If Hillary Clinton is elected president, Chelsea Clinton will be America's first daughter for a second time. She was just 12 when her father Bill Clinton became president in 1993. Now 35 and pregnant with her second child, she has become used to living in the public eye. She currently serves as vice-chair at the Clinton Foundation, the nonprofit humanitarian corporation started by her parents, and is an adjunct professor at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. She campaigned for her mother in 2008 and has reappeared on the trail for Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, Chelsea spoke to Cosmopolitan.com about her concerns about the Republican party, family bonding, and the biggest issues she believes young voters face today.
Why do you think Bernie Sanders appears to be resonating with the young so much, including young women? Are you surprised he came from behind with strong support? You'd have to ask someone who supports Bernie Sanders why they support him. I clearly so strongly support my mom. And for me, I think, a real progressive is someone who has a record of making progress. And my mom has a stronger and deeper record on fighting for reproductive rights, fighting for equal rights, fighting for early childhood education, fighting for the right of every child ... she helped create the children's health insurance program. She hasn't just talked about health-care reform, she's been engaged in creating health-care reform that has impacted the lives of millions and millions of American kids. She has a deeper and stronger record on foreign policy. She helped create the coalition that imposed sanctions on Iran that brought them to the negotiating table to cap their progress on nuclear fissile material development. It's about keeping our country safe but also creating more equal and equitable opportunity in our country, particularly for historically marginalized parts of society: women, minorities, LGBT community. I don't know how to answer that question, except to say that I think that my mother is a real progressive and has the real record of progress to prove that.
Donald Trump has called your dad an abuser of women, and your mom his enabler. What do you think of his attacks on your parents? I find what Donald Trump—and many of the Republicans, because it's not only Mr. Trump—say about Americans far more troubling than what he says about my parents. And people have been attacking my parents my whole life, so maybe I am just inured to that, but I tend to think that people who are at the forefront of progress do attract more negative attention from those who want to protect the status quo.
But what I have found surprising and really disturbing in this election cycle is the broad-based misogyny and sexism and racism and Islamophobia and jingoism and homophobia and anti-immigrant rhetoric. All of that is coming out from the Republican side. That somehow has become normalized because it's now just so common, not only [for] Mr. Trump, but for other candidates to say things that I think are so fundamentally un-American. To call into the question the right of any person who has chosen to come to our country with the intent of working hard and making a contribution and wants a chance at the American Dream, to somehow say that that person disqualifies from being here because of the country they come from, their sexual orientation, or the religion they adhere to—that's what I find far more troubling, and I find that troubling because that does seem to have become unexceptional in a really perverse way. The hate speech that has somehow become one of the main calling cards of Republicans, I find really, really troubling.
Have you spent any time with Ivanka Trump on the trail? I am absolutely friends with Ivanka and I am grateful for her friendship. And I'm always going to believe, because this is how my parents raised me, that friendship is more important than politics. And we were friends before the campaign and I have no doubt that we'll be friends after the campaign. But no, we don't talk about politics, because that's not where our friendship began and it's certainly, thankfully, not where our friendship will end.
What's different about this campaign compared to Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign? On a public level, I think there's a profound difference because in 2007, 2008, the question was really: What do we to repair the damage that President Bush's administration had reaped on our country, economically, fiscally, as well as to repair the standing of America and the world? And additionally, how to actually have honest, comprehensive efforts on work that had been neglected in the Bush administration, whether addressing climate change or women's rights or equal rights in the LGBT community?
Whereas right now, at least from my perspective, the critical question for Democrats—and I would only speak for Democrats here—is how do we protect the progress that has been made under President Obama here at home and abroad for the United States, and build on that progress on many of the same issues—women's rights, equal rights for the LGBT community, continuing to treat climate change and energy as a real opportunity for American economic growth and strength and so much more?
