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June 4th, 2008
12:31 PM ET

An exit plan for Hillary Clinton

Katrina Vanden Heuvel
Editor, The Nation

A week ago I expressed my hope that Senator Hillary Clinton would exit this historic race, gracefully, with dignity, after the last primaries. A smart op-ed by Anna Holmes in the New York Times this past Sunday suggests one way Clinton might manage to do just that – starting with a speech that offers an expansive message for all women – especially for a future generation of women who could be energized and moved by her campaign, rather than deflated by it.

Holmes argues, “Of course there’s been sexism throughout this campaign. But at this point, keeping track of every tone-deaf criticism matters less than delivering an active, impassioned response. Senator Clinton is the one woman in America right now who has the perspective, and the responsibility, to give that response.”

Senator Clinton could deliver a rousing speech that challenges us to examine the structural sexism in our media, culture and politics. She could challenge the media to bring on more women of all ages, races, and views, as Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell recently called on her newspaper to do....

While there has been a laser-like focus on the resentment between the Clinton and Obama camps, what is hopeful about moving forward is that the resentment – or even rage felt by some of Clinton’s most ardent supporters – is directed in large part toward media sexism rather than Senator Barack Obama’s candidacy. And that is as it should be, because if we’re going to build a strong progressive coalition, and rebuild this nation, we must stand together. That means refusing to engage in what some have called “the oppression sweepstakes.” It also requires a capacity to see race and gender in multi-dimensional terms. “The real question,” as Shankar Vedantam writes in the Washington Post, “comes down to whether groups that face discrimination focus their disappointment and resentment at discrimination – or at each other.” As Betsy Reed wrote in a recent Nation cover story, “sexism may be more casually accepted [while] racism, which is often coded, is more insidious and trickier to confront.”

As passions cool, and Clinton supporters refocus on what is at stake in this pivotal election, there's an enormous opening for Senator Obama to win back these voters. He has already started speaking concretely to women’s issues broadly defined (as they should be): the economy, healthcare, education, ending the war. And who in their right mind could support McCain when it comes to issues which will improve women’s lives – across class and race?

And in the months and years ahead, Senator Clinton could highlight policies that challenge structural sexism – whether with regard to women’s reproductive rights and healthcare, or pay equity and equal access to positions of power. She could become a bold leader in the Senate on issues of health, education, women’s rights, civil rights, labor rights and the many issues that impact the lives of women.

This historic campaign of rousing highs and distressing lows has vividly illustrated the need for a true dialogue on sexism and gender – one that would counter Geraldine Ferraro’s venomous and wrongheaded comments in her Boston Globe op-ed , and speak to the kind of yearning and new energy described by Amanda Fortini in a New York magazine article, “The past few months have been like an extended consciousness-raising session, to use a retro phrase that would have once made most of us cringe. We’ve parsed the gender politics of the campaign with other women in the office, at parties, over e-mail, and now we’re starting to parse the gender politics of our lives. This is, admittedly, depressing: How can we be confronting the same issues, all these years later? But it’s also exciting. It feels as if a window has been opened in a stuffy, long-sealed room. There is a thrill at the collective realization. Now the question is, what next?”

Senator Clinton can make an important contribution in the years ahead by speaking with conviction and passion about sexism in American life.

Read Katrina's Blog at The Nation Website


Filed under: Hillary Clinton • Raw Politics
soundoff (69 Responses)
  1. Marcus L. Walker

    Obama needs hillary 🙂 it is the perfect picture of what America calls an African American stereotype, whitch adds character to the candidate. Her being the white woman. In this relationship we already know who would be in charge.
    I am a republican thinker but this I would not resist.
    Marcus from Jasper Tx. Home of James Bird. Where it is now 10 years since he passed.

    June 5, 2008 at 3:56 am |
  2. job

    We are talking about people who live and earn way too much money on words. Damn it i care less whether it is Obaclimcain who end up up running the country. lt wont even increase my pay far less shield me against the stupid discrimination that crops up in this country. So what about electing a monkey from Fort worth zoo as president. Then we wil truly be democratic.

    June 5, 2008 at 1:37 am |
  3. Jo

    So Senator Clinton has "SUSPENDED" her campaign. That word is telling and it spells trouble. It doesn't mean she terminated or ended her campaign. It merely means that she is in WAIT & SEE mode until she can play another angle and wedge her way into the nomination. This is what the Clinton's do so well. Hillary is a street player with no class. People with class congratulate and concede to their opponent. That's what fair-minded people do. That's what's polite.

