Two Democratic Party scholars recently battled over the talking points between the Clinton and Sanders campaigns. Result? The professor presenting Hillary ‘Hawk’ Rodham Clinton’s side in the debate on DemocracyNow endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders’ policies, as well. However, the scholar touting the program of Sanders challenged Mrs. Clinton’s positions — specifically on the national minimum wage and Wal-Mart workers.
“I think she is a centrist, turning-left centrist Democrat. I think Bernie has pushed her much further to the left, and kudos to him and his campaign for doing that. She’s taken much more progressive positions since this campaign season started. But I also am supporting her, very honestly and forthrightly and proudly, because she is a woman. And I have—you know, I have no problem saying that,’’ said Dr. Suzanna Walters, the editor of the feminist journal Signs.
Countered Liza Featherstone: “(Sanders) is talking about exactly the things that would make life better for the majority of women—single-payer healthcare, given women are the most likely to go into medical debt. Women have the highest healthcare costs and most likely to be poor heads of families. He is talking about raising the minimum wage to $15.” Ms. Featherstone recently wrote “Why This Socialist Feminist Is Not Voting for Hillary” for The Nation.
Mrs. Clinton’s $12 US minimum wage proposal (an increase from $7.25 and $7.80 in some areas) falls short of the $15 urged by the two men in the race: Sen. Sanders and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. In 2014, the latter, Mr. O’Malley, signed into law a $10.10 minimum pay raise to go into effect in his state by 2018.
«Again, women are the majority of low-wage workers. So, these are the kinds of things that would really improve life for women, and it’s—as well as for many other Americans,» said Ms. Featherstone, the author of the 2004 book Selling Women Short: The Landmark Battle for Workers’ Rights at Wal-Mart. (Read Wal-Mart’s 2012 assessment of its workforce at cdn.corporate.walmart.com.)
In the DemocracyNow debate, Ms. Featherstone noted the inescapable connection that still exists between the former Wal-Mart corporate attorney — Clinton — and the largest employer in the U.S. Though the workforce declined in 2012, the company still employs more than 1 million people.
Back to Dr. Walters, the director of the Gender Studies Program at Northeastern University: We have voted with our gender for over 200 years, and that vote has resulted in the gender male being in the office for over 200 years. The significance of having a woman break that glass ceiling cannot be overestimated. I just think it’s incredibly important, just as it was incredibly important to have an African-American president break through that ceiling.
Ms. Featherstone: Some people will look to her as breaking glass ceilings, but I think her attitude toward her time at Wal-Mart indicates her attitude toward the vast majority of working-class women … But they were concerned about getting criticism about the position of women in the company, so they brought Hillary Clinton on the board at the time she was first lady of Arkansas. And she was— she didn’t really do anything to address the situation of women at the company.
Ms. Featherstone continued: But more surprisingly to me, she hasn’t in recent years ever said anything, you know, when people ask her, “Do you have any comment? As, you know, such a prominent woman claiming feminist credentials, running for president of the United States, do you have any comment about this company where you served on the board and the company was later the target of the largest sex discrimination suit in history?
Dr. Walters: I think she has a decidedly— like most politicians and people in public life, a decidedly mixed history, absolutely. You know, would I like her to be less hawkish? You bet. Would I like her to be more outspoken on any number of things?
Dr. Walters continued: So, you know, the fact that she is a feminist, that she is a leaning-towards-progressive Democrat at this point, obviously qualified for the job—all of those things lead me to support Hillary. But again, I should say, I support Hillary, and I support Bernie, you know, and I love his candidacy, as well.
In summary, the guest called in to present convincing and intelligent reasons to support the former Secretary of State ended, at best, sounding middle-of-the- road between the two contenders. Gender overrides all other aspects of this election for Dr. Walters, unfortunately.
It’s unfortunate because deciding preferences based on external traits discounts the “content of a person’s character.” Isn’t that the unfinished business of the 21st century?
(Author’s Note: Gender and racial biases stood in the way as the author of this essay pursued a career in sports reporting in the United States. She strongly feels that gender, race, religion, and age neither qualify nor disqualify a person for a position. Also, thanks to DemocracyNow.org for the video and transcript of the debate — and for organizing the debate.)
Nita Wiggins of Augusta, Ga., is currently writing her memoir about becoming a barrier-breaking sports journalist despite the biases. Follow her @EducatingMsNita