In the sun-drenched student center on the Pennsylvania State University campus here, a few days after Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont trounced Hillary Clinton in the New Hampshire Democratic primary last week, Renee Tillman, Melanie Suarez and Kamryn Sandidge were picking at their lunchtime salads when they were asked if they considered themselves feminists.
The three, all sophomores, shook their heads. “I couldn’t even tell you what a feminist is,” said Ms. Tillman, 19, who is African-American. She and her friends note that the nation already has a black president; they see themselves in a postgender world. As Ms. Sandidge, also African-American, said, “I don’t find gender that important.”
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A few tables away, Caela Camazine, a 19-year-old freshman, said she was “definitely” a feminist. Reproductive rights are her top priority, and the idea of a woman in the White House evokes her childhood dream of a career in medicine. It always bothered her, she said, when people referred to doctors as “he” or “him.”
“Having a female president to me means opening the door for that pronoun to shift,” she said. Yet she plans to vote for a man: Mr. Sanders.
It is as if Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, based partly on revealing the power of female voters, has instead revealed something else: a generational schism that threatens to undermine it. Mrs. Clinton lost the women’s vote in New Hampshire by 11 percentage points. Broken down by age, the results were even more striking: She led by 19 points among women 65 and older, but trailed by a huge margin, 59 points, among millennial voters, ages 18 to 29.
Gee, Hillary’s people skills aren’t serving her well when it comes to connecting to young people? Who’d have seen that coming?
You can almost forgive Hillary for being so off the mark here. Establishment Democrats truly believe that nothing has changed in the way of racial, ethnic, or gender equality in the last sixty years. In fact, their entire electoral strategy is pretty much based on convincing the voters that it’s 1956. Young female voters who’ve had an African-American president since they were drinking juice boxes and watching Hannah Montana definitely aren’t buying it.
Many think Bernie’s appeal is in the constant promise of free stuff to a portion of the electorate too young to understand that’s a lie, and much of it certainly is. However, the biggest difference between the Democratic front-runners is in level of authenticity.
Hillary has none.
Everything she says and does comes across with a calculation that doesn’t appeal to the voters of the party that’s goes after emotion and nothing else.
Bernie may be insanely wrong about everything, but one can easily tell that he believes in everything he’s saying with every fiber of his being. In the battle between the judgmental grandma who trots out an octogenarian to slut shame young women into voting for her and the crazy uncle who keeps promising that this next birthday will be your best ever, the latter will win every time.
Another thing at play here is the fact that Hillary Clinton isn’t a real feminist, or even an empowered woman. She’s where she is solely because she rode the coattails of two extremely successful men who publicly embarrassed her, one personally and the other professionally. She’s an old-school Democrat who views people as members of voting blocs and not individuals.
To her horror, young, free-thinking American women are, well, thinking freely.