Washington has always suffered the burden of too much testosterone.
It wasn’t until 1917, when Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first woman to serve in Congress, that estrogen began to return equilibrium to Washington, and ever since, a total of 313 women have served as U.S. Representatives, Delegates, or Senators.
We have come a long way since 1917.
We have seen strong, intellectual women in Washington such as Elizabeth Warren, Condoleezza Rice, Nancy Pelosi, and Tammy Baldwin. We even have a woman within spitting distance of the presidency, but the state of our union is far from strong yet. A less tangible form of sex-based exclusion and mudslinging exists in this tumultuous political sphere, as evidenced by comparing the way the media portrayed Sanders’ DNC Debacle and the Saga of Clinton’s Benghazi and the ensuing effect on voters.
First, let’s take a look at the timeline of Bernie’s Debacle. “The DNC discovered on Dec. 16 someone in the Sanders camp took advantage of a software glitch” (Short), and the logs show that the user “accessed the Clinton [campaign] data for nearly one hour beginning around 10:40 p.m. Wednesday” (Frizell). With the hard evidence from the DNC logs, the DNC had just cause to immediately ice Bernie out of his and Clinton’s databases. Sanders staffers demanded a “full investigation from top to bottom” about the data breach while privately chastising Democratic officials for “leaking information” and “stonewalling” (Short). Shortly thereafter, Bernie declared his threats to sue the DNC in federal court for—as Jeff Weaver, Bernie’s campaign manager, puts it—“actively attempting to undermine our campaign” (Frizell).
The way the media left the situation for other, more exciting stories was that the Sanders staffer responsible for taking advantage of the breach had been fired, the DNC eked out some form of ceasefire, and Sanders did not sue, with the overall tone being: “There are a number of major discrepancies between the Sanders’ campaign narrative and what the DNC and others familiar with the matter have said” (Frizell).
All’s well that ends well. Allegedly.
Meanwhile, over in Hillary Clinton’s camp, all was not quiet on the western front due to happenings on the eastern front. On September 11, 2012, militants, whom were later determined to be Islamic extremists, attacked an American compound in Benghazi, killing four Americans. The administration gestured to “a video that was released by somebody who lives [in the United States] … making fun of the Prophet Mohammed … and terrorists used this as an excuse to attack a variety of our embassies, including the one, the consulate in Libya” (Bevan).
In December 2012, when the “the first of eight congressional committees investigating the Benghazi attacks released its report… [it] did not implicate Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for any wrongdoing” (Caldwell). In November 2014, The House Intelligence Committee released a statement, absolving Obama and Clinton of any guilt and closed the matter.
Yet in a bizarre but not unexpected reanimation of the issue, the House of Representatives (controlled by Republicans) voted to form a special committee to further investigate.
Amidst the subsequent sturm und drang, Clinton was dragged through hours of hearings (the topic of her emails may or may not have come up), then announced her bid for the presidency. The endless courtroom drama was plugging along when Speaker of the House hopeful Kevin McCarthy spilled the Republican beans, saying,
“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable” (Graham).
Due partly to his coinage of a new word, but mostly because they got caught, the Republican reaction to his Kinsley gaffe was a groan and a reluctant shuffle back to the drawing board. The Democratic reaction was an unmet, ‘See? I told you so!’ because “pretty much everyone on both sides already believed the committee was playing politics” (Graham). The media attention paid to this topic notably simmered down, and the Benghazi Committee will mumble its final report sometime later this year.
Now, let’s compare the two incidents. After all was said and done, neither presidential candidate was guilty of any wrongdoing. Bernie Sanders was accused of something he didn’t commit and denied it. Hillary Clinton was accused of something she didn’t commit and denied it. The incidents have nearly identical story arcs.
Yet, poll numbers would beg to differ.
As of December 16, the day the DNC Debacle broke, Bernie had a dip in support, going down to 30.4%; but by December 30, Bernie’s numbers had reached an all-time high at 54.9% and have been climbing ever since. However, on August 3, Hillary’s numbers began a steep downward trend as she was questioned by the Benghazi Committee; then, on September 30, the day Kevin McCarthy put his foot in his mouth (her saving grace), Hillary’s support increased to 56.1% on December 20, but her numbers never went back to where they were and, in fact, have been declining ever since December 20. (Take a look: http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster/2016-national-democratic-primary).
