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Think Hillary Clinton is pivoting to the center? Her new video sure isn’t.

It's a celebration of protests and difficult women.

Hillary Clinton

On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton became the first woman to (presumptively) win a major party's nomination for president of the United States.

That's both an ending — a shattering of the glass ceiling Clinton has so often referenced — and a beginning: of the general election in which she'll face Donald Trump.

So the video released by the Clinton campaign Tuesday to commemorate her achievement serves two purposes. It's the first message, in some ways, of her general election campaign.

But it's also a retrospective: It packs 100 years of women's rights (as Hillary Clinton presumably sees them) into less than three minutes.


There's a lot going on in this video. Clinton celebrates pioneering elected officials like Shirley Chisholm, Patsy Mink, and Margaret Chase Smith; highlights present-day protests from undocumented Latinas and black trans women; and quotes not one but three different girls and preteen women.

In some ways, that reflects some of the coalition she's built to win the nomination: Clinton's core of support is from older Democrats (particularly older women), but she's made a real effort to reach out to activists for racial justice, immigration, and LGBTQ rights. But there's more going on here than sheer tokenism.

You can tell at a glance that the video's diverse, but you can't immediately see that it's (in some ways) intersectional — attuned not just to women's rights but to women fighting for the rights of other marginalized groups.

The video may quote Gloria Steinem (who's fallen out of favor among some younger feminists for her at times tone-deaf support of Clinton), but it quotes her giving a 1971 speech in which she called for a feminism that addressed race and class as well.

The teen girl identifying herself as a "new suffragist" in voiceover is Madison Kimrey, who briefly became internet famous in 2013 when she gave a passionate speech attacking North Carolina's voter ID laws. The video features black trans* activists Blossom Brown and Cherno Biko; it also features Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, who's become involved in racial justice efforts after the death of her son.

Since none of the women in the video are identified by name or role, most viewers probably won't recognize all of them. They're basically Easter eggs for the politically aware. But that's significant in its own right: As she pivots to the general election, Hillary Clinton is making a point of featuring some of the core Democratic and progressive constituencies and issues that have gotten her here.

Even viewers who don't recognize many (or any) of the women in the video will notice something striking: Clinton is, time and again, celebrating activists. The images and videos are overwhelmingly from rallies and protests. And not just protests that are far enough in the past to be politically safe, like civil rights marches, but footage from racial justice protests of the past few years (which are often considered disruptive at best and associated with riots at worst).

No one in Clinton's video is a "normal" person, a civilian, just trying to live her life. They're all holding signs and making noise. They're all fighting the status quo, hard.

They're intended to be inspiring. They may be polarizing.

Compare that to the video last summer with which Clinton launched her primary campaign. It too was diverse, but all its subjects were very normal people living very normal lives — working, caring for family, expressing their hopes for the future. It was clearly intended to send the message that Clinton understood and cared about "people like you" — where "you" was as broad a term as possible.

In one way or another, Clinton's whole career (and "the Clintons'" whole career) has been built on a similar principle: breadth of appeal.

Bill Clinton came to power by eschewing the progressive, constituency-focused — some might say Balkanized — progressive Democratic politics of the 1980s for a center-left "New Democrat" politics that courted swing voters (moderate whites). Hillary Clinton, for her part, has traditionally presented herself as a moderate, a pragmatist, a sub-ideological technocrat. When she's a fighter, she's a fighter for all Americans; when she's relatable, she's relatable to as many people as possible.

The new video is hardly spiky or idiosyncratic. As long as you've bought into "the radical notion that women are people," you probably won't find much to object to. But it's hard to imagine that a video designed to feel relatable or broadly appealing would so celebrate women who made change by forcing other people to be uncomfortable. Hillary Clinton wants America to know that well-behaved women rarely make history, and she's celebrating the women who do.


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