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No, Women Are Not Obliged to Vote for Hillary

“There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”

It’s one of Madeline Albright’s most famous lines, and she’s brought it out on any number of occasions. Starbucks even put it on a coffee cup. I understand why. It’s eminently quotable and suggests a kind of tough-minded sisterhood that can be appealing. I can see its ready application, for example, when helping a drunk friend get home safely from a party or when holding another mom’s infant so she can use the restroom in peace.

Albright’s comment reveals the truth about politics.

But Albright should have been a lot more careful before she applied her signature line to what she sees as an obligation for women to vote for Hillary Clinton in the democratic primaries. Because the minute that you take her line out of the context of relationships among people and move it to the political context it loses whatever tough-minded charm it has, and it becomes a bullying, sexist, prescriptivist piece of obnoxious nonsense.

I don’t believe in hell, so threatening me with it has never had much purchase. But to the best of my understanding, for religions that do believe in hell, the things that get people sent there are sins against God or against other people. Taking a political action that someone doesn’t agree with (voting for someone other than Hillary Clinton) doesn’t seem to fit that bill in any way. Suggesting that it does mingles church and state in ways that sit uncomfortably with long American traditions.

And even if voting in a way that Albright thinks is wrong is a sin that leads to damnation, if Albright really is a believer in eternal torment and hellfire, she should probably be led by the many New Testament verses that counsel believers to use gentle correction and instruction toward those who have gone astray.

If Albright isn’t a believer in eternal torment and hellfire, she might be well advised to keep theology…

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