This data leads us to a logical conclusion: mud sticks better to Hillary’s ever-criticized pantsuits than it does to a man’s suit.
As even further evidence, in a recent poll, 7% of voters said she is “capable of being president”, while 21% of voters described her as “dishonest” and say she has “poor character” (Edelman). In the same study, 12% described Sanders as a “socialist” and 6% said they felt he was “older”, with another 5% calling him “favorable” and a “fresh face”. It is important to note that Sanders is, indeed, a fresh face, and does not have the long and arduous media history that Clinton has, which certainly helps his public image.
Nevertheless, there exists a large discrepancy between the aftermath of Sanders’ DNC Debacle and The Saga of Clinton’s Benghazi, and the only uncommon denominator is their gender.
The media is equally disparaging across bipartisan lines in its coverage of American politics, but its subtle, hostile sexism towards Hillary Clinton is potent stuff, as evidenced by voter response. Americans are unwittingly forming a new brand of sexism, now that women are joining the ranks in Washington: one where the same gaffes and scandals that a man was easily able to put to rest are now a woman’s career breakers. As Michael Kimmel so hauntingly puts it, “because male is the dominant category, it has the freedom to go unexamined, be invisible”. There is a politically correct line for both men and women, but for men, it has elasticity.
It is both the media’s and the American people’s willingness to forgive Sanders and condemn Hillary for equally ambiguous scandals that suggests the United States may need a few more years to acclimate itself to idea of a woman sitting behind the President’s desk.
However, given the alternative, we do not have time.
My fellow former Bernie supporters … for the sake of your country and future generations, now is not the time to be petulant children. Now is not the time to refuse to vote because we did not get our way. That’s not how democracy works. Our candidate lost, fair and square. There is no conspiracy against him. There was no more wheeling and dealing against him than in any other election. We need to respect the wishes of the larger portion of our party and of our country (because, delegates aside, she did have the popular vote). Bernie Sanders gave us hope, got us excited, said the things that needed to be said, and I’m quite certain there will be more like him in the coming years.
But now, the election is between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Fellow former Bernie supporters … I ask, in the spirit of Bernie himself, that you sift through the media bias, the mudslinging, the endless stream of commentary-news and truly analyze the candidates’ qualifications for yourselves. I expect you will find a woman who has a doctorate law degree, has served as First Lady, a Senator, and Secretary of State (amongst many other reputable positions), against a man who has a bachelor’s degree, has filed for bankruptcy four times, and has held countless positions as a Broadway backer (of a flop), an unsuccessful New Jersey Generals owner in the failed USFL, and an equally unsuccessful meat-monger.
Neither is what we wanted, but they’re what we’ve got. Refusing to vote is a vote for Trump and a gross misuse of your democratic right. And if love trumps hate, help America trump Trump. Give Hillary your vote … and maybe a poncho against the mud.
Frizzle, Sam. “Sanders Campaign’s Breach of Clinton Data More Serious Than Disclosed.” Time. Web.
Garth, Susan. “Unanswered Questions in Norway Terror Attack.” World Socialist Web Site. Web. 19 Aug. 2011.
Graham, David A. “Kevin McCarthy Steps Into a Faux Outrage.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 30 Sept. 2015. Web. 07 Apr. 2016.
Harrell, Eben. “Breivik’s Norway Attacks: Extremism in a Tolerant Region – TIME.” Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews – TIME.com. Web. 19 Aug. 2011.
Kimmel, Michael S., and Abby L. Ferber. Privilege: A Reader. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2003. Print.
MALA, ELISA, and J. DAVID GOODMAN. “At Least 80 Dead in Norway Shooting – NYTimes.com.” The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. Web. 19 Aug. 2011.
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Short, Aaron. “Sanders Campaign Rips DNC for ‘praising’ Data Breach Staffer.” New York Post. 2015. Web. 07 Apr. 2016.