Mind the Gap!

SandersClintonIn Wherefore the Gender Gap, I noted irony in the fact that women greatly prefer Hillary Clinton to Bernie Sanders given Hillary Clinton’s initial reaction to deceptively edited video purporting to show Planned Parenthood conspiring to sell fetal parts. Clinton called the dishonest video “disturbing” and refused to rule out government hearings into Planned Parenthood’s practices. To her credit, she subsequently straightened course with her own video defending the heroic and beloved non-profit. Bernie Sanders also reacted problematically, but not as problematically, to the right-wing agitprop.

The percentage of Democratic women who support Clinton’s candidacy is 57% greater than the percentage of Democratic men in her camp, even though women are more likely to support choice and consider it a more important political issue than men do. Still Clinton is reliably pro-choice despite her Planned Parenthood wobble. Accordingly, women’s overwhelming preference for Clinton wouldn’t be so surprising if she weren’t demonstrably worse than Sanders in a number of other areas that women also rate as particularly important.

Military Intervention in the Middle East

According to Gallup, men almost invariably favor military intervention much more than women do. This was the case prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Yet as University of San Francisco Professor Stephen Zunes points out, Hillary Clinton is the only one of the five announced Democratic candidates who supported the war.

Four years after we deposed Saddam Hussein, a disproportionate number of women viewed the war as a mistake and favored a timetable for withdrawal. But Clinton did not turn against the war until at the very earliest 2008, years after Bush had acknowledged that pre-war Iraq had neither WMDs nor a viable nuclear weapons program and was not involved in 9/11. By then, most Americans had concluded Operation Iraqi Liberation Freedom was a mistake and Clinton knew she could not defend the war itself while running against Barack Obama in 2008. Still Clinton did not, or could not, admit error until 2014.

As Secretary of State, Clinton’s did fine and difficult work cajoling Iran into negotiations on its nuclear capabilities. But, she positions herself not just to the right of Sanders, respecting an expanded American military presence in Syria, but even of President Obama. Likewise, she has backed away from any criticism of Israel’s invasion and heavy-handed occupation of Gaza.

In contrast to Clinton, Bernie Sanders opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning. Last year, he voted against President Obama’s request for funds to help train and arm Syrian rebels. Some allege that Sanders is too pro-Israel and he was incorrectly called an Israeli citizen by NPR host Diane Rehm. But unlike Clinton, he has made clear his opposition to Israel’s war on Gaza and settlements on Palestinian land.

Environmental Policy

Gender studies scholars have concluded that women exhibit a “greater willingness to acknowledge ecological problems and risks and to engage in actions that are beneficial for the environment.” In a Pew Research poll conducted last year, 59% of women, and only 47% of men, said the environment was very important to them. Yet the overwhelming choice of Democratic women is markedly less of an environmental champion than her top rival.

The scientific community has concluded that climate change due to anthropogenic global warming may be the greatest environmental threat humans have ever faced. Unlike nearly every announced Republican Presidential candidate, Clinton does not deny this essential reality and supports a very significant investment in solar energy which unfortunately will require Congressional approval. But she refuses to state her position on either the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) or the Keystone XL pipeline; both of which the President can stop without Congress and each of which would result in significant increases in greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental threats.

Clinton denies participating in the drafting of the TPP but, while she was Secretary of State, the Department was deeply involved in this process. It would therefore seem more probable than not that President Hillary Clinton would embrace this “free trade” pact. Clinton’s silence on Keystone is even more maddening. While Secretary of State, she said she would be “inclined” to approve it.  Last month, when asked point blank at a Town Hall for her position, she paused and then after a lengthy exposition said that she will give an answer “when I become President.”

In a refreshing contrast to the tight-lipped uncommunicative Clinton, Bernie Sanders has stated early and often that he opposes TPP and Keystone and has voted against both. Bottomline: Bernie Sanders is a more reliable, credible, and plain-spoken advocate for a clean green energy future.

Economic Justice

Besides reproductive freedom, income inequality is the issue with the largest gender gap according to the Pew poll cited earlier. A year ago, 64% of women said income inequality is a very serious issue while 49% of men agreed. In perhaps no other area is the contrast between Sanders and Clinton more apparent.

