In 2008, Hillary Clinton was a female, and she was presidential candidate, but she didn't—as The New York Times puts it—run "as a female candidate." That's going to change in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential race.
"Mrs. Clinton's potential to break what she has called 'the highest and hardest glass ceiling' is already central to her fledgling 2016 presidential campaign," the Times reports.
After a relatively quiet public schedule this year, Mrs. Clinton planned to deliver a paid speech at a women's conference in Silicon Valley on Tuesday—the first in a series of addresses in the coming weeks focused on women. Ever since the birth of Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky, in September, Mrs. Clinton has infused her public comments with references to being a new grandmother.
And some of her longest-serving advisers are open about their intention not to repeat what they see as one of their most crucial mistakes from the 2008 primaries. Ann Lewis, a senior adviser in that race, called the decision not to accentuate Mrs. Clinton's gender—which ceded the mantle of barrier-breaker entirely to Barack Obama—the "biggest missed opportunity" of that primary contest. "It was not a major theme of the campaign," Ms. Lewis said.
"I think she clearly understands this time the significance of having a woman president of the United States," said Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, who served as Mrs. Clinton's campaign chairman in 2008. He added that Mrs. Clinton's gender was "a tremendous asset."
The decision to run more emphatically as a female candidate is rooted in a strategic assessment of the demands of this campaign and of a changing country. With Republicans determined to portray Mrs. Clinton as an aging relic—she will turn 69 just before Election Day next year—her supporters believe her campaign offers a powerful rejoinder to the charge that she does not represent change.
I'm pretty sure I've never earnestly accused anyone of "playing the X card," but this is one case where that phrase, with all the negative connotations it carries, is entirely apt. Clinton is planning to play the gender card to distract from the rest of her crummy status-quo hand. And Clinton's folks seems to be banking on Republicans to help them with the sleight:
Indeed, the people in Mrs. Clinton's orbit have come to believe that gender is far more an advantage to her this time around, in part from seeing the degree to which some Republicans have hurt themselves in recent elections on charged subjects like rape.
Her 2016 campaign, they suggested, is far more likely to seize on opportunities to stoke outrage if someone asks, as a woman in the crowd did at one videotaped John McCain event in 2007, "How do we beat the bitch?"
There's certainly nothing wrong with Clinton highlighting women's issues, or pointing out shitty sexism when it arises, but—as with all things Clintons—the focus feels entirely forced and opportunistic.
Anyway, there's what we can look forward to (a term I use very loosely) from the Clinton campaign in the coming months. Clinton advisers also told the Times she'll "weave gender into matters of economic fairness and opportunity," by concentrating on things such as paid family leave.