You know what else falls under a bad way to criticize a candidate? When you call them out for something that other candidates have done, and do not call out those other candidates as well. Take, for instance, Andrew Sullivan. When he criticized Hillary Clinton for using the Senate as a stepping stone to the White House, he lost credibility with me as a Hillary Clinton critic because he -as far as I know- failed to make the same criticism of Barack Obama. I think in both cases it is a ridiculous criticism, but by making it about one candidate and not about another who has done the exact same thing (and with less time served), the critic shows an obvious bias. Same sort of deal when Sullivan calls Hillary Clinton's feminist credentials into question (and her political integrity) for utilizing her position as the wife of one of the most skilled politicians of our time in her bid for the presidential elections. For capitalizing on the fact that she -through no want of her own, mind you- shares the Clinton name. And a case can be made that political families are bad, especially in this society which is supposedly a meritocracy. But Andrew Sullivan -again, as far as I know- offers up no criticism of those other political families, the Kennedys, the Roosevelts, or even the Adamses, who trade on the family name and recognition for political prizes. And for the record, Andrew Sullivan is not the only person who irritates me when he does this; Keith Olbermann also committed a similar bias when he called out Hillary Clinton for going on Fox News and for not calling out Obama even though he had appeared on the channel 3 days before. That is not sound punditry, and in both Olbermann's and Sullivan's cases, it hurts their own credibility in their critique of Hillary Clinton -based not on sexism but just simply on an incredible bias.
And this has nothing to do with identity politics and everything to do with fairly and objectively criticizing a politician and a human being. So let us get to the second part of this, the identity politics. Say, some conservative woman was running for president. Phyllis Schlafly, Condoleeza Rice, Ann Coulter, or Laura Bush. I would not, ever, vote for any of these women for even the school board. They run the gamut from people I respect but disagree profoundly with to women whose very spot in the public eye makes me fume. If analysis of Ann Coulter focused mainly on her hair style or criticisms of her outfits, I would be just as mad as when this happened to Hillary Clinton. If Condoleeza Rice was called a bitch by another candidate's supporter, only to have that candidate laugh it off and say, "Good question", I would be irate. If Laura Bush's economic policy was ignored so joke after joke after joke could be made about how she made men cross their legs and how men didn't like her because she reminded them of their shrill first wife, I would see red. If Phyllis Schlafly was called a she-Devil and had devil graphics pop up every time her name was mentioned, I would react in disbelief and disapproval. Why? Because even though I disagree with these women, even though I would probably feel as though the country would go to hell in a handbasket if they were elected, it is still demeaning, dehumanizing, sexist, and wrong. These comments are reserved for women. These remarks that limit women are meant to make sure women know their place in society, and that place sure as hell isn't the leader of the United States of America. Because that is the sort of treatment no human being should be subject to, let alone a candidate for higher office.
You want to criticize Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, Condoleeza Rice, or any other woman in the national spotlight? Go right ahead. Do so with your grown up words, though, and not those crappy adolescent words like "bitch" or "whore". Do so by criticizing her actions, and refrain from criticizing actions she takes when other men have taken them without comment or reproach -or reproach and criticize men who take that path alongside your criticism of the woman. It isn't that difficult. It isn't that hard to treat women as equals, and not fall back into sexist, baseless, and ridiculous arguments. And this goes for all politicians and human beings; if Andrew Sullivan really dislikes Hillary Clinton for Hillary Clinton, it would do him some good to point out where her policies were flawed and by scraping the parts of his article that criticize Hillary Clinton for doing what countless politicians -including one running right now as the presumptive Democratic nominee- did without taking into account the hypocrisy of doing so. If you want to criticize Hillary Clinton's feminism, fine. But do so without pulling out Margaret Thatcher as your counterpoint of what a feminist rise to power looks like, because that does nothing to further the point that Hillary Clinton could have done it better. In fact, if you want to talk about what feminists should acknowledge or shouldn't acknowledge, maybe the first thing the writer should do is take a look at what feminists care about and not presume to know best who is or is not a feminist. If you want to make a case for how it is more feminist to rise to power without help than it is to enact feminist legislation or further a feminist agenda once in office, more power to you. But accept that feminists don't have to think that Clinton is a feminist dream soured, and that they may be just as right based on their own criteria as you feel you are based on your own. And let me make it absolutely clear that I do not -do NOT- think every criticism of Hillary Clinton is based in sexism or stems from sexism or connotes sexism. But some of it was, and some of it continues to be, and some of it will continue to be fostered upon women in the media in the same way with the same level of rebuke -which is to say very little. It affects Michelle Obama to this day, because we did not call it out when it happened to Hillary Clinton forcefully enough and strong enough and with important enough backers. If those people who made sexist remarks about Hillary Clinton -and now Michelle Obama- were given the Don Imus treatment, there would be much less overt and outright sexism in the news media. But that did not happen, and it should have.
I wanted Hillary Clinton to win, first and foremost, because I think she would have made an excellent president. I wanted Hillary Clinton to win because I think she is one of the best and brightest our country has to offer. I wanted Hillary Clinton to win because I calmly and objectively looked over much of what I cared about in relation to Clinton, Obama, and McCain, and decided that Hillary Clinton was my candidate. That isn't identity politics. It isn't not identity politics, but it isn't that Hillary Clinton has ovaries and so she was the one I chose. And yes, over time, the baseless attacks strengthened my desire to reach the Oval Office. But that also wasn't entirely about identity politics. It was based partially on how she handled the constant attacks based on little more than just her gender. And it was based, once again, on the fact that dealing with that level of criticism day in and day out only made me more aware of how extraordinary she was as a human being -and as a woman. I identified with what was being done to her; I recognized it as abuse on the basest level. But I would have done that if any woman, conservative or liberal, had been placed in that same situation.
At the same time, I fail to see exactly what is wrong with some of identity politics. It makes sense to say, "This is a person who cares about what I care about" as long as that thought has voting records and a history to back it up. I'm not talking about the identity politics that led to George W. Bush getting elected because he was "ordinary folk" and couldn't deliver a speech, but real honest-to-God identity politics where the person in question is able to identify this candidate as being someone with a similar take on the issues and a similar outlook on how best to achieve their goals. That isn't about being a woman and connecting to a woman because year in and year out, women have had to play the identity politics game with no women in the field. Women are constantly being asked to identify with men politicians, with male characters, and with male stories. We constantly have to insert ourselves into the story when there are no females (or very few females) on the horizon . So to suggest that I -or countless other women- were drawn to Hillary Clinton through the identity politics of gender is to ignore how long and how many times women have had no woman on the scene -and we've done just fine countless times identifying with what we were given. And we'll do it again this year, and four years from now, and probably four years after that.