In 2000, while her husband was still President, Clinton supported making China’s most favored nation status permanent in 2001. Sanders opposed this step. Other than the Reagan tax cuts for top earners, arguably no other political decision over the past fifty years has led to greater income inequality.

Clinton has a mixed record on so-called “free” trade while Sanders has consistently opposed these job-killing bills. As mentioned earlier, Clinton refuses to say whether she supports the TPP, aka “NAFTA on steroids”, which will increase wealth disparities, while Sanders opposes it. Sanders has joined Elizabeth Warren in calling for the break-up of consolidated banks and a new Glass-Steagall Act while Clinton opposes a return to community and intra-state commercial banking.

When it comes to tax policy, Clinton is far more generous to the wealthy than Sanders. During the 2008 campaign, she opposed raising the capital gains rate above 20%. Since then she has recalibrated her position and now claims to be amenable to a top short-term capital gains tax of 39.6% with long-term gains taxed at the aforementioned 20%. Regarding top marginal federal income tax rates, Clinton apparently favors the current level of 39.6% which was also in effect when Bill was in office.

Sanders supports raising the top marginal income tax rate above 50% and would also raise capital gains tax rates significantly. These two actions would greatly reduce after-tax income and wealth disparities.

One good way to gauge the difference between the two candidates on economic justice is to consider their supporters. In this election cycle, Clinton is raising many millions from Clinton foundation donors and beneficiaries, hedge fund and private equity managers, and entertainment industry moguls.  Sanders refuses to accept super PAC funds and supports a constitutional amendment specifying that corporations have no First Amendment right to influence elections with “speech” or cash.  In the immediate aftermath of his announcement that he was running for President, Sanders raised $1.5 million from thousands of individuals donating about $43 on average.

Death Penalty

Historically, men have been more likely than women to support the death penalty.  Like many women, Bernie Sanders opposes it.  As appears to be her wont when asked about controversial issues, Clinton has tended to hedge and equivocate respecting execution. Still, she has never renounced the “vague support” of the ultimate penalty she enunciated in 2001 and 2008. Nor has she distanced herself from her husband’s abysmal record in this area when he was Governor of Arkansas.

Gay Marriage

In 2012, per Gallup, 56% of women but only 42% of men backed marriage equality. Since the early 1970s, Bernie Sanders is on record in favor of “equality”. In 1996, Sanders voted against the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) which President Bill Clinton signed into law. As late as 2003, Hillary Clinton said she too would have signed the law barring federal recognition of gay marriages if she were President. Not until 2013, when most women had already “evolved” did Clinton finally agree that gay marriage should be deemed a human right.


Although Hillary Clinton is weaker than her nearest opponent on virtually every issue that women say is important to them, Democratic women disproportionately support her. As primary season approaches and her positions became clearer to voters, perhaps the gender gap will close. If it does not and Hillary Clinton prevails against Bernie Sanders, Democratic women are not likely to see their issues championed in the run-up to the November 2016 general election. If Clinton rides the support of her base to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Democratic women can expect to be sorely disappointed.

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4 Responses to Mind the Gap!

  1. You spend a lot of space examining the issues, Hal. But in the final analysis, none of them matter. I strongly suspect that women support Hillary over Bernie because she is a woman. And many Americans, especially of the female persuasion, eagerly want to see a woman as president. The nuances of the issues, in my opinion, are irrelevant here.

    • halginsberg says:

      Arlen – I hope you are wrong but fear you are right. Why do you think so many apparently progressive women are so besotted with the idea of a woman President that they ignore her pro-corporatist policies and questionable character? There has never been a Jewish President but I wouldn’t vote for Chuck Schumer in a thousand years if he were running against Elizabeth Warren or Sherrod Brown.

  2. Hal, If American politics were only about issues Bernie would be one of the favorites. In reality political campaigns, and other forms of advertising, are more about style than substance.People like you and me, who analyze the issues, are not typical American voters. The typical voter is swayed by charm, looks, and charisma, and who they would want to have a beer (or a latte) with. I wish it were’t that way, but sadly it is.

    • halginsberg says:

      Arlen – your comment doesn’t address the fact that 60% of women but only 38% of men support Clinton. Are only women swayed by charm?

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