If you searched for a single headline that distilled what has been so depressing about feminist commentary on the 2016 election, you could do worse than pick this one, from The Guardian’s Lindy West, a writer I usually admire: “Hating Trump isn’t enough—we need to talk about why Clinton rules.” On the one hand, there’s the fixation on Trump’s awfulness, which is hardly a secret. On the other, there is the relentless cheerleading for Clinton, which sounds suspiciously like the desperate overselling of an underwhelming product. The piece accompanying the headline shares the defects common to the feminist pro-Clinton op-ed genre. In one short article, there are two long paragraphs about the sexism Clinton has suffered, but no attempt to probe into the policies she is proposing, or to grapple honestly with her actual feminist record.
Of course, most feminists—albeit with some notable exceptions—support Clinton in the presidential race. But though you’d never guess it from West’s piece and others like it, there’s a viable alternative both to outright opposition to Hillary and the happy talk of her feminist fans—one that is at once more intellectually honest and more politically constructive. Political theorist Nancy Fraser has dubbed it “critical support”: a vote for Clinton, combined with “vociferous criticism of her policies and explicit campaigning for Sanders-type alternatives.” Critical support, says Fraser, is “a strategy that looks beyond November to the ongoing struggle to build a new American left.”