In an election cycle as long and strange as 2016’s, there is plenty of room for counterintuitive journalistic takes. But in a long piece arguing that Hillary Clinton does not represent progressive or non-white women, who thus will not really share in her triumph if she wins, The Atlantic’s Emma Green has taken some extreme liberties with the available evidence. One can, of course, as Green has done, track down and interview enough anti-Clinton or lukewarm-pro-Clinton women to give the impression they — not the vast numbers of their peers who sure seem excited about a Clinton presidency —are representative. You can conduct the same exercise in exploring the views of anti-Trump conservative white evangelicals. But assertions backed by anecdotes do not make for a persuasive case. Here’s Green’s key claim:
[W]omen have been twice silenced in this election: Once by Donald Trump and his allies, who have dismissed his demeaning behavior toward women as “locker-room talk,” and the other by Clinton and her supporters, who have pushed a narrative that she is both the symbol and champion of women’s progress. The second is subtler, and in no way equivalent to Donald Trump’s comments on women. But for some women who don’t feel represented by Clinton—specifically those on the left, along with women of color—this experience has been alienating.
The key word in that last sentence is “some.” After a long and ideologically charged presidential primary contest that revolved around Bernie Sanders’s suggestions that Hillary Clinton was insufficiently progressive, you can always find left-bent voters — women and men — who are less than enthusiastic about Clinton, or the Democratic Party in general. But it’s reasonably clear that progressive women were significantly more likely than progressive men to find themselves in Clinton’s camp. That was, after all, the whole subtext of the “Bernie Bros” controversy: women being attacked for supposedly letting their gender identity rather than their views on globalization or economic inequality control their candidate preference.
While it is possible to disagree about the extent of satisfaction or disappointment among progressive women about the prospect of Hillary Clinton’s being elected president, when it comes to women of color we have some solid data that Green entirely ignores. By any measurement, African-American and Latino women were among Clinton’s strongest supporters in her primary battle with Bernie Sanders.
An unusually detailed breakdown of the exit-poll data by race and gender in four early 2016 primaries shows Clinton beating Sanders among black women by margins of 93/5 in Alabama, 86/13 in Georgia, 86/13 in Texas, and 85/15 in Virginia. In the one state in this group with a statistically significant Latino population, Texas, she beat Sanders among Latinas 72/27. Florida’s another state with large African-American and Latino populations: The exit polls there showed Clinton winning black women 79/20 and Latinas 76/24. Are those states too pro-Clinton for your taste? Consider Bernie’s big upset state, Michigan. Clinton won black women there 66/28.
Examine this paragraph from Green with these numbers in mind:
Especially because Trump has so little support among black voters, it’s often assumed that Clinton has “black women in her pocket,” said Amaryah Armstrong, a theology Ph.D. student at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Earlier this year, women on Twitter started the hashtag #GirlIGuessImWithHer, expressing reluctant support and feelings of distance from Clinton. “It’s everything from how much she spent on her suits and jackets—that’s so far from any reality that I have,” said Leapheart.
The assumption that Clinton is popular among black women is not actually just based on their antipathy to Donald Trump. It’s based on the fact that such a high percentage of them voted for her in a very competitive nomination contest. Is Clinton an ideal candidate from the perspective of African-American, Latino, or progressive women? Probably not. But ideal candidates don’t often come along, and if we are talking about viable women running for president, this is the only one who has ever come along, sad to say. It is an odd time to argue she is disappointing progressive or minority women.