Outsider Election: Hillary is the Ultimate Anti-Establishment Choice

By Tom Watson and Peter Daou

"Who can be more of an outsider than a woman president?" - Hillary Clinton

Consider a few numbers, if you will.

There have been 46 female senators of the United States. 20 of those are now serving, the all-time high-water mark. There have been 1,919 male senators in U.S. history. That’s 98 percent male.

There have been 3 female Secretaries of State in U.S. history and 65 men. That’s just above 95 percent male.

There have been 4 female Supreme Court justices in the United States, including 3 now serving on the bench, easily the greatest representation in history. There have been 108 male justices. That’s more than 96 percent male.

There have been 44 Presidents of the United States. All men. The math is easy: that’s 100 percent male.

While we appreciate the “outsider” presidential campaigns being run on the left and right sides of the political spectrum, this national election cycle has one candidate whose qualifications, policies and  personal attributes make her the ultimate anti-establishment choice.

Her name is Hillary Clinton.

Consider three key institutional obstacles Hillary is facing:

1. The political establishment – Although women comprise the largest single group of Democratic voters, they remain underrepresented in the very party that best represents women’s economic and social interests. Unfortunately, even as progressives, we recognize that women do not often reach the top rungs of our political ladder. The fact that Nancy Pelosi is the most accomplished legislator of the last three decades should be a signal to the Democratic Party and its liberal base that women should be promoted to the highest ranks and should comprise at least 50 percent of candidates for Congress and the State houses.

Just as Nancy Pelosi remains a historical outlier even in the early 21st century, so too does Hillary Clinton as the most viable female candidate for president in U.S. history. In all candor, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden (should he run) come from the 98 percent, in historical terms. And for the future of the Democratic Party and our society, that matters. 

2. The media establishment – Much of what we publish as #HillaryMen is aimed at confronting one of the great bastions of institutional gender bias in U.S. politics: our national media. We’ve diligently avoided overusing words like “sexism” and “misogyny” for fear of diluting their importance, so let Bernie Sanders speak the truth:

"I think for a variety of reasons, Hillary Clinton has been under all kinds of attack for many, many years. In fact, I can't think of many personalities who have been attacked for more reasons than Hillary Clinton. And by the way, let me be frank and I'm running against her: Some of it is sexist."

Indeed it is.

As we’ve written:

Sexism in 2016 is about something much more pervasive, much more nefarious. It is about the manic desire to take Hillary down because she is a woman and because she is the first woman in American history who appears to be on track to win the presidency. Sexism in 2016 is about the willingness (even the eagerness) of the national media, pundits and commentators to endlessly repeat carefully crafted, character-destroying narratives about Hillary with the intention of blocking her path to the White House.

In their desperation to undermine Hillary’s campaign, the national media have resorted to outright lying, pushing deceptive and dishonest poll results on an unsuspecting public with no reservations and no shame.

That is the establishment in action.

3. The commercial establishment – Yes, we’ve heard it a million times. Hillary is supposedly the “corporatist” candidate who represents the interests of Big Commerce. That her actual record of public service belies this cartoonish and inaccurate labeling – and the bullying style with which that judgment is often delivered – doesn’t matter to her critics.

The irony is that corporate America does not much value female leadership at the highest levels either. A 2015 CNN survey showed that less than five percent of S&P 500 CEOs are women. And only 14 percent of the top five jobs in those largest public companies are female. That is a lower percentage than the United States Senate.

Even in the corporate world, women are outsiders in the C-suite.

It is a telling signal that the corporate-owned media vehemently oppose Hillary’s candidacy. It belies the notion that she is corporate America's chosen candidate.

Simply stated: seeking power as a woman remains, in many ways, the ultimate anti-establishment act in the United States.

In an eloquent essay whimsically titled, “I’m a Hot Mess for Hillary," our friend Rebecca Traister tells a version of the personal story that we’ve heard from so many of our female colleagues and friends:

It is really important to me that we elect a competent, Democratic woman president. Not because of some hollow symbolic urge. But because the inverse—not electing a woman, again—is much more than symbolic. It reflects the worst of this country, how it systematically has kept power (even representation) from everyone but white men. 

Hillary Clinton herself is also really important to me. Not just because I've written a book about her. But because, in her role as a cultural and political lightning rod—a figure who's served as a stand-in for the ways her generation of disruptive women changed the world for my generation—she has bookmarked my adult life. I was 17 when she startled the country by refusing to apologize for having maintained a high-powered career separate from her husband's, 25 when she became senator from my state, and 32 when she first ran for president. Now I'm 40, and I'm still thinking about her.

We agree that Hillary is a stand-in for a generation of disruptive women; indeed, we’d say several generations. We reject the idea of a perfect candidate and therefore we do not require that such an impossible ideal be embodied in the first truly viable progressive female candidate for president. Hillary has flaws, as all humans do. Her positions are not always pleasing to every voter. People disagree with her; people may dislike her. But rejecting a woman as outstanding, accomplished and popular as Hillary Clinton is also rejecting the values, the people and the history she represents.

The patriarchy in public life is the establishment.

Hillary, more than any other candidate in the 2016 race, has proven herself capable of ending the status quo, of changing the paradigm that has been in place since our nation’s founding.

So yes, 2016 is an outsider cycle with Trump, Fiorina, Sanders and Carson receiving attention and support. However, it is Hillary’s wealth of knowledge and experience, her indomitable spirit, her singular character and importantly, her gender, that make her the best (and most anti-establishment) choice of all.


Peter Daou and Tom Watson founded #HillaryMen to provide actionable analysis of the 2016 campaign focusing on the gender barrier in U.S. politics. Peter is a former senior digital adviser to Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative. He is a veteran of two presidential campaigns (Kerry '04 and Clinton '08). Tom is an author and Columbia University lecturer who advises companies and non-profits on social activism.