Hillary Clinton: Victim of Her Own Success

tags: Hillary Clinton, election 2016

Ellen Fitzpatrick is a professor of history at the University of New Hampshire and the author, most recently, of “The Highest Glass Ceiling: Women’s Quest for the American Presidency.”

One of the most powerful ironies in a political season full of perversities is a paradox that now defines Hillary Clinton’s campaign: The first female presidential candidate to overcome the obstacles that sank every single woman before her now confronts criticism for overcoming those very same difficulties.

Let’s start with money. Women have long been pushed aside for not having enough to run a presidential campaign. In 1987, Representative Patricia Schroeder of Colorado concluded her brief presidential campaign by admitting, “The bottom line is, the money’s not there.” Senator Margaret Chase Smith of Maine tried to take the high road in 1964 by eschewing campaign donations, a decision that crippled her ability to compete effectively in the Republican primaries. She lost handily. Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, despite a sterling résumé, bowed out of a 2000 Republican presidential race shaped by “money in the bank and ads on the airwaves,” as she put it, that could not be combated with “inadequate funding.”

Mrs. Clinton, by contrast, has twice built a sizable war chest through prodigious fund-raising from Wall Street donors and “super PACs,” just as her male counterparts and opponents have always done. But her success in doing so has fueled charges that she is a captive of financial interests and all too willing to exploit a corrupt system of campaign financing.

Part of what made fund-raising so difficult for women were the prevailing doubts that they could secure the nomination of their party, let alone win a national campaign. There were good reasons for such skepticism. When Senator Smith ran for president, over 40 percent of Americans said they would not vote for a woman for president even if she was “well qualified” and nominated by their own political party.

Mrs. Clinton decisively changed that assumption with her strong showing in 2008. Yet the confidence invested in her by party leaders and elites now stokes criticism that she is “too establishment,” too cozy with Washington insiders and too comfortable with those who have sought to leash insurgent forces within the Democratic Party. Her determined effort to overcome the impediments that waylaid other women who have sought the presidency now offers fresh evidence to critics that she is driven by a craven thirst for power. ...

Read entire article at NYT

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