The family issue, putting family first, creating more supportive work environments,” Mrs. Clinton said, is “not a nice thing to do — this is a win-win” that she said was “bubbling to the top of the list” of issues on people’s minds.

The decision to run more emphatically as a female candidate is rooted in a strategic assessment of the demands of this campaign and of a changing country. With Republicans determined to portray Mrs. Clinton as an aging relic — she will turn 69 just before Election Day next year — her supporters believe her campaign offers a powerful rejoinder to the charge that she does not represent change.

Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, put it more sharply: “If she is yesterday’s news, I must have missed that moment in history where we could say ‘Madam President.’ ”

Mrs. Clinton’s advisers believe that her four years as secretary of state have only burnished her image as a leader and erased whatever doubts may have lingered about her experience and gravitas.

Perhaps even more important, though, is an emerging consensus that the cultural and political landscape has changed since 2008. With growing numbers of women atop major corporations, more female members of Congress than ever and the news media apt to pounce on misogyny or anything resembling it, the terrain on which Mrs. Clinton will run this time is likely to be noticeably more favorable when it comes to gender.

“Sexist attacks are much harder to get away with now,” said Stephanie Schriock, president of Emily’s List, the advocacy group that seeks to elect Democratic women who support abortion rights. She noted the criticism that Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, received this month for shushing a female CNBC anchor during an interview.

Indeed, the people in Mrs. Clinton’s orbit have come to believe that gender is far more an advantage to her this time around, in part from seeing the degree to which some Republicans have hurt themselves in recent elections on subjects like rape.

Her 2016 campaign, they suggested, is far more likely to seize on opportunities to stoke outrage if someone asks, as a woman in the crowd did at one videotaped John McCain event in 2007, “How do we beat the bitch?”

Republicans are already bracing for it.

“They’re going to play the gender card more openly this time, which means it’s going to be a special challenge for our nominee to not fall into the trap of appearing at any level to criticize her on that,” said Dick Wadhams, a Republican strategist.

In March, Mrs. Clinton will participate in two events tied to the 20th anniversary of her address in Beijing at the United Nations’ fourth World Conference on Women. There in 1995, speaking more forcefully on human rights than any American official had before on Chinese soil, she cataloged a litany of abuse afflicting women around the world and faulted China’s record on women’s issues.

Mrs. Clinton will also speak at an anniversary gala for Emily’s List and at an awards ceremony in memory of Robin Toner, the first woman to be the national political correspondent of The New York Times, who died of cancer in 2008.

One challenge for Mrs. Clinton will be how to frame her lifelong advocacy for women as a universal message that highlights her unique credentials but also does not seem aimed only at women.

Once she is officially a candidate, Mrs. Clinton is unlikely to play into Republican caricatures of her as a divisive feminist warrior by highlighting her global advocacy for women and girls. Rather, her advisers say, she can be expected to weave gender into matters of economic fairness and opportunity.

Mrs. Clinton offered a preview of her message at a campaign event in Philadelphia in October for Tom Wolf, a Democrat who would be elected governor of Pennsylvania in November. Proudly acknowledging her “grandmother glow,” Mrs. Clinton linked the weeks-old girl born to her daughter, Chelsea, to a theme about economic policies for a struggling middle class.

“While Bill and I were in the hospital waiting for little Charlotte to make her grand entrance, one of the nurses came up to me and said: ‘Thank you. Thank you for fighting for paid leave,’ ” Mrs. Clinton said. “She sees families every day who struggle to balance work and parenthood, and she does it herself,” she said of the nurse.

Then, Mrs. Clinton added, drawing applause: “The fact is, a 20th-century economy will not work for 21st-century families.”

Some Democrats said that ideally, Mrs. Clinton would leave it to surrogates to make the most direct, gender-based appeals.

“Barack Obama didn’t need to go out there and say, ‘Elect me, I’m going to be the first black president,’” said Hilary Rosen, a Democratic strategist. “Other people did that, and that’s where it will fall for Hillary.”

Democrats in contact with Mrs. Clinton say she appears far more comfortable about presenting herself to voters in all her complexity than she was in 2008.

“I can tell when I talk to her how relaxed she is and how comfortable she is,” Ms. McCaskill said. “She is not in a defensive crouch. She gets that America has to see all of her.”

Source: New York Times

Posted Date:- February 24, 2015

Posted By:- Admin Author

Posted in:- Global News


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