Clinton Supporters Scold Younger Women For Supporting Bernie Sanders

Hillary Clinton's campaign and its supporters seem to be getting frustrated by the fact that younger women are seemingly more interested in her opponent than in her.

Clinton Sanders Debate

Two prominent supporters of Hillary Clinton are essentially scolding younger women who are backing Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton for essentially being disloyal to their gender:

Hillary Clinton’s older feminist supporters have a message for young women who are not backing her candidacy: Shame on you.

Women were expected to help power Mrs. Clinton to the Democratic nomination, but as she struggles to overcome a tough challenge from Senator Bernie Sanders, her support among them has been surprisingly shaky. Young women, in particular, have been drawn to the septuagenarian socialist from Vermont, and the dynamic has disappointed feminists who dreamed of Mrs. Clinton’s election as a capstone to the movement.

Two feminist icons of Mrs. Clinton’s generation made their frustration known over the weekend, calling on young women who view Mr. Sanders as their candidate to essentially grow up and get with the program.

While introducing Mrs. Clinton at a rally in New Hampshire on Saturday,Madeleine Albright, the first female secretary of state, talked about the importance of electing the first female president. In a dig at the “revolution” that Mr. Sanders often speaks of, she said that the first female commander in chief would be a true revolution. And she scolded any woman who felt otherwise.

“We can tell our story of how we climbed the ladder, and a lot of you younger women think it’s done. It’s not done,” Ms. Albright said of the broader fight for women’s equality. “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”

Mrs. Clinton laughed, slowly clapped her hands and took a large sip of her beverage.

In an attempt to explain Mrs. Clinton’s struggles with female voters in New Hampshire, Ms. Albright said during an NBC interview on Saturday that women could be judgmental toward one another and that they occasionally forgot how hard someone like Mrs. Clinton had to work to get where she is.

Ms. Albright’s remarks were not the only instance of an older generation of feminist frowning on younger women who do not consider the potential election of Mrs. Clinton a special moment.

Gloria Steinem, one of the most famous spokeswomen of the feminist movement, took the sentiment a step further on Friday in an interview with the talk show host Bill Maher. Explaining how women tend to become more active in politics as they become older, she suggested younger women were just backing Mr. Sanders so that they could meet young men.

“When you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie,’ ” Ms. Steinem said.

Realizing that this was potentially offensive, Mr. Maher recoiled. “Oh. Now if I said that, ‘They’re for Bernie because that’s where the boys are,’ you’d swat me.”

But Ms. Steinem laughed it off, replying, “How well do you know me?”

Many female supporters of Mr. Sanders took issue with the remarks on social media, and her comments, along with those of Ms. Albright, could set off an intense debate within the feminist movement. For many older women, Mrs. Clinton represents the final and best chance to send one of their own to the White House, while young women think that should not be a decisive factor.

“Albright and Steinem trying to undo Feminism with a vengeance today,” Guen Page of Republic, Mo., who described herself as a “feminist for Bernie,” said on Twitter.

While neither Albright nor Stieinam are officially part of thse Clinton campaign, they are prominent surrogates for Hillary Clinton in the media and it’s worth noting that Clinton seemed to react to the comments Albright made introducing her. Additionally, Clinton’s 2016 campaign seems to have one notable difference from her 2008 campaign in that she is going further out of her way to note that electing her would mean the electing the first female President in American history. During her 2008 campaign, Clinton didn’t emphasize her gender, perhaps to some extent due to the fact that her primary opponent in that race could also make the claim that his election would also represent an historic moment in American history, and arguably a more significant one given the role race has played in the United States since before its independence. This time around, it seems as though mentioning her gender and the fact that she would be the first female President has become a standard part of her stump speech and something that she emphasizes on a regular basis. During the most recent Democratic debate, for example, she attempted to blunt Bernie Sanders’ argument that she has been too close to banking interests and Wall Street by saying that she can’t be considered part of the “establishment” because she is a woman, and answer that was largely universally panned as being utterly silly. These latest comments by two of Clinton’s most prominent surrogates, therefore, are consistent with one of Clinton’s most common themes in this election, but it seems as though they are more likely to backfire than to actually bring younger women to Clinton’s side.

