I think it’s completely fair for Clinton fans to argue that Hillary Clinton has the strongest record on women’s issues of the major candidates in the race and to decide that that’s a good reason to support her. On the other hand, nobody should walk away from this conversation with the idea that the image of Clinton as the least-liberal candidate overall is the result of some kind of smear campaign waged against her by male bloggers.
She and her husband have consistently and self-consciously identified themselves as members of a centrist or third way wing of the Democratic Party over a period of years. That’s not an accusation to be leveled against them, that identification was at the core of the Clinton political strategy in Arkansas, throughout the Clinton presidency, and through Clinton’s term in the Senate right up until the moment when she found herself challenged in a primary election by two candidates running to her left, when she began to fudge a bit. She’s part of the DLC leadership team, her husband helped found the organization, her chief political strategist is the DLC’s pollster, etc., etc., etc.
I know good people (my girlfriend, for example) with career-long associations with the centrist wing of the party but they, like Hillary Clinton, are less liberal overall than your average Democrat. That’s the whole idea of the enterprise. They’re progressive, they’re on the left, but less so than others. It would hardly be unprecedented for the Democrats to nominate a candidate DLC Democrat — one was president from 1992-2000 — and I’m not nearly as hostile to the New Democrat approach as some people I know but that is, in fact, Clinton’s approach. The view that Clinton’s leadership on women’s issues outweighs other things is perfectly legitimate (I don’t think telling people to be less interested in what they’re interested in, and more interested in what I’m interested in makes sense) as is the view that a centrist approach is what’s best for the country. Less legitimate is deciding that Clinton’s twenty previous years as someone who’s positioned herself as less liberal than your average Democrat never happened.