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With Girlfriends Like These

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright introduces Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at a campaign event at Rundlett Middle School, in Concord, N.H., Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (Jacquelyn Martin/ AP)
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright introduces Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at a campaign event at Rundlett Middle School, in Concord, N.H., Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (Jacquelyn Martin/ AP)
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With girlfriends like these…

Stumping for Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire last week, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don't help each other.”

Does that consign my 90-year-old Bernie Sanders-loving mother to eternal damnation? Am I traitor for supporting Barack Obama after the 2008 Iowa caucus?

It gets worse.

My daughter is not gloating and I am not distraught. We will continue to support different candidates for the Democratic nomination without rancor and without challenging each other’s feminist cred.

In an interview with HBO host Bill Maher, writer and activist Gloria Steinem sounded like your peevish great aunt at Thanksgiving.

“Women are more for [Hillary Clinton] than men are,” said Steinem. “First of all, women get more radical as we get older... Men tend to get more conservative because they gain power as they age, and women get more radical because they lose power as they age.”

She went on to say, “When you’re young, you’re thinking, where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.”

My 30-year-old loudly and proudly feminist pro-Bernie daughter is furious.

“I don't even know where to start with this,” Emilia says, pointing out that Ms. Steinem’s own feminism was forged among young women during the 1970s. Recently, young women have been the prime movers of the Black Lives Matter movement. “For God’s sake,” says my daughter, “Elizabeth Cady Stanton was only 25 when she first got involved in the suffrage movement.”

These pronouncements from icons on high make me mad, too. But my anger is salted with sadness. Trump, Cruz, Rubio and the rest of the GOP candidates couldn’t have engineered a more pungent stink bomb to distract attention and energy away from the fact that feminists of all descriptions will have to unite. At stake is the right to choose, the health of the planet, and movement toward racial justice.

Given the dimension of Sanders’s New Hampshire win, I doubt the Albright-Steinem kerfuffle had much to do with the outcome of the primary. No surprise here: Bernie has been leading in the Granite State for months.

Gloria Steinem, pictured in Oct. 2015. (Greg Allen/ AP)
Gloria Steinem, pictured in Oct. 2015. (Greg Allen/ AP)

My daughter is not gloating and I am not distraught. We will continue to support different candidates for the Democratic nomination without rancor and without challenging each other’s feminist cred.

I love and respect her enthusiasm for Sanders. I fully understand why she and so many of her friends (and mine) feel the Bern, I’m there. And I have to admit that my reasons make me feel old — just not how Gloria Steinem meant it. I am with Hillary Clinton because she’s smart and experienced and won’t dismantle the safety net. But the main reason I support the former first lady/senator/secretary of state is because I still think she’s the one with the chops to keep the White House from going Republican.

I believe that Bernie Sanders is right about the unfairness of American capitalism and the need to raise taxes on the 1 percent. I like how he’s outraged and blunt and appears to be flying by the seat of his pants. Medicare for all is a great idea. I appreciate the fact that he has no ties to Wall Street. Many who support Bernie acknowledge the fact that he would have virtually no chance of winning the presidency; the rest may be pinning their hopes on extraterrestrial intervention, but that’s their right.

In the early run-up to the 2008 presidential race, I was an enthusiastic Hillary supporter. I was excited at the prospect of a woman as president and she was a strong candidate. The nomination was hers to lose; the word “coronation” was used back then, too. The GOP seemed nervous about running against her. (And I think they still are.)

...feminists of all descriptions will have to unite. At stake is the right to choose, the health of the planet, and movement toward racial justice.

From the first time I heard Obama (in Boston at a rally for Deval Patrick’s gubernatorial run), I was impressed with his demeanor, ideas, language and intelligence. But I didn’t change horses until I was convinced that he was a viable nominee and a creditable candidate. There was too much at stake to bet on a hopeless long shot eight years ago, and there is even more at stake now that the GOP has embraced xenophobia as a party platform and promotes the disenfranchisement of vast numbers of U.S. citizens: the old, the young, black and brown folks, ex-offenders, naturalized immigrants, poor people.

Bernie’s doing well, but he has yet to inspire a sea change of Obamic proportions. I suppose that might change, but there’s a chance he could turn out to be another George McGovern.

So I’m staying with Hillary this time. Not because she’s a woman and not only because she will be a formidable candidate, but because she does not believe that government is the eighth horse of the Apocalypse. She would never privatize Social Security or gut the Affordable Care Act. I will be able to support her Supreme Court appointments.

And there’s more. Hillary Clinton has spoken out for the needs of women and girls in the U.S. and around the world. Through her long, distinguished and checkered career as a political animal, she has walked the feminist walk, even when she was being too careful to talk the feminist talk. She will be a good president.

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Anita Diamant Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
A Boston-based journalist and author, Anita Diamant has written 12 books, including the bestselling novel, "The Red Tent," which has been published in 25 countries and 20 languages.

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