8 Years Later: Why I’m Voting for Hillary This Time

Eight years ago, I read an essay by Gloria Steinem urging young women to vote for Hillary Clinton. At the time, young people overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama. Steinem wrote something along the lines of: If young women knew better, they’d vote for Hillary. If they’d been around forty years ago and really understood the women’s movement, they’d be making the right choice.

It made me angry. I was an Obama supporter. I liked his message. I didn’t like the way Clinton ran her primary campaign. And I wasn’t going to vote for someone just because she was a woman—wasn’t that the opposite of equality? Talking down to people is never a good idea, especially if you’re trying to persuade them, and Gloria Steinem should have known that. If anything, she alienated me from the women’s movement. For a time.

This election season, I filled out one of those questionnaires about government policy that supposedly matches you with the candidate you’re most aligned with. I am in 99% agreement with Bernie Sanders. I like him. And yet, I think I’ll vote for Clinton. Why?

It’s a serious question. I’ve been a bit stumped. Admittedly, I’ve paid little attention outside of the headlines this campaign season. Something about hearing or reading the name, “Trump,” in almost every campaign story has turned me off. I decided awhile ago to ignore it all until it started to really matter.

imgres Yet, one thing has been clear to me: I feel a strong urge to vote for Hillary. What has happened in the last eight years to change my mind?

Sure, Clinton has gained even more experience. This didn’t use to matter to me as much. I think probably eight years and two children later, with a 40th birthday looming, I now value life and work experience all the more. But Sanders is experienced, too. They’re both intelligent and capable public servants.

It’s not about the issues—I’ve never been a one-issue person. I won’t cut off my nose to spite my face, and both Clinton and Sanders represent my basic ideals. I might be in 99% agreement with Sanders, but I’m in 97% agreement with Clinton. I do think Clinton has a stronger chance of putting her policies into place, of “getting things done,” as they say.

As far as I can tell, my affinity toward Clinton these eight years later comes down to two things:

  1. Someone close to me was raped.
  2. I had a daughter.

I now see the world differently. The women’s movement used to be intellectual for me. Now it’s personal.

I have new eyes, so when they see women ignored or shamed because they were raped, it stays with me. I have new ears, so when they hear a man talk to me about house maintenance issues like I’m a kindergartner and then ask me, “Can you remember what I said so you can tell your husband when he gets home?,” I file that away in my brain.

I can remember. Oh, yes I can.

The world hasn’t changed; I have. Women are still objectified, vilified, paid less, patronized, underestimated, raped, assaulted, and beaten simply because they are women. We are still told to “Be quiet” and “Be nice.” It is still assumed that having boys means you’ll have an energetic household but having girls means you’ll have a quiet one. A woman news anchor can still be called a bimbo by a presidential candidate and people will adore him. I still have to fold my body in and look around me when I walk alone at night, anywhere. The world hasn’t changed—now it all just means more to me.

Actually, let me be honest. It means more to me sometimes. But other times—when, for instance, a man gives me a proverbial pat on the head and tells me, “You’re alright, kid,” after he finds out I know how to use a shovel to dig a trench, I feel pride mixed with my anger. A part of me still likes those pats on the head.

Electing a woman has become a priority for me and I’m not ashamed to say it. Too often, I think, women cower to the finger-pointers and respond with, “I support her because she’s qualified, not because she’s a woman.” Why can’t it be both?

Now, would Sanders help women? Sure. Maybe. I can’t know for sure. Does Clinton being a woman mean she’ll always do right by women? Sure. Maybe. I can’t know for sure.

But I do know that figureheads are important. I do know it’s high time we elect a qualified, dedicated woman to the top office. And I do know I don’t want my daughter to like having her head patted—not by a handyman, not even by Gloria Steinem.

So the bigger question isn’t, Why not Bernie? The bigger questions are: What took me so long to put a woman first and what is the women’s movement going to do to recruit my daughter, not alienate her?

To Yard Sign or Not to Yard Sign

Unlike what seems like the rest of the country outside of D.C., I love politics. It’s as dramatic as a reality show, but smarter (and real-er).

Dramatic, because instead of sex, drugs, and sparring… That is, in addition to sex, drugs, and sparring, there are Big Deal issues like freedom, justice, prosperity. Dramatic, because of the history of this country—the founding principles, suffrage, slavery, death, war, love, hate. Every human emotion is tied up in politics and policy. Not even to mention what’s tied up in campaigns and elections–it’s as competitive and aggressive as football but without the concussions and literal chest-thumping.

