Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
After her primary victories on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton told supporters in Brooklyn, “We’ve reached a milestone." Confident that Democratic superdelegates will put her above the threshold for the nomination — and they will — Clinton celebrated “the first time in our nation’s history that a woman will be a major party’s nominee for president of the United States.” Throughout her campaign, Clinton has reminded voters of her sex and of their chance to help shatter a centuries-old glass ceiling by putting a woman in the White House. Indeed, it is time for a woman as U.S. president. But for many, including some feminists, Clinton’s nomination is problematic.
While Clinton supporters
proudly announce #ImWithHer, many poor women — in the U.S. and the developing world — have
suffered as a result of the positions of the soon-to-be-christened Democratic
candidate for president. Clinton has supported free trade agreements, like NAFTA and, most recently, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Such agreements are part of a global paradigm that sees corporations scour the earth for cheap labor, for workers whose rights are unprotected.
That aspect of globalization, while it might bring cheap socks to local Wal-Marts, has devastated communities of working people in the U.S. whose jobs continue to take flight to less regulated employment markets. Poor American women — white, black, and everything in between — suffer those losses.
While NAFTA began taking effect, Clinton championed her husband’s will to reform welfare and effectively cripple the safety net working families needed as the global economy restructured — arguably too abruptly for those affected. While figures for net job losses as a result of NAFTA vary, including one 850,000 figure, what is more straightforward is that the agreement is part of a larger trend that has left Americans, including women, worse off.
Clinton’s propensity to support war and regime change abroad is perhaps the candidate’s greatest threat to women. Clinton, as New York senator, supported the three trillion dollar war in Iraq that cost thousands of U.S. lives, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives. In hindsight, the world knows Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction and had nothing to do with September 11. The war contributed to the destruction of a country and destabilization of a region. Just this month, the Islamic State, whose leaders include former members of Hussein’s Baath regime, reportedly burned 19 Yazidi women for refusing to have sex with their captors.
In 2011, when the potential devastation wrought by Middle East regime change was clear, Clinton, as Secretary of State, supported U.S. bombing of Libya during that country’s move to oust its leader, Muammar Qaddafi. Qaddafi was killed, and Clinton laughed. Libya is now a fractured country with competing governments. An ISIS outpost in North Africa, Libya is increasingly dangerous for women. (A friend of mine from Benghazi, a vocal, progressive woman, moved to France after the death threats became too real to ignore. Her family moved to Egypt after their home was attacked.) Even during the Democratic debates, Clinton said she supports the ouster of Syria’s leader, Bashar al-Assad. So much for learning from the past.
If there is any hope that Clinton is less hawkish today, her speech at this year’s AIPAC conference should clarify that she is not.
“As president, I will make a firm commitment to ensure Israel maintains its qualitative military edge,” she said.
Besides continued economic and military support Israel, weak, and weakened Arab neighbors are part of the equation. To a standing ovation, Clinton said the first thing she would do as president is invite Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime minister, to the White House. Netanyahu oversaw Israel’s 2014 attack on the besieged Gaza Strip that killed over 2,000 mostly civilian Palestinians, including 551 children and 299 women, according to the United Nations.
There is more.
From Clinton’s blind eye to the 2009 coup in Honduras — which activist Berta Cáceres would later pay the price, joining many others — to support for Bill Clinton’s 1994 crime bill that destroyed lives and families of mostly poor Americans, including women, through mass incarceration.
So while Clinton’s impending nomination as Democratic candidate for the U.S. presidency (and her likely victory in November, if polls are to be believed) will rightly inspire women and girls the world over to break their own glass ceilings, ignoring the devastation to women — mostly poor and of color — that Clinton’s policies have wrought don’t do women anywhere justice. Learning from one’s mistakes is good personal policy, for men and women.