Last month, writing about the possible role of Bill Clinton’s sex scandals in this year’s presidential campaign, I said:
There are dozens of lines of attack against Hillary Clinton, nearly all of which will resonate with folks who already dislike her. The trick for the GOP nominee will be to select the handful that are likely resonate with other voters.
I’m not certain what these lines of attack are, but I’m pretty sure the matter Bill Clinton’s sex scandals isn’t among them.
It seems, however, that there is a group of “other voters” — i.e., ones not predisposed against Hillary — for whom the Clinton sex scandals have resonance. That group is young radical feminists.
For them, according to this report in the New York Times, what resonates is Hillary’s role in attacking women who spoke out against her husband’s behavior towards them. They tend, it seems, to agree with Donald Trump who says that Hillary “was not a victim; she was an enabler — some of these women have been destroyed, and Hillary worked with” her husband to accomplish their destruction.
For young feminists, this isn’t “old news.” Many of them are learning the details for the first time. And although one can say that to raise the matter now is to “relitigate” it (to use one of President Obama’s favorite dodges), the “litigation” occurs under a new set of rules.
Hillary Clinton herself articulated the new rules when she wrote on twitter: “Every survivor of sexual assault deserves to be heard, believed, and supported.” This is in line with the way many feminists want sexual harassment claims to be handled on college campuses — consider the accused guilty until proven innocent and shield the accuser from questions about her behavior.
Perhaps Clinton had repressed the sordid episodes surrounding her husband’s sexcapades, including her vicious response to his victims. If so, it’s easy to understand why. Who would want to remember calling Bill’s accusers ““floozies,” “bimbos” and “stalkers”, and “narcissistic loony tunes”? Who would want to remember saying of Connie Hamzy, one of the first women to come forward during Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, “we have to destroy her,” as as George Stephanopoulos recalls Hillary insisting? Who would want to remember the accusers at all?
However, many young feminists find Hillary’s attacks on Bill’s accusers at least as offensive as old moralists like me did at the time. According to the Times, Lena Dunham told guests at a posh New York City dinner party that she was disturbed by how the Clintons and their allies discredited women who said they had had sexual encounters with or been sexually assaulted by former President Bill Clinton.
Similarly, again according to the New York Times, Alexis Isabel Moncada, the 17-year-old founder of Feminist Culture, a popular blog, has said:
I heard [Bill Clinton] sexually harassed people and she worked to cover it up. A lot of girls in my age group are huge feminists, and we don’t react well to that.
Does this mean that Hillary’s role as “enabler” will play a meaningful role in the 2016 election, after all? I doubt it. The militant young feminists who want those who accuse men of sexual misconduct to be believed almost unconditionally aren’t going to vote for Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, or (except perhaps in small numbers) Marco Rubio. (Nor, in their position, would I). Indeed, Lena Dunham, through a spokesperson, says she’s “fully supportive” of Hillary’s candidacy and claims that her remarks at the posh dinner party have been “mischaracterized.”
If the Democrats had a strong alternative to Hillary, then perhaps her attacks on victims of sexual misconduct would make a difference. Perhaps Bernie Sanders will prove to be such an alternative.
But even in this scenario, the feminist desire to have a liberal woman become president will likely override concerns about Hillary’s role as a sexual predator’s enabler. Just as Hillary enabled Bill to become president, most hard-core feminists, including young ones, are quite willing to enable her.
They will maintain their credibility as feminists by complaining about Hillary to friends at dinner parties, or maybe even in an occasional op-ed, not by voting against her.