I like Bernie Sanders. In my calmer moments, I know it’s not fair to blame him for his annoying fanboys—the Bernie bros—who write off Hillary Clinton’s supporters as rich white women or party hacks and dismiss wanting to see a liberal, pro-choice Democratic woman in the White House as “identity politics.” I think it’s great that Bernie is giving Hillary a run for her money. He’s pushing her to the left, showing pundits and politicos that there’s more of a constituency for progressive politics than they think, and he may even help spark a grassroots movement that outlasts his campaign. Hillary supporters should be grateful to him as well: The better he debates, the cleverer she has to be; the more popular he becomes, the less her nomination will look like a “coronation.” It’s good for Hillary to have to work to win the primary. I hear Ted Cruz is very smart.
But Bernie Sanders isn’t going to win the nomination… can we at least be honest about that? And if he did, he wouldn’t win the general election. And if, by some miracle, he did, he’d still get creamed by the same political and economic forces that hemmed in President Obama. Nation contributing editor (and my friend) Doug Henwood says much the same thing in his anti-Hillary polemic, My Turn: Hillary Clinton Targets the Presidency. That’s one of the things I’ve always admired about Doug: He’s a realist.
My Turn, an expanded and heavily annotated version of his Harper’s cover story of November 2014, is a brisk tour of everything putatively dishonest, corrupt, venal, nasty, and equivocating about Hillary, from high school to the present moment. Well, not quite everything: As I write, she’s being attacked by a whole passel of Republicans hardly known for their sensitivity to sexual-assault victims for not supporting Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, and Juanita Broaddrick when they accused Bill Clinton of sex crimes. Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus agrees: If Hillary wants to share the credit for the Clinton administration’s successes, it’s fair to blame her for not knowing or believing the worst about her husband’s sex life.
In his assessment of the most viable female presidential candidate in history, Henwood isn’t interested in those aspects of Hillary’s biography that animate attacks like these and fascinate so many women commentators: Hillary’s marriage and its compromises, the double binds placed on ambitious women, the extraordinary virulence of the misogyny directed at her. He ignores as well the curious fact that the person he regards as an enthusiastic tool of corporate capitalism and seller-out of other women (cf. welfare reform) is regarded as a radical socialist feminist by much of the country. But when he does weigh in on Hillary the person, he’s snarky: She swears (imagine even noticing that about a man), prettifies her difficult childhood, is disliked by some. To his credit, Henwood steers clear of the ravings of professional Hillary haters. His run-through of her imbroglios, from Whitewater to that private e-mail server, is terse and straightforward—the only time he seems really angry is when he charges the Clinton Foundation with bungling its rebuilding efforts in post-earthquake Haiti. (At the time, only Bill was at the helm of the foundation, but Henwood argues that Hillary, as secretary of state, urged investment in reconstruction projects that fell far short of what was needed.)