It’s easy, I suppose, to see why Clinton’s campaign and her supporters might be frustrated with the fact that younger women are not flocking to Clinton’s banner. The former Secretary of State nearly lost the Iowa Caucuses, which produced a result so close that it has given new wind to Sanders sailed and started to raise new questions about Clinton’s campaign. On the national level, the one post- Iowa poll that we’ve seen has shown Sanders significantly closing the gap with Clinton, and in New Hampshire Sanders has maintained such a strong lead over Clinton that it is difficult to see how she can close the gap significantly in just the next 72 hours, never mind actually have a realistic chance of winning the state. The fact that younger women are backing Sanders is a significant part of the problems that Clinton is having right now, and if she could somehow win them back then it would go a long way toward getting the campaign back on track.

Arguments like those that Steinam and Albright are making, though, seem more likely to backfire against Clinton as they are to help the campaign. As a general rule, Clinton’s “vote for me because I’m a woman” theme during this election cycle has always struck me as an incredibly weak argument because it assumes that female voters think only in terms of gender and that they should simply get in line and support Clinton already. It’s an argument that is both patronizing and seemingly insulting to a group of voters who likely want to believe, and should believe, that they can think for themselves. Adding remarks like those from Albright, which suggests that women who support Sanders are traitors to their gender, and Steinam, who is basically saying that younger women are only supporting Bernie Sanders because they want to meet men, just makes it worse. The fact that the Clinton campaign is not disavowing or distancing itself from either set of comments is actually quite surprising since it seems as though these are the kind of comments that could turn off a voter enough that, while they may not end up voting Republican, they may end up being less enthusiastic for a Clinton candidacy than they might have been otherwise. As I’ve said before, Clinton still seems likely to be the Democratic nominee for President. In that case, she’s going to need every vote she can get to win the General Election. Primary campaign rhetoric that ends up turning off even a small portion of an important part of the Democratic electorate would thus seem to be counterproductive.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, Gender Issues, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Jeremy R says:

    That’s actually a pretty famous Albright quote that she’s repeated for decades. Wellesly sells t-shirts with it as she’s an alum:

    In this case, she probably doesn’t mean it this way, but in the past she’s explained the quote as the world being far more comfortable with mediocre men than mediocre women in positions of power, and so in order to achieve more equitable representation women who’ve already made it to the top need to help out those that follow.

  2. Jim R says:

    Perfect message for the shallow, vapid Clinton campaign. How embarrassing that this is the best the Democratic Party can come up with.

  3. Tony W says:

    @Jim R:

    How embarrassing that this is the best the Democratic Party can come up with.

    It’s not, Bernie Sanders is a very good option. After the $hit show we saw last night on the Republican side I don’t see how the D’s can lose

  4. Jim R says:

    I like Sanders, but he will never be allowed to win the nomination. Clinton will get her coronation, and I agree will likely coast to victory in the general based on the GOP being a complete dumpster fire. That doesn’t mean anyone should see this as a good thing for America.

  5. Slugger says:

    @Jim R: I am a lib-lib liberal and agree with you. Our current system is based on massive financing by PAC’s while feeding the American people inflammatory slogans that play to their basest fears. I think that money is the lifeblood of politics, and we need to break the power of the moneyed microminority that dominates. We also need to educate our people to understand that the issues of the twentyfirst century are complex, and anyone giving an answer appealing to the sensibilities of eleven year olds is trying to deceive you.
    My first idea to improve things is banning contributions of more than thousand bucks from any source. What solutions appeal to you?

  6. Tillman says:

    Reading some folks on Twitter, this is all forgivable since “BernieBros” are a thing. One second-wave feminist surrogate making a dumb remark on the stump is equivalent to however many hundreds or thousands of nasty political types pontificate on the Internet. This conveniently ignores that Clinton has a share of nasty political types on the Internet (I’m not equipped to guess the relative amount between them), but the cute slang to denote them is unspeakable and unwritable in polite company.

    However one works out the grievance calculus, these two events clearly mark the generational split in the Democratic party. Pundits want to go on about race and gender, but it is age that is significant. Again, this whole voting crap won’t work out the way it’s supposed to if the young turn out. That they’re turning out for a septuagenarian pinko is icing on the cake.

  7. Tyrell says:

    @Slugger: These campaigns are being controlled: we see that in the debates. Meaningful, important questions are not asked. It is all a diversion.

  8. ernieyeball says:

    …banning contributions of more than thousand bucks from any source.

