Friday, November 6, 2015

Where is this "legitimate argument" for a Clinton presidency that Traister is talking about?

A few days ago, I called on PUMAs to make an honest progressive argument for Clinton:
It would be perfectly legitimate to admit that Clinton is not a great candidate, but to insist that we should elect her anyway, since the good of putting a woman into the White House would outweigh all of her bad politics and personal failings. That's a completely orthodox progressive argument, and I would love to see the Clintonite honest enough to make it.
I wrote this, obviously, because I have yet to actually see one. Yet Rebecca Traister seems to think that this has been happening all along:
It seems reasonable to argue that it would be good for the country to elect its first female president...But to admit to a consideration of her gender, even when it is so clearly not the only consideration, means your opinion risks being laughed off...legitimate arguments over presidential candidates and representational inequities get reduced to insinuations that women have no head for politics and are just concerned with seeing their own image shining back at them from the Oval Office. 
It's truly unfortunate if this is actually happening, but where is this actually happening? I have yet to see it. I have not, for example, seen any kind of coherent attempt to argue that Clinton's symbolic value would outweigh the destruction her economics would visit upon women. Maybe it would, but is it too much to ask for the PUMAs to show their work?

Evidently Traister thinks she already has in her previous piece, I'm A Hot Mess For Hillary, where she supposedly "detailed [her] qualms":
  1. She notes concern about Clinton's email scandal since "The federal rule against using personal e-mail had been set after HRC left the State Department."
  2. Clinton has "sometimes been tepid in her support of abortion rights"
  3. An exceedingly vague complaint that Clinton "has cozied up to Wall Street and big banks"
  4. She "deployed dismaying rhetoric against immigration rights"
  5. She "took too long to support gay marriage"
  6. She has a "wonky committment to microfinance" (woops, Traister notes this approvingly)
Hilariously, Traister has not actually helped her case here. Let's generously dismiss (1) as the dumb trumped-up non-controversy than it is and (2) as unlikely to be a significant problem in a Clinton White House. By the time we hit (3) Clinton is already disqualified by any meaningfully progressive assessment - because "cozying up to Wall Street," of course, is a euphemism for Clintonian economics. As Denvir writes,
In 1996, the number of families receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children was 4.5 million, according to Fred Block and Frances Fox Piven. In 2009, as economic crisis set in, just 1.7 million families were accessing Temporary Aid to Needy Families, AFDC’s eviscerated replacement. That’s a cut of 62 percent. According to a recent Harper’s story by Virginia Sole-Smith, “For every hundred families with children that are living in poverty, sixty-eight were able to access cash assistance before Bill Clinton’s welfare reform. By 2013, that number had fallen to twenty-six.”
How does Traister grapple with this? It's simple: she doesn't. Tellingly, the word "welfare" doesn't approve anywhere in her "detailed" discussion. Neither, incidentally - and as deBoer rightly noted - did the word "Iraq", even though her support of the Iraq war was one of Clinton's major liabilities in 2008. Neither, in fact, does the name of any other country, even though Secretary of State was Clinton's most recent and powerful position. Nor does Clinton's support of the racist crime bills of the 1990s.

So it's easy to see why one might accuse Traister of myopic fixation on the symbolism of a Clinton victory while ignoring Clinton's substantive platform: even in her "detailed" discussion, she entirely ignores most of the major points of criticism against Clinton, glosses over others with euphemism, and makes absolutely zero effort to justify the trade-off. Wherever this "legitimate argument" for Clinton is, we still haven't seen it.