Hillary and Young Feminists

In his Baltimore Sun column today essentially predicting a Hillary Clinton win in both the primary and general election — unless something goes terribly wrong — Tom Schaller highlights one of the less-talked about strengths of Clinton’s campaign: The grassroots organizing muscle of women’s leadership group Emily’s List. The National Organization of Women’s PAC has also launched a major campaign for ’08 called "Make History With Hillary." And Feminist Majority’s PAC formally endorsed Clinton as well.

Yet many younger feminists, while not exactly surprised by the early Clinton endorsements, remain incredibly torn about this election. Obviously, we’re weighing the attraction of voting for the first female, feminist president against the more progressive foreign policy and more aggressive anti-poverty platforms of John Edwards and Barack Obama. If Hillary wants to widen her lead among young female primary voters (polls last spring showed her leading Obama among young women by 6 points), she ought to deploy another one of the strengths Schaller points to — her "platoon of staffers and top-flight wonks developing her policy papers and talking points." As Ezra argued last week, Clinton’s home-run with her healthcare proposal owed a lot to John Edwards’ lead. Why hasn’t she met the Edwards and Obama campaigns with a detailed anti-poverty strategy or proposal focusing on urban issues or education?

Clinton’s been a smashing success among young feminists when it comes to fighting for access to contraception. She’s introduced legislation to close the pay gap between men and women and has been a strong voice against sex and race discrimination in the workplace. She has combatted the rising rate of sexual assault against the women serving in our military. Hillary is the clear leader on those crucial issues. But the feminist movement of 2007 is much broader than that. Maybe I’m vastly overstating the importance of policy to your average young female primary voter. Okay, I probably am. But when there is so much more Hillary Clinton can do to harness the energy of young feminist opinion leaders — and their increasing online strength — I do wonder why she isn’t trying harder.

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