Smart, because policies are complex. Because we field hundreds of bits of information thrown at us and figure out which are facts and which are opinions, what is true and what is false. Smart, because we have to have the self-awareness to know what we really care about.

That’s not to say I always love politics. I have to turn off cable news for months at a time. But I always find myself drawn back to it because at heart I’m a patriotic American. (And you thought the right-wing had hijacked that phrase.) And I love a good debate.

Also unlike what seems the rest of the country, I think we should talk more about politics, not less. If we all talked–and listened–a bit more we would force the few at the top doing most of the squabbling to squabble smarter. And truthier. We’d raise the level of the conversation.

However, I’m not the type to make the first move. I (usually) don’t babble on about politics at parties unless someone else brings it up first. I volunteer for campaigns, but I’m the one who makes calls to supporters simply to remind them to vote. I drop off yard signs to those who’ve requested one.

Every election, I delay putting a sign in my own yard declaring whom I support because it feels like I’m drawing a line in the sand:

Here I stand : There you stand. Aren’t we different.

I also worry it too-strictly defines me to my neighbors who vote otherwise. Sure, I love a good debate, but some of my favorite moments in a debate are when those I disagree with get me to think twice about my opinion, when they make me stop and reconsider. (My husband will say this absolutely never happens; don’t believe him.)

In the end, I always put up a sign because of this: if politics is as important as I say it is, I should do what I can to help elect the person I support. And if I can’t openly declare where I stand and what I believe in, then what’s the point?

For this Monday–Meet: My Yard Signs

Groupon Schmoupon – or – I’ve Carried Many Watermelons

I’ve had my share of “Duh” moments that led to nausea. These are moments my friends and I refer to as “I carried a watermelon” episodes–anything we do or say that is less than a shining example of our actual brilliance.

Number 1 on my list is the time I went to a friend’s wedding in which my husband was an usher, and during the rehearsal dinner I walked up to the head table to receive the wedding-party gift I thought was meant for me when I heard the name “Jessie” announced by the groom–even though I decidedly was not in the wedding party and another usher named Jesse decidedly was. (That Jesse was in the bathroom when his name was called; otherwise, maybe I would have been stopped halfway through my long walk to the head table and been saved from embarrassment. As it was, I reached the head table and had to be told, “No, not you” by the groom as a hundred people looked on. I mean, what wedding couple don’t give the wife of an usher a gift?)

I felt pretty sick after that episode. But there is a close second.

Even though I decided to stay home for a few years when my first child was born, I’ve always looked for odd jobs to keep my mind sharp. (As we’ve seen, this is vitally necessary.) For awhile in 2008, I vacillated between starting my own little cafe and going back into public policy or public relations part-time. To the latter’s end, my friend’s husband told me, “I know someone you should know. He just started an online company called The Point.”  The point of The Point was to organize groups of people to make change–an online version of the field work campaign organizers had been doing for decades.

Friend’s Husband told me the founder of The Point was interested in getting in touch with me because of my campaign background. Friend’s Husband gave me this person’s email address: AndrewMason@….

Yes, that Andrew Mason. Out of The Point grew a little company that didn’t stay little for long: Groupon.

Needless to say, I didn’t act on Friend’s Husband’s suggestion. At the time, I was more interested in starting a cafe. (You can all visit that cafe in my head.) I hadn’t even emailed the guy to say, “No, thanks. Good luck on your little venture.” Usually, I’m not so rude. But when I decide to screw up, I really go for it.

When I first learned about the opportunity that I had passed up, I could not eat the fried dough covered with powdered sugar, chocolate syrup, and whipped cream that was in front of me at that moment. I could only think, “Carrying. So. Many. Watermelons.”

I remind myself, though, that it was a potential opportunity. And, at the time, I really didn’t want to go back into public relations. So, yes, I could have possibly had a job that I possibly would not have liked but that possibly would have made me very rich.

But–and this is actually a big but–had that all happened, I would not be writing a novel, which is what I’ve wanted to do since I was five. It is my Life Goal. And I’m doing it.

Is that worth millions? Maybe not in dollars. But it’s definitely worth something.