    Her behavior is disappointing and distressing. We need to keep a vigil over Obama's win because Hillary's mind is running like a gas-guzzling engine. She'll resurface and we better be ready.

    June 5, 2008 at 1:02 am |
  4. Marian NY

    Ms. Clinton's refusal to step down gracefully reminds me of Sinatra's last concert. My memory is of a cracking voice–not the velvet smooth crooner he once was. Hillary-it's time to say Goodbye before you leave everyone with a disappointing memory. Good luck–teach your daughter how to lose gracefully–the future belongs to her–not to you.

    June 5, 2008 at 12:32 am |
  5. Rhstubbl

    The Clinton's felt as though this was there ticket, and this is why they lost.

    June 5, 2008 at 12:08 am |
  6. Deb

    1. To all of the REGISTERED Clinton-supporting voters who say that they will vote for Senator McCain over Senator Obama in the fall, please explain your reasoning. Exactly what about Senator Clinton’s plans for our country align with Senator McCain’s? Is there a single issue, besides the environment – which I think ALL Americans agree on – in which Senator Clinton agrees with Senator McCain? Is there a single reason other than the fact that she is a woman that made you want to vote for her in the first place? Someone please justify voting for another term of failed Republican policy and make a case that it is favorable to electing a candidate whose policies DO align with Senator Clinton’s in many ways – and all because your feelings are hurt. Imagine how Senator Clinton will feel in November if it turns out that, not only did she fail to secure a nomination for the Presidency this year, but that her own supporters turned on her by electing Bush 2.0.

    2. To Jo Ann, Ohio – the only people who’ve made a comment about Obama needing to “take control” of his campaign are the reporters of CNN. Please pay closer attention to the actual campaigns, see how they are planned out by reviewing the results and then realize that while you can look to these reporters for news, you have to take their reporting with a grain of salt.

    June 4, 2008 at 11:30 pm |
  7. Edwina

    I have lost respect for Senator Clinton because it appears that she has made this primary very personal. Her overall negative comments relating to presidential candidate Obama are not forgotten. She does not know how to lose and step away gracefully. I believe it would be difficult for presidential candidate Obama, when elected, to do his job running the country if she were V.P. It would be a big mistake to make her his running mate because I believe she would attempt to undermine him.

    Mr. Obama is more then just a black man. He bring quality and substance to this campaign. GOD BLESS HIS FAMILY.

    June 4, 2008 at 11:15 pm |
  8. Roy B

    This is simply being adult enough to lose as gracefully as you might win. I am not surprised Hillary's behavior.

    June 4, 2008 at 10:47 pm |
  9. Alice

    Hillary only cares about sexism as it applies to HER, and particularly to her campaign for the presidency.

    She's not gonna take up any sexism banners.

    Watch.

    June 4, 2008 at 10:44 pm |
  10. Larry

    Here's a thought. Hillary and her older women supporters are having trouble dealing with her defeat by underdog Barack Obama. Not unlike the Giants beating the Pats.
    Maybe part of the problem here is lack of experience in hard fought contests and how to win and lose gracefully. Women my daughter's age (in their 20's) have lots of experience with this, thanks to Title 9 and other reasons, they grew up playing sports and winning and losing a lot, dealing with the emotions involved. But women of Hillary's age, for the most part, missed out on this. Maybe they don't know how to deal with this because they didn't get much practice while they were young and impressionable? I'm just an old white guy, what do I know–any reaction from you younger or older women?

    June 4, 2008 at 10:23 pm |
  11. DLH

    I am both disgusted and ashamed of the way the Democratic Party, the mainstream media and even women have disrespected Hillary Clinton throughout this nomination process. You don't have to be a supporter of hers to see the blatant bias and sexism that she has endured up to this point. Bill Clinton may have gone over the top at times with his criticism, but I don't blame him for defending the way his wife has been treated. Any scrutiny Barack Obama has undergone pales in comparison.

    She is conceding (and endorsing Obama) only because our party leaders have forced her into a corner, not because she wants to. The millions of voters that have pledged their allegiance to her see through this charade and will cast their ballots accordingly in November. Despite what the pundits say, the numbers that will not support Obama (including myself) may be significant enough to cost him the election. Anyone that is naive enough to take her supporters for granted is going to be in for a rude awakening on election day.