    If I can only afford to donate $500 to the candidate of my choice and another citizen can afford to donate $1500 to the same candidate, can I appoint the other citizen to act as a proxy for me?
    That would be a total of $2000 donated to the same candidate by two citizens.
    Often donations are made to more than one candidate for the same office by the same source. Do you want to limit donations so one source can only hand out money to a single candidate for a given office?
    Is this $1000 limit going to apply to all votes in the election cycle? Will a citizen be able to donate $1000 to a candidate for president in a state primary election and then if said candidate wins the partys nomination for president will another $1000 gift be allowed?
    Maybe you can post up a draft of the state/federal legislation that will accomplish this limit and we can all see how it will work.

  9. edmondo says:

    I wonder what place in Hell Ms. Albright thinks she might end up in for killing children?

    On May 12, 1996, Albright defended UN sanctions against Iraq on a 60 Minutes segment in which Lesley Stahl asked her “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” and Albright replied “we think the price is worth it.”

    Millionaire, warmonger, former Clinton retainer. I guess she’s not “part of the establishment” either?

  10. Gustopher says:

    Clinton Supporters Scold Younger Women For Supporting Bernie Sanders

    Why “scold” rather than “berate” or “criticize”?

    The word “scold” has a long history of being applied to women in a pejorative way — the scolding wife, the mother scolding the children, the scold. It suggests irrationality, and specifically a feminine irrationality.

    It’s a word that has a very different meaning when applied to men and women (although you can argue that when applied to a man, it is suggesting that they are as irrational as an angry woman). It’s like how a picture of George W. Bush as a monkey suggests he’s a bit dim and resembles Curious George, but a picture of Obama as a monkey suggests hundreds of years of offensive racist imagery.

    The original article also uses “scold”, but choice of language often betrays our internal prejudices more readily than we can acknowledge them. Sometimes it’s just a casual reflection of the culture, where you see a word used in a context and repeat it in a similar context without even thinking about it.

    I’m betting we are going to see “scold” and “nag” used a lot this election season. Probably a few “harpy” sightings too.

  11. Gustopher says:

    remarks like those from Albright, which suggests that women who support Sanders are traitors to their gender, and Steinam, who is basically saying that younger women are only supporting Bernie Sanders because they want to meet men, just makes it worse.

    I support Bernie Sanders just to meet young men interested in older, cantankerous and crotchety men…

    But Steinam can be an idiot sometimes. I think there is some frustration with early feminists that the current crop thinks that while the world isn’t equal yet, it’s close enough that other issues take priority sometimes.

  12. Gustopher says:

    @Tony W: I’m pretty sure that a lot of Republicans weren’t thinking of the debate as a $hitshow. They like their candidates, which is a little frightening.

    And if they like their candidates, they are going to turn out at the polls. Clinton is not going to have an easy victory due to Republican craziness — crazy works for those people.

  13. Slugger says:

    @ernieyeball: Thank you for your analysis. My off-the-cuff remarks were not well thought out. I do think that this political season shows that we need a serious national discourse regarding the changes we obviously need.

  14. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Gustopher: What I’ve heard over the years from my female students (who, because they go to community college, are more often in the lower half of the middle class) is that the problem they see with movement feminism is that it is a club that is no longer seeking members.

    And, of course, to some degree they may be right. Feminism seems to focus on the portions of the female cohort that aren’t getting the opportunity to “have it all” and less on the difficult problem of the portion that “hardly gets any”, let alone “all”, or even “enough.”

    But it is important to remember the words of Patsy Schroeder: “Of course this is important, after all, she’s not some big hair trailer park woman…”

  15. Tillman says:

    @Tillman: On the Bernie Bros thing, this article linked by LGM is a good primer.

  16. Todd says:

    This is a losing strategy for Clinton. Every time she plays the “I’m a woman” card it just grates on me. It’s especially galling to be called a “sexist” for supporting Bernie Sanders. There’s one very inconvenient fact that makes that accusation fairly hollow: the great majority of Bernie Sanders’ supporter would be just as (if not more) excited if it was Elizabeth Warren running against Clinton. So I’m sorry, but lack of enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton likely has very little to do with her gender.

  17. Ben Wolf says:

    Didn’t Clinton endorse Cuomo against Zephyr Teachout (a woman)?

  18. An Interested Party says:

    I’m betting we are going to see “scold” and “nag” used a lot this election season. Probably a few “harpy” sightings too.

