Misogyny and white supremacy: Hillary Clinton’s downfall
Hillary Clinton’s defeat had as much to do with her weaknesses as it did with a resurgence of white supremacy and misogyny in American society.
Donald Trump was of course elected President on Tuesday following wins in a string of states thought untouchable. Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan all fell into the Republican nominee’s column by the narrowest of margins, meaning that despite winning the popular vote – and winning more votes than any white male candidate in history – Hillary Clinton will lose the electoral college and thus the Presidency. What’s worse, is how she lost. Her vote shares in Rust Belt states was what damaged her chances in the electoral college. These are states which have high populations of working class, white voters. These are voters who, actually, are doing better under President Obama.
Inflation is low, unemployment is low and employment is high. Wages – especially for the lowest paid – are up. Hillary Clinton had a plan to create even more high paid jobs, to increase the minimum wage that so many find themselves on to $15 an hour. She had a plan to invest in renewable energy which would both help the environment and America’s commitment to the Paris agreement, and create high quality employment for Americans. Hillary Clinton’s campaign centred around ‘getting ahead’ – it was a campaign centred around ensuring that the progress under President Obama, who voters in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Michigan, and Wisconsin all chose to be President of the United States twice, was continued.
And yet, voters in those states when to the polls and chose to elect a man who has spent a campaign rallying against the first Black President — a man who once led the movement to delegitimatise the President’s American-ness because of the colour of his skin. They chose to elect a man that would make them poorer, that has said wages are “too high” in America, and that they need to come down. They chose to elect a man that lives in a solid gold building in New York City under the impression that he is, quote, “anti-establishment.” Why did they do this? Clinton’s poor final weeks in the campaign were of course a factor and it’s important to note these. However, the race without these would still have been unusually close; and it’s important we understand the cultural and societal reasons for the first woman nominee of a major party’s defeat.
What are these cultural and societal reasons? Well, first of all, bluntly, misogyny – an inbuilt societal sexism that has plagued Hillary Clinton and all women who dare have ambition to run for office for decades. Don’t let anyone convince you that “women are equal now.” They aren’t. Women are still treated differently. Look at how the Republican Party and the media have treated Hillary Clinton over her decades of public service. Congressional Republicans told the then- First Lady to just “bake cookies,” instead of fighting for a Children’s health insurance plan. When running for Presidents, Republicans have mocked her voice, while Donald Trump and even Bernie Sanders rallies during this year’s Presidential elections have seen constant calls for “killing the bitch,” and “locking her up.”
Another point to make is the very real issue of internalised misogyny. That being, that women didn’t reject Donald Trump. Women divided by race lines, with women of colour voting for Hillary while her fellow white women voted with their male counterparts and voted for Trump. Why? Many will say: “oh, well I just don’t like her!” But what is that? That’s an excuse for their perception of an unpopular woman running for office – a woman with high levels of ambition both for herself and other women. Despite the success of the feminist and other women’s movements, women are still, like men, seemingly suspicious of female ambition – creating a situation of internalised misogyny. So while instead of flocking to the first female candidate to attempt to break the highest glass ceiling in the USA, white women flocked to Donald Trump. (I’ll be writing more on this at a further point…)
I’m not saying every Republican nor every Trump voter is sexist, nor that if you dislike Clinton that you are in turn misogynistic — but we need to recognise the appropriation of societal misogyny by the Trump campaign in portraying and creating anger around Clinton’s candidacy.
Trump’s victory marked the end point of year’s of Republican attacks based on Clinton’s gender – and it sends the unfortunate message to every single girl and woman in America that no matter how qualified they are, no matter how hard they work and no matter how much ambition they have, that if their political opponent is a man, no matter how unqualified he is, no matter how lazy he is and no matter how little ambition he has, that the girl will lose by virtue that she is a woman and he is a man. Hillary Clinton has rallied against that throughout her decades of service, and this election loss above all of her other setbacks proves the powerful forces she was rallying against still exist in America today.
Meanwhile, the existent of racism and white supremacy is the bigger societal reason here as to why Hillary Clinton failed to defeat Donald Trump. Despite the economy being in good shape for the majority of Americans, with rising wages, low gas prices and increased employment, voters in a majority of states still picked Donald Trump — a candidate that will ensure an end to the Obama agenda of economic and social justice. While non-white voters backed the Democratic nominee, whites of all genders, ages and educational background flocked to Donald Trump — a clear divide. Even white women, when Trump has been accused of sexual assault and has even bragged about it on tape, appeared to condone that behaviour and vote along race lines with the GOP rather than embrace the first woman nominee of a major party in Hillary Clinton.
We can’t, therefore, pretend this is about economic insecurity — and move blissfully onto the narrative of Bernie Sanders and other liberal Senators/ politicians that will now no doubt want the Democratic Party to now adopt. This is about much deeper, much more social. Donald Trump used the tools of white supremacy and racism throughout his campaign. Calling Mexicans drug lords and rapists, while suggesting that all Black people are involved in gang violence and playing the card that white people are more ‘civilised’ — superior to their non-white counterparts. Whether it was attacking a Mexican-American Federal Judge for his “Mexican heritage” being a symbol or apparent bias in the judicial system or attacks on gold star Muslim father Khizr Khan, Trump proved to everyone his racist credentials.
And yet, people still voted for him. And he still won the White House. Donald Trump proved, once and for all, that for a white man, perceived to be successful in business or another area, is held to a lower standard than a black man made the first African American President, or a woman vying to be the first female President. He proved that his success and the colour of his skin justified the abhorrent and xenophobic remarks he made, and the white American citizenship in many states saw it as justifiable. They may not be racist themselves, but they genuinely approved of and condoned his behaviour and rhetoric.
But what is most shocking, is that people are better off after eight years under Barack Obama. Yet, they said that that doesn’t matter, and rejected further action to improve their livelihoods in favour of white supremacy and white nationalism. Instead of choosing a better economy, white people chose to endorse racism. They chose to endorse bigotry. They chose to make them selves poorer, for the economy to do worse and for the rights of minorities to be slashed. Because, in the end, what matters is that non-whites are seen as the other, and their relative rise in society must be discouraged.
But why would they reject Hillary Clinton, a white woman, who would replace a black President? Because she is more of a threat to white nationalism and white pride than a black man running the country. Why? Because she has spent her life, as a white woman, accepting that white nationalism must be brought to an end – she spent an election campaign fighting and calling out Trump’s rhetoric for what it was. She spent her pre-political career fighting racism by calling out segregation in schools and ensuring that black women were included in her feminism and uniting with the first Black President, Barack Obama. That’s why she’s more dangerous: Obama was hope, change, but at the same time, he was black – of course he was gonna say white nationalism and pride is a thing and is a bad thing.
Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, is a white woman. An ‘American,’ white, woman. She was a danger because she delegitimises white nationalism as being a white woman, calling it out is simply more hitting and dangerous to its integrity. Combined with the shameful misogyny Clinton has faced throughout her life, white nationalism and white supremacy has clearly played a role in her downfall. Her ability to counter it like very few national politicians have is dangerous to its movement, and the thought of her becoming President was too dangerous a thought to bare. That’s why Donald Trump’s strategy to own the white vote was so important to him – to own white supremacy against Hillary Clinton is a strategy to win white voters in states where they are crucial. It’s a strategy that paid off.
If liberals don’t accept misogyny and white supremacy exist, and figure out a way to understand it, fight it, and kill it in the age of President Trump and it’s resurgence, liberals will find themselves out of power for a generation – even if they continue to win the popular vote, just as Hillary Clinton has.
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