    The only solution to unify the party is for him to tap her as his running mate. It's not the outcome we had hoped for, but it would be the best alternate strategy. I heard several CNN contributors last night say that there were other good prospects he could choose (perhaps another woman). That would be a huge gamble at best, but selecting Hillary Clinton would all but guarantee that he secures the presidency.

    Sen. Clinton's endorsement of Sen. Obama is proof positive of her love for our party. If I had been treated the way she has by my own party, I don't know if I could have been so forgiving. She has shown a strength and tenacity unseen by a democratic candidate in a long time. Hillary Clinton can count on my (and millions of others') undying loyalty and support for as long as she decides to stay in public service.

    June 4, 2008 at 10:10 pm |
  12. Sheron-OH

    At any game there are some rules. HRC agreed to rules but somehow wants the sexist game playbook when she didnt win. And now wants to play the "OH Look what Ive accomplished game" everyone praise me. I cant express how sad I feel about the 1st women to run for the Presidency and at least almost get to the finish line and then slap everyone in the face with another game for her convenience is appaulling. No there was no sexist game played here; her thoughts were she believe she was entitled to it–that was the game.
    Again I say, this was never about HRC or Obama it is and must be about the future of this country and if HRC is about the Democratic Party and the future of this country her speech would have been about more than her EGO. Her followers deserve a leader and not a EGO trip.

    June 4, 2008 at 10:09 pm |
  13. Annie Kate

    Its been a long campaign season,everyone is tired especially the candidates. Obama has the delegates for the nomination so what does it hurt to give Senator Clinton a few days to rest and reflect and work on her speech. I don't see any reason for everyone to kick her around in her defeat. I see a lot of comments sore losers but sounds like there are some sore winners here too.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    June 4, 2008 at 9:56 pm |
  14. Christine

    I am one of the people who say they will not vote for Obama ever. The reason? I am American first and Democrate second. He is not qualified to run this country. So I will not vote for him just like I wouldn't hire someone not qualified to work in my company. I don't believe the President of America should be on a learning curve.

    June 4, 2008 at 9:47 pm |
  15. patrick lewis

    What exit strategy? Why is an exit strategy needed, she lost a fair fight. Why all the drama and coddling. An exit strategy is saying I ran the race I thought would win and came close but the people have spoken and I stand behind the man that has been selected to carry the torch for our party. I don't need beside him, I don't need to be above him or below him i support him and believe that he will bring the change that our country needs. He is the winner and there are no losers.

    June 4, 2008 at 9:44 pm |
  16. A from Atlanta

    Hilliary is in denial, and I think she she may be out of touch with reality. Her choice to seemingly ignore Obama's victory suggest that she is dealing major issues with accepting and dealing with the truth. Or could it be she is showing her true colors!! But we should have expected something out of left field after the deceptive tactics she used during her campaign. Despite her obligations to her supporters, she could have at least acknowledged Obama as the winner, and offered her congratulations. After all, the numbers don't lie. I sure hope Obama is looking for a running mate with integrity, and one who will have his back. and not someone who can't even bring themselves to acknowledge him as at least the Democratic Presidential nominee. Not to mention Mr. President.

    June 4, 2008 at 9:20 pm |
  17. jessie

    I am just hearing that Hillary is quitting. That is so sad to hear. Now she should put this behind her, take some time to pull all the knives from her back. Give the DNC, the media & others the appropriate gesture then take a well earned vacation with Bill & Chelsea.

    June 4, 2008 at 9:12 pm |
  18. laura, arizona

    The news on cnn is that she is "suspending" her campaign. But on her blog she is still raising money AND people are posting that she is suspending until Denver, NOT conceding the race. Big difference, which is it? I was horrified watching her last night and also reading the comments on her blog by supporters saying they would NEVER vote for Obama no matter what. How can people who call themselves Democrats be so incredibly selfish and small minded. She missed a great opportunity last night-she could have forgotten her ego for a moment and endorsed him. He won! She better get behind him in a huge way and that means conceding! Why is she still raising funds on her site ?

    June 4, 2008 at 8:50 pm |
  19. Melinda

    To everyone who is suggesting that Hilary run on an independant ticket let's go back to Political Science 101 and recall that the electoral college has no legal pathway to elect a third party candidate. By suggesting that she runs on a third party ticket, you are asking her supporters to throw away their votes this fall. Does that sound like respect?

    June 4, 2008 at 8:25 pm |
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