On Hillary Clinton, “The Establishment”, and Making History

Making Herstory

Pictured: Not The Establishment Candidate


The Democratic nomination has been decided. No, it’s not over – D.C. has yet to vote, and the convention is weeks away – but the outcome has been determined, and Hillary Clinton will make history as the first female to be at the top of the ticket in either one of the two major parties (and yes, I know about Victoria Woodhull and Jill Stein. With all respect to those women, neither the Equal Rights Party nor the Green Party qualifies as one of the major parties in the U.S.)


Now that that’s out of the way, I see a lot of angst about how “the establishment” weighted the nomination process in favor of Hillary. I want to take a moment to utterly reject that claim.


As it stands right now, Real Clear Politics shows that Hillary Clinton not only has 2203 pledged delegates to Bernie’s 1828 (that’s pledged, not super), she also has 3,720,351 more actual votes than Bernie.


Concerned that the popular vote number doesn’t include the caucuses? Go ahead, subtract any reasonable estimation of what that number might be. Heck, get unreasonable. Subtract 1.5 million, if you want. It will still mean that over 2 million more actual people cast votes for Hillary than cast votes for Bernie. And when you’re talking about the caucuses, you should also bear in mind that of the two states that held both caucuses and primaries, Nebraska and Washington, both went for Hillary in the primaries, even though they didn’t actually count. So you may want to consider that caucuses might not necessarily be representative of the whole. And no, the voting system isn’t rigged against Sanders.


Having established that, we can safely say that “the establishment” – as in, the DNC establishment – didn’t pick Hillary Clinton. She wasn’t chosen in some smoke-filled back room. The voters voted for her. But who were those voters? Perhaps they were establishment voters?


Well, it’s been well-established that Clinton overwhelmingly won the African American vote, and that black women, in particular, strongly supported Hillary Clinton. In a country that needs a Black Lives Matter movement, I see no reasonable argument for claiming that black voters are “the establishment”.


Women are voting for Hillary. Women are woefully underrepresented in our government. Despite making up half the population and more than half of active voters, they account for only 20% of congressional seats in the U.S. There have been fewer than 50 female senators in the whole history of the senate, and there are only 20 right now. There have only been 39 female governors in the history of the U.S., and out of 50 states, only 6 currently have females at the top. Only 30 women have ever held a United States Cabinet position, and only 3 have held the highest-ranking cabinet position, Secretary of State. That means that if you added up all of the female senators, governors, and cabinet members EVER, you would barely break 100. In no way, shape, or form can women be construed as “the establishment” in U.S. politics.


Early surveys showed Clinton winning with LGBT voters. If California is any indication, that trend hasn’t changed. There’s no way that you can call a group of citizens who only recently won the right to marry the person of their choice, who can still be fired, evicted, or refused service in many states, and who are the target of bills meant to keep them from using the appropriate public bathrooms for themselves, “the establishment”. You just can’t.


In April, Bernie Sanders famously stated that the reason he wasn’t winning was because poor people didn’t vote. He was half right. Poor people really don’t vote in great numbers comparative to those higher up on the economic scale, for a myriad of reasons. But that probably isn’t why he lost – data suggests that it’s Hillary Clinton who does better with voters who earn less than $30,000 a year. Trust me, I speak from personal experience when I say that if you’re making less than $30,000 a year, you’re no one’s establishment figure.


I could go on, but you probably get my point here. The voters that have put Hillary Clinton over the top are not “the establishment”. They are the very opposite of that. And I find the notion that Hillary Clinton herself is a representative of the establishment laughable, especially as I’ve watched her fight a two-front battle against two relatively privileged white men for the better part of the last few months. What on earth is an older, more entrenched establishment than the patriarchy? Hillary Clinton’s very existence challenges that. Voting her into the White House would be an explicit rejection of the traditional power structure in the United States, the one that was shaped by white men in order to benefit white men. (Psst: you know what demographic Hillary Clinton is losing badly with? White men.)


Despite those that would like to deny the monumental step that Hillary Clinton has just taken, she has already made history as the first women to be nominated for president by a major party. Going forward, she’ll continue to make history, win or lose: she’ll be the first woman to participate in a presidential debate, for example, and the first woman to win electoral college votes. If we work hard, and if we’re very, very lucky, she’ll be the first female president, and arguably the most powerful woman to have ever held a modern elected office. And she’ll get there not by way of appealing to “the establishment”, but with the support of the very voters most likely to be marginalized by the establishment.



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