Stupid to Slam Young Women

tumblr_nuivyqRpOD1uvablzo1_1280New Orleans    When real people get involved, predictions become worthless.

Take the Super Bowl as a good example. Many would have thought you had to be a sentimentalist or a hometown fan to really and truly believe that Denver with an injured, semi-geriatric quarterback and a team hardly able to score a touchdown in the red zone could beat the exuberant, almost undefeated Carolina Panthers led by an MVP QB who was larger at 6’5” 245 pounds than any player on the Green Bay team that won the first Super Bowl 50 years ago. The Manning family goes back to Drew, Mississippi and my mother’s roots and the Manning boys were raised in New Orleans, and I lived long stretches around Colorado, mainly on the western slope where my brother was also born, and in Denver for months at a time, summer after summer, so I was more Bronco than Panther and a sucker for a storybook finish, even as I understood that the Panthers and their star might be the future and a thorn in the side of the beloved New Orleans Saints.

In Iowa only 14% of the voters between 17 and 29 years old caucused for Hillary Clinton, while 84% went for Bernie Sanders. Like it or not, sports and politics fans, that means something. For all of the deserved criticism of football these days, there is never any confusion about winning and losing and whether the problems are on the field and not the stands. It’s the team, not the fans who shoulder the weight.

Like it or not, the same is true in politics. When asked many, many months ago by a reporter from The Nation to offer an opinion on how progressives saw Hillary Clinton, I felt lucky when the article didn’t mention my expressed concern on her candidacy: why weren’t women united and rallying as the bedrock of her base? Now more than six months later, the problems, if anything, are even worse and more worrisome.

An iron rule of organization is never blame the members. The same holds true in politics.What could anyone have been thinking to now encourage other women, almost surrogates to the campaign, to blame women, especially young women, for not supporting Clinton and instead being more excited about Sanders campaign? Is scolding and shaming supposed to change voters’ preferences and somehow mysteriously and miraculously move them to greater participation and devotion to Hillary? Hardly!

And, Gloria Steinem, longtime feminist speaker, writer, and activist, what the heck? For her to say on HBO that young women were essentially moving to Sanders not with their heads but their hormones because “that’s where the young boys are,” was belittling and, frankly, sexist. In the firestorm she has now ignited with this stupid and insulting comment, she has hurt not only Clinton, but women and the cause. In a retreat release, she now claims she misspoke and didn’t mean it and does believe that young women care about politics and more are feminists than ever before. Yeah, right, but for one minute does anyone believe that this was a slip of her tongue and that Gloria Steinem of all people didn’t perfectly plan that remark if the opportunity presented? Steinem is a lifetime veteran of the public forum and the fierce behind-the-scenes battles dating back to the National Student Association CIA Cold War days and certainly the constant debates of the feminist movement through the decades. She knew what she wanted to say, she said it to stir the waters and try to put a finger in the dike of young women’s slipping support for Clinton, and she said it as a decree from the pinnacle of the women’s movement that she firmly occupies and protects.

If Clinton and her team want to win, they can’t blame the voters. She has to convince and inspire them, not shame and scold. She has to be the vessel of hope for change and the future, not the finger waving teacher, coach, or parent, saying “get real,” settle for less, and be happy with what you have. Clinton has dreams, but she – and her team – have to make the dreams about others, not themselves, if they want to convince voters.

You win on the field based on how you and your team play, not by badmouthing the fans. Same for voters.