Hillary Clinton wants to be the America’s first woman president. No surprises there. She also wants to be the first family-friendly woman president, someone who is for the little guy or gal raising a child, working at the family business, getting married – as seen in her launching video, Getting Started.
It’s a very nice video, to be sure. Expensive, no doubt, and it ticks a few boxes for the family values crowd – marriage, mom, dad and child, married Black couple, stay-at-home-mom, starting a family business, hard-working man (dad?) – but what it gives, or suggests, with one image it takes back with another. In short, it fails to convince.
On the contrary, it convinces those who never thought of Hillary as a champion of the family that she is as far away from earning that accolade as ever. Here are the reasons that President Hillary Clinton will not be the first woman, family values Democrat to win the White House.
She is confused about marriage. It’s true that there is a plug for marriage in her video, but it’s gay “marriage”: two guys are looking forward to their wedding day. We are also shown a happy lesbian couple. Hillary has always supported gay rights, but like Barack Obama she has “evolved” on the gay marriage issue. In 1996 she backed President Bill Clinton’s Defense of Marriage Act which defined marriage so as to preclude same-sex couples. It was not until March 2013 that she came out with a clear endorsement of marriage for gay and lesbian couples. She has bought into the line that marriage is about recognising a couple’s love, not about a potentially generative union of man and woman. Is she really convinced, or was this a calculated political move?
It takes a whole family to raise a child. Hillary famously wrote a book called It Takes a Village to Raise a Child but, as she acknowledged herself, it first of all takes a family. It normally takes more than a single mother, and yet the first portrait in her video is of a woman, full of chutzpah, about to move house so that her daughter can start school in a better area. No father in sight here, nor in the cameo of the stay-home mom about to go back to work after five years “raising my children”. Or in another frame with just kids and a mom showing.
True, there is a Black married couple (he has a wedding ring) expecting a baby and another couple with their daughter. There is also an apparently childless couple with a cat and a dog. The take home message of the promo is that, as the cliché goes, families come in all shapes and sizes. There’s no norm, no ideal. Sorry, Hillary, you won’t build a stronger, happier America with that attitude.
Children come second, or third, not first. The worst thing about relativising the married mom and dad family is what it does to the children. Children have a right to be born in a manner that respects their human dignity, and to be reared by their own parents unless death or some other compelling circumstance makes this impossible. The idea that fathers are an optional extra is damaging for children. The idea that a couple of gay men are entitled to children – as the status of marriage implies – means that children are virtually manufactured and can end up never knowing their real mother and father. There is no way the village can compensate for these fundamental wrongs.
Women come first, even when it means killing their babies. Hillary’s pitch is, above all, to women. The notion of women’s rights is one of her great themes and, in particular, reproductive rights. As she said at the UN last year: “You cannot make progress on gender equality or broader human development, without safeguarding women’s reproductive health and rights. That is a bedrock truth.”
And reproductive rights includes abortion: Speaking for the Obama administration in 2009 she reiterated a famous phrase: “We happen to think that family planning is an important part of women’s health, and reproductive health includes access to abortion, that I believe should be safe, legal, and rare.”
Apart from the blatant assault on children’s rights that her position entails, it is not clear that all the activity she champions under the heading of reproductive rights is what women themselves want. In fact, it is certain that some of them do not see contraception and abortion as the answer to the health, financial or relationships problems that they themselves or other women have. This is particularly true of women in developing countries. When all is said and done, abortion is killing and cannot be the “bedrock” of a healthy family culture.
Where is the village? There’s a whole layer of American life missing from Hillary’s video. Between her and the grassroots folks there’s a space across which she proposes to reach with a maternity leave law and fiscal policies and a few other things. But where is civil society: the voluntary service groups, sports clubs, the church – the institutions that have supported strong family life in the past? It may not be her fault that these are fading from the lives of Americans, especially the lives of the poor whom she is so concerned about, but ignoring their role in a healthy society is only going to make things worse.
One pundit has suggested that Hillary’s opening gambit marks “the moment when the Democrats officially became the party of family values.” I don’t think so.
Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet.