When she accepted the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton admitted she had every intention of playing the woman’s card during the campaign. That’s code for saying women’s interests in health, safety and child development would be front and center in her policy considerations. In earlier times, that admission would have sounded the death knell to her political ambitions. But among today’s electorate, appealing to women is one of the safest courses she could take.
Dressed in white, the color suffragettes wore during their protests (Click), Clinton enunciated values about education, health coverage and equal pay for equal work that have long been banner issues in the Woman’s movement. She could raise these ambitions knowing the gender gap in American politics is real and growing. In fact, whenever the gender gap narrows, it’s because men have moved to accept women’s issues. (“Betting on the Gender Gap,” by Katherine Spiller, MS. Magazine, Summer 2016, pg. 23.)
Largely, the gap exists in the way men and women view government’s role. Men want less centralization. Women want more supportive services. (Ibid pg. 22) They value clean air and water and environmental protection and are more likely to prefer negotiations to military interventions. (Ibid 23.) These feminine values hold steady across the race, age and ethnic spectrum. What’s more, a growing number of women see themselves as “feminists,” a label that, for a time, had fallen into disrepute. (Ibid pg. 22) Today, feminist goals seem reasonable: equal pay for equal work, reproductive rights and equal opportunity.
To reach their aims, women are speaking out with their votes — 10% more of them being more likely to vote than men. (Ibid pg. 20) As one political scientist concludes, “It is difficult, if not impossible to win a presidential election without a majority of women’s votes.” (Ibid pg. 21.) For those of us, like Hillary Clinton, who have worked to carry the women’s agenda beyond where it began at Seneca Falls, New York in 1848, we feel nothing but joy to see the past being woven into the future.