    Lets not forget “hag”, “crone”, “harridan”, and “bitch”, among many others…never underestimate the misogyny of many Hillary Haters…

  19. bloated sack of protoplasm says:

    @Slugger:..Thank you for your analysis.

    gracias…I do what I can.

  20. joe damico says:

    A vote for Bernie is a vote for the republicans. Now had Bernie not put democratic socialists with his name maybe not. Some people just will not vote for anyone with the word socialists in it.
    I like Bernie but I know if I vote for him its just a vote for the GOP and really him or Clinton will not get done what they say, Clinton has a better chance as she is not going as far as Bernie just giving everything free and we wont have the house back so its just not going to happen. Sorry Bernie but we just cant afford to put a republican in office.

  21. Jenos Idanian says:

    Hillary’s really good for fighting for women.

    Unless they’re conservative women.

    Or they’re saying bad things (usually true) about her husband.

    Then they don’t count. Hell, Hillary was in charge of going after the “bimbo eruptions” and led the campaigns to destroy Gennifer Flowers and Monica Lewinsky, who had the gall to sleep with her husband and not lie about it.

    Also, her “fighting” is notorious for not actually achieving anything. What did she do for equal pay when she was in the Senate? Did the women on her staff make as much as men?

    How about in the State Department?

    How about in her campaign?

    Hillary’s “special place in hell” is reserved and waiting for her.

  22. Andre Kenji says:

    I remember 2002. When I heard that Bush wanted to start a war against Saddam Hussein, I IMMEDIATELY thought that the idea was incredibly stupid. I thought that Bush wasn´t serious about the proposal, I didn´t believe that Bush would be THAT stupid.

    And I was TWENTY ONE years old at the time.

    And Hillary voted to support that war. People won´t forget that vote.

  23. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Andre Kenji: No, Hillary didn’t vote to support the war. She voted to support Bush’s bluff about war. She had no idea he was actually serious. She was totally against the war.

    Her defense is that she wasn’t wrong, she was just stupid.

    It’s a common theme for her…

  24. gVOR08 says:

    @Tyrell: It’s not necessary to invoke conspiracy theories for what can be explained by careerism, ratings, and a need to please corporate masters.

  25. Jim R says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    And Hillary voted to support that war. People won´t forget that vote.

    Nor should they.

  26. Jenos Idanian says:
  27. DrDaveT says:


    Why “scold” rather than “berate” or “criticize”?

    Ding ding ding! Well spotted.

    We are so pathetically primitive.

  28. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Gustopher: Why “scold” rather than “berate” or “criticize”?

    Um… perhaps because Ms. Albright made her threat/appeal exclusive to Vagino-Americans, thus setting in people’s minds to think of this in a strictly female-oriented context?

    When you live by identity politics, you can’t object when others identify you by your chosen identity.

  29. grumpy realist says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: It’s the “I deserve being the POTUS because it’s MY TURN!!” vibe that drives me nuts.

    And I’m female, white, single, 55, and voting for Bernie Sanders. Getting harangued by Gloria Steinem and accused of Treason Against The Party? So what? I’ve already put in my dues as a feminist, getting a Ph.D. in physics. And I’m DAMNED if I’m voting for Hillary to support some form of all-us-girls-should-stick-together group solidarity effort. Eff that. Where were you people when I was getting accused of collaboration with the patriarchy for using math and equations?


  30. Jenos Idanian says:

    @grumpy realist: For the first — and possibly last — time, I gave you a thumbs -up for your comment.

    You join Darleen Click in your sentiment, and you couldn’t be in finer company.

  31. DrDaveT says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    Um… perhaps because Ms. Albright made her threat/appeal exclusive to Vagino-Americans, thus setting in people’s minds to think of this in a strictly female-oriented context?

    And a strictly female context makes it a ‘scold’ and not a ‘criticism’?

    Just keep digging, JI. You make everyone else’s points for them, like clockwork.

  32. Joecu says:

    Don’t you old biddies scold the young chicks! They are smarter than you old biddies.
    They want a president that is going to make a difference.

  33. Jenos Idanian says:

    @DrDaveT: I rather liked the observation that in New Hampshire, female voters showed their independence and asserted their right to vote for the candidate of their choice, rejecting the plantation mentality that says members of certain groups have some kind of obligation to obey tribal loyalties. The New York Times had an article recently that said that Cruz and Rubio aren’t really authentic Hispanics, because they aren’t in favor of amnesty for illegal aliens.