Scholar and critic Susan Bordo has answered the question countless people have been asking: “Why did Hillary Clinton lose the 2016 Presidential Election?” In one of the first of many books that will analyze this historic election, Bordo claims Clinton’s defeat was caused by sexism, Bernie Sanders, distorted press coverage and, primarily, lack of appeal to millennials.
Bordo insightfully discusses how racial differences among feminists has fractured and divided feminist power during the last several decades, but this time the divisive factor was generation. She notes that millennial women made up their minds about the Clintons early on in the campaign, based on right-wing critics’ attacks on Bill and Hillary.
Millennial feminists did not see Hillary as one of them, but rather as a member of the establishment. She was a member of the dominant class of establishment politicians rather than being aligned with the left-leaning millennial force of resistance. Hillary did not look like them with her highly styled hair and dreary pantsuits. While Hillary actually did win 55% of the millennial vote (18-29-year-olds), this was far below the predicted percentage of voters from this demographic and not enough to make a difference in winning the Electoral College.
Bordo superbly chronicles the election campaign. She delineates the right wing’s vilification of Clinton, the media’s unprecedented erosive influence on her reputation and the way the left caused malaise among youth voters. The author’s incisive narrative examines the many faceted aspects of the campaign in a conversational, not mean-spirited style, even though she is clear that she strongly supported Clinton for President.
Bordo points out the ways Bernie Sanders solidified the caricature of Hillary as part of the Washington and Wall Street establishments. He made her out to be mired in “the system,” while he presented himself as a left-leaning resister of the status quo. For millenials, Sanders became the hero who supported the issues about which young women, in particular, are most passionate, e.g. justice and economic issues.
Sanders provided young women freedom and distance from the defunct feminist past. Millennials were not going to vote for Hillary just because she was “a sister;” they were looking for someone who would take on racial justice issues and the problems of the working class and other economic concerns. Sanders “hit the nail on the head” for them, according to Bordo, while Clinton represented the stale feminism of a previous generation that focused on sexism or as some called it, “the woman card.” Gloria Steinem, Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton had won many battles and opened multiple doors for millennial feminists, but now those women are “the establishment.” The millennials’ rejection of Clinton provided the thin edge of victory for Trump. Some millennials were so disappointed in the choices for President they did not vote at all.
Bordo purports that progressive issues no longer focus on equal rights for women and minorities, but now address specific corrupt systems such as the military-industrial complex, the prison-industrial system, the financial-industrial sector and other moneyed lobbies that control politicians and our government. Sanders was willing to call out greed, Wall Street, super PACs, military waste and the political establishment and thus was more in line with millenials’ passions. Many political pundits referred to Hillary as “all head” and Sanders as “all heart.” Millennials went for the heart.
“The Destruction of Hillary Clinton.” is an absorbing analysis of the 2016 Presidential Election. I found Bordo’s research and timeline of this notable election impressive—thorough, accurate and convincing. Her book also provides an important scholarly contribution to understanding generational culture and the power of media to create caricatures of people that deny them their true public persona.
Sociologists have observed for years, “Millennials are just different.” Bordo describes many of those striking generational differences, especially their common values, and their implications for politics.
Susan Bordo is a media critic, cultural historian and feminist scholar. Her book, “Unbearable Weight” was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. She holds the Otis A. Singletary Chair in the Humanities and is professor of gender and women’s studies at the University of Kentucky. Melville House Publishing; 244 pages.