Hillary Clinton has been advised to do a lot of things on the campaign trail: smile more, speak with a softer voice, stop being so mad. Bernie Sanders's campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, adds another one to the list: have less ambition.
Sanders camp. mgr tells Clinton campaign: Don't destroy Dem. party to satisfy the Sec.'s ambitions to become POTUS https://t.co/BNott2SxRT— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) April 6, 2016
After Sanders won the Wisconsin primary Tuesday night, CNN's Jake Tapper asked Weaver whether the Sanders campaign is prepared for a tougher, possibly more negative campaign. Weaver countered, however, that the Clinton camp needs to stop going on the attack.
"This is what I would say to them, which is, you know, don't destroy the Democratic Party to satisfy the secretary's ambitions to become president of the United States," Weaver said. "We want to have a party at the end of this we can unify. Let's have a tough debate. Let's talk about the issues — there's a sharp contrast between the two of them. But let's not denigrate other people's supporters and tear the party apart."
How audacious of Clinton (who remains the party's frontrunner) to want to win her race! It's not like she's been called "one of the most broadly and deeply qualified presidential candidates in modern history," or spent time in the White House, or organized one of the most powerful fundraising operations in the election. Seems like someone sprinkled a bit too much presidential ambition in her oatmeal this morning, amiright?
When asked by CNN's Chris Cuomo to comment on Sanders's assertion that her ambitions are "destroying the Democratic Party," she simply took a moment for a hearty laugh. After catching her breath, she called the idea that she's too ambitious "ludicrous" and went on to tout her work defending and fundraising for the party for the past 40 years.
Of course criticism about Clinton is expected from her opponent's campaign manager. And while some male candidates are called "too ambitious," women's ambitions are often conflated with selfishness.
Weaver's comments don't exist in a vacuum. They reflect the classic gendered critiques made of powerful women. While leadership and likability go hand in hand for men, the opposite is true for women. Study after study shows that women are often punished for seeking positions of power and are less likely to be promoted for those roles despite having equal or better skills than their male counterparts.
In fact, Weaver's description of Clinton fits so neatly into the stale sexist stereotype about powerful women that there's an actual Onion article from 2006 called "Hillary Clinton Is Too Ambitious to Be President." Ten years later, it seems like instead of progressing on female leadership, we're even farther away from reckoning with it.
Clinton knew smashing the glass ceiling of presidential politics would be arduous, but she probably didn't know it would include seeing a decade-old Onion headline become reality.