The XX Factor

For Hillary Clinton, Feminism and Economic Policy Go Hand in Hand

Hillary Clinton on July 7, 2015, in Iowa City, Iowa.

Photo by David Greedy/Getty Images

This presidential cycle, leftier-than-thou liberals wary of Hillary Clinton are at least backing decent human being Bernie Sanders instead of nutty Ralph Nader, the left turn of yore. As Jonathan Allen at Vox explains, the strike against Clinton is that “she’ll eventually tack toward a ‘third way’ like President Bill Clinton”—which is to say that she’ll embrace neoliberalism and outright conservatism.

But her speech Monday at the New School sent an important signal about Clinton’s liberalism. As Matt Yglesias lays out (also in Vox), Clinton’s economic agenda tacks well to the left of her husband’s and of Barack Obama’s: She “is less inclined to favor a market-oriented approach than a left-wing approach, a real change from the past quarter century of Democratic Party economic policymaking.” Clinton is making organized labor a central component of her policy agenda, with aggressive policies aimed at increasing wages and an economic philosophy that, as Yglesias writes, “sets Clinton up for a much more vigorous regulatory approach than either the Obama or (especially) Clinton administrations took.”

What tends to get overlooked is that Clinton has something else on offer for liberals: She’s a strong feminist who takes advocacy for women and girls very seriously. Clinton injected feminism into her speech on Monday, noting the loss of female participation in the labor market and how we should strive to get more women working. “The United States used to rank seventh out of 24 advanced countries in women’s labor force participation,” Clinton explained. “By 2013, we’d dropped to 19th. That represents a lot of unused potential for our economy and American families.”

What makes the Clinton campaign especially interesting is that she pushes the narrative that women’s issues are inseparable from economic concerns. Sex discrimination, reproductive rights, equal pay, affordable child care, universal pre-K: All of these issues are fundamentally about the economic well-being and contributions of half the population—or much more than half, actually, since the policies that benefit women also benefit their male partners and families. As Clinton noted in her speech, “We can’t afford to leave talent on the sidelines.” Putting feminism at the center of your campaign is a brave move, but also an economically rational one.