Instead of going cautious and playing it safe, Clinton leaned hard toward feminism in the final debate with Trump
Thursday, Oct 20, 2016
Hillary Clinton frequently gets characterized as an overly cautious politician, afraid to go out on a limb and swift to scurry towards some ill-defined “middle” at the first sign of conflict. Part of that reputation is due to people’s mistaking her for her husband. But part of it is her own fault, as she tended to take that approach in the 2008 Democratic primaries, leaving it to Barack Obama to portray himself as more liberal, even though Clinton was actually somewhat to the left of her primary opponent.
A more skittish politician would see that and assume the country is still incredibly sexist and not ready for a strongly feminist message and try to find some middle-ground way to tiptoe around the issue of women’s equality.
Clinton did the opposite. Faced with a misogynistic pig with a long record of belittling and objectifying women, Clinton leaned into the idea that voters want a feminist in office. (After all, the last president they elected is one!) Despite decades of pressure from the media to step back, soften her voice, be more submissive and bake more cookies, Clinton made absolutely sure that the debate-watching audience could not doubt her commitment to feminism.
“In the 1990s, I went to Beijing and I said women’s rights are human rights,” Clinton reminded audiences. Younger voters may not know how controversial that was at the time. But if that statement seems obvious now, it’s in no small part because Clinton had the ovaries to say it out loud then on a prominent international stage.
It took more than a year to get here, but finally Clinton got to be in a debate in which she was directly asked about abortion rights, and she offered a full-throated defense of reproductive rights.