Mostly whimsical reflections on life
Hillary Clinton may be blowing by the issue that could warm up the affections of young women voters who for now are feeling the Bern of a 74-year-old male.
When Clinton spoke at the Oregon World Affairs Council last April, she talked passionately and convincingly about how empowering women and young girls in America and around the world was the most productive economic growth strategy on earth.
Yet, at the last Democratic debate, Clinton muffed a chance to make this point. When asked about why she wasn’t attracting support from young women, Clinton talked about record on behalf of women, not her vision for women. Few dispute Clinton’s credentials; many question her seeming lack of idealism.
Clinton has said no one, including women, should vote for her because she is a woman. Even so, her election as President would break the ultimate glass ceiling. She needs to articulate why it also would be barrier-busting.
At a time when many voters, young and old, feel economically insecure and cynical about “establishment” economic ideas, Clinton – or any other candidate – has the opportunity to advance a more compelling idea. Sanders talks of ending the rigged economy that benefits only the wealthy. Clinton could talk about empowering women to unleash a 21st Century wave of productivity gains that equals or exceeds what happened when women entered the workplace en masse in the 20th Century.
Candidates, including Sanders, have trotted out ideas to generate jobs that feel old school to young voters. Democrats talk about vast investments in infrastructure and creation of a clean energy industry. Republicans tout tax cuts and rolling back regulations. None of those ideas inspire young people whose vision of the future is obscured by a huge wall of college debt.
Paid sick leave, a higher minimum wage and child care benefits have the aroma of coping mechanisms, not a bright future in the minds of young women. Pay equity seems fair and obvious, but hardly liberating. Empowering women would take a different vision and deeper commitment.
On a stage in Portland, Clinton spoke of giving young girls unfettered access to education and women with innovative or entrepreneurial dreams access to the capital they need to turn them into realities. A woman-led economic revolution may carry a lot more emotional punch for young women than public works projects and replacing coal with solar panels.
The potential for women to drive economic growth is not a pipe dream. “Female entrepreneurs have untapped economic potential, and policymakers and relevant organizations need to empower them to pursue high-growth opportunities,” says Alicia Robb, a senior fellow at the Kaufman Foundation.
“By opening the doors for women to have greater access to bank, venture and angel financing and by preparing more women to become investors, we can engage this greatly underutilized resource in the engine of growth and innovation,” adds Vivek Wadhwa, who is affiliated with Stanford and Duke and works on entrepreneurship and research commercialization.
Clinton is the unique voice for this potentially transformative economic growth strategy. She has seen what access to quality education, levers of power and centers of money can mean. Her transit through this world may not be pristine, but it is a clear example of empowerment. She doesn’t need someone to write her talking points. Clinton can talk about this subject from her heart, which is exactly what has been missing in her campaign.
So why does her presidential campaign website settle for this:
Lift up participation in the workforce – especially for women. For too long, issues like equal pay, paid leave and affordable child care have been put off to the side as “women’s issues.” Hillary believes they are crucial to our competitiveness and growth – and to lifting incomes for working families.
Where is the bigger picture, the very picture Hillary herself painted in Portland, of women driving global economic expansion?
The Clinton campaign is struggling to find an appeal to women voters that works. Instead of searching for a special place in hell, they should look in Hillary’s heart for the issue that could make all the difference in winning the hearts of young women voters.