On a personal level, my grandmother was alive the last time we were all in Iowa together. My mother's mother [Dorothy Rodham], who both my mother and I have written about and talked about as being such a profound influence in our lives. Even though she's no longer with us, we both think about her every day and she remains such a strong North Star for each of us.
For me, the largest difference is that I'm a mom now and I wasn't when my mom last ran. I'm so grateful my parents raised me to understand that who runs for and who holds political office matters at every level of government. And yet, this is the first presidential election I'll vote in as a mom. Everything just feels that much more important. And I think that's not an uncommon evolution for those of us who choose to and become parents.
What are the three biggest issues young American women face today, and how will Hillary Clinton's campaign address those issues? I wouldn't be so arrogant to talk for all young American women, but certainly from my perspective I think there are a few key issues that we face at this moment and time. One is clearly the economy. We know we need to do a couple of things to ensure that more Americans, particularly young Americans, women and men, can have good paying jobs. One is to ensure that college and graduate school—because it's not just about college—are affordable and accessible to everyone. The second is that we really need to raise the minimum wage. Two-thirds of the minimum wage workers are women, and many of those are young women, so I think it's an issue that all young women should care about. Third on the economy, we finally need to have equal pay for equal work. There's no profession, whether we think about women who work on factory lines or women who run large companies ... nowhere can we find areas of our economy where women are paid equal to men.
I think another big issue is reproductive rights, and this is something we're not paying enough attention to, and is something that is really at risk. Since 2010, there have been more than 300 laws passed at the local and the state level across the country restricting a woman's right to choose. The next president will appoint up to three justices of the Supreme Court, and many of those laws that I just mentioned are being currently contested and are expected to reach the Supreme Court at some point in the next few years. It matters to me that my mom is the only candidate who has consistently talked about in her speeches, also in the debates, about protecting a woman's right to choose, [and] protecting Planned Parenthood, which provides comprehensive health services to low-income women across our country. To me, that's also an issue that relates to our economy, because wealthier women have always had choices. Low-income and middle-class women haven't, and so protecting a woman's right to choose is about protecting, in my view, women's rights, a fundamental human right, and also an economic right.
The third big thing that I would mention is equal rights for the LGBT community, and I think this is something else that is not talked about enough. There's still 31 states where it's legal to discriminate against someone on the basis of their gender identity or sexual orientation. That particularly affects young people, who want to be able to make choices about their education, want to be able to make choices about where to live, or to be able to make choices about where to work, and in some places it's still legal to restrict those choices.
These are all things I care about so much more as a mom. I want my children to be able to be whoever they are and to be embraced for being whoever they are, not just accepted or tolerated, but actually embraced and respected and supported.
Has there been any family time on the campaign trail? If so, do you have any interesting or fun moments you can tell us about? I just love being with my mom and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to campaign for her right now. Being on the trail also provides a chance to see her. I haven't had a chance to see her much because she's been working so hard, and I just treasure every moment we have together, whether we're in a hotel room or in a car.
We're always talking and laughing about [my 16-month-old daughter] Charlotte, and what has made this time in Iowa so special is Charlotte is actually here. My husband Marc [Mezvinsky] and Charlotte came to Iowa yesterday afternoon and so we all were able to spend the morning together. And she is just totally into anything and everything that relates to an animal. She makes the most adorable animal sounds. She roars like a lion, and she quacks like a duck, and she bahs like a goat, and she opens and closes her mouth like she thinks an alligator does, and she kind of pounds her chest like she thinks a monkey does, and it's just endlessly amusing ... we find it just the best antidote to anything.
If Hillary Clinton were elected president, would you and your family move into the White House? May we be so lucky to have that opportunity and choice, and I certainly hope that my mother would be our next president, and I'm going to do everything I can to help make that happen. Our life is very much in New York, but I certainly hope that we will continue to celebrate all of our holidays together, whether that would be in Washington [D.C.] or in New York ... even though I do have very fond memories of Christmas celebrations at the White House when I was growing up.
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