It Wasn’t Misogyny

If you’re wondering why Trump won, there’s good news: the internet has the answer. From elite condescension, to uneducated voters, to outright racism, everyone has an explanation.

One of the more popular theories seems to be that Hilary Clinton lost the election due to misogyny: American voters preferred to elect a woefully under-qualified man rather than a supremely-qualified woman. Setting aside Trump for a moment, the implication is that Clinton was a near-perfect candidate, one who could be opposed only by retrogrades (or “deplorables“) obsessed by her sex. So for those of you who find this particular argument convincing, I submit the following for your consideration:

  1. Time and again, when Clinton’s husband Bill saw his political career threatened by accusations of sexual harassment, her response was to deny, attack, or, worse, reportedly threaten the accusers. She consistently stood by her husband and against his victims. That track record alone should have disqualified her as the feminist candidate.
  2. While all politicians lie, Clinton took it to a new level. No matter how flagrant or easily disproved, no lie is too small or too shameless. Her difficulties with the truth have been so habitual and chronic that, until Trump dialed the art of lying up to 11, she was a plausible candidate for the most dishonest person in federal politics.
  3. Clinton has long been a warmonger. She was the driving force behind the disastrous US intervention in Libya. She voted for the Iraq War. She was among the voices pushing Barack Obama to intervene more deeply in Afghanistan. Her calls during the campaign to intervene in Syria, taken at face value, were calls to us the US military to confront Russia directly – the consequences of which could have been cataclysmic.
  4. Sociopathy is no impediment to presidential ambitions, but hers was less subtle than most. Asked about Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddhafi’s unusually gruesome (if richly deserved) demise, Clinton hooted, “We came, we saw, he died!” When Egyptians rose up in 2011 to overthrow Hosni Mubarak after 30 years of tyranny, in a grotesquely warm tribute she described him and his wife as “friends of my family.
  5. Few politicians escape accusations of being in bed with big business, but Clinton’s ties to Wall Street run unusually deep. Large corporations have paid her tens of millions for speeches whose content, no matter how interesting, could not possibly be worth several hundred thousand dollars each. More plausibly, there was an expectation (unspoken or otherwise) of what she would do for them once in office.
  6. It’s easy to accuse politicians of corruption, but Clinton has made herself an easy target. Her family’s foundation – which, in fairness, has received high praise for its charitable work – has received enormous contributions from donors such as the Saudi, Kuiwaiti and Qatari governments. I invite you to browse the list of causes the foundation purports to advance and ask yourself which among them – climate change? women’s rights? – inspired these regimes to become enthusiastic financial backers. The claims that these donations were not intended to influence policy once she won office are implausible at best.

There’s no doubt that Clinton lost some votes because she is a woman, although, in truth, there’s no doubt that she also gained some votes for the same reason. We’ll never know for certain if her reproductive organs were the decisive factor in the election, but it is simply incorrect – and, frankly, insulting to those who opposed her – to claim that it’s mere sexism that explains her defeat at the hands of Donald Trump.

2 thoughts on “It Wasn’t Misogyny

  • November 10, 2016 at 11:27 pm

    Ok, I’ll play. Sexism was one among several factors that explained Clinton’s loss.
    1. Donald Trump won because he’s a man. I am highly confident that no woman with that kind of profile (ugly, vulgar, loud, no political experience, questionable business skills, prejudiced, offensive, etc, etc) would have gone anywhere in that race. Unless ”male” is considered some sort of neutral default state (which is most definitely sexist), then his gender also needs to be taken into consideration. Clinton had a shot against a vulgar man because she is a (way more) decent woman.
    2. None of the 6 points you’re listing refute sexism, because Trump is worse for each of them. She attacked sexual assault victims verbally, he assaulted women and bragged about it; she lied sometimes, he lied constantly; she’s made bad calls in the middle east (with dire consequences), he’s encouraging the army to commit warm crimes; she has ties with corporations, he is a corporate brand and Putin is cheering for him.
    Whether Clinton is a saint or a flawed politician is beside the point: sexism is at play because the bar was just much higher for her.
    3. To be fair, the argument you made the other day that she lost because she’s the ultimate establishment politician at a time when many are angry at the establishment is much more convincing. But it doesn’t rule out that sexism also had to do with the outcome.

    • November 11, 2016 at 6:33 am

      OK! Here are some thoughts:

      1. *No one* should have been able to win being as ugly, vulgar, loud, etc. as Trump; much, much lesser offences have tanked the political careers of countless men. Remember the reaction to Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women”? At this point, that whole episode seems almost quaint. All of the arguments you’re making about why Trump is better than Clinton – that she’s more experienced, intelligent, decent, honest, etc. – apply just as well to, say, Jeb Bush. And yet Trump cleaned his clock without breaking a sweat (Bush withdrew from the Republican race just a few weeks into the primaries without a single win). Doesn’t that strongly suggest that there must be something about Trump himself – not as a man, but as an individual – that explains his unique ability to get away with this kind of behaviour?

      2. Trump is worse than Clinton on some of those scores (treatment of woman, especially), but better in others (warmongering in particular). One of Trump’s main themes has been to roll back neoconservative foreign policy, and I’ve seen lots of rabid Trump supporters cheering that on Facebook as enthusiastically as they cheer his Muslim ban or the wall. And recall that she held political office from 2000 to 2012 (and was heavily in the public sphere both before and after). When we talk about his misdeeds, we’re talking about things she *did*, whereas with him it’s mostly (other than his appalling treatment of women), things he *said*. I’m not fussed about the difference since promising to do bad things isn’t much better than actually doing them. But for a lot of people, Clinton’s many years of deeds outweighed Trump’s single year of words (again, on the points other than the treatment of women).

      The argument I should have spent more time on in the post is the “establishment candidate” one. That, as I said, is why I believe she lost. People wanted to give the establishment the middle finger and she embodies it. Take the email scandal: I’ve seen it downplayed in terms of importance and arguments that other politicians have done the same. OK, but I think the point is that people felt that any “regular person” who did what she did would have been charged with a crime (and they’re right, because it’s actually happened: It fed into the narrative of the establishment doing whatever the hell it wants and playing by a different set of rules.

      Conversely, the establishment loathes Trump. That, I believe, is also why he managed to beat her and also why he wiped the floor with his Republican opponents. The two who gave him the strongest opposition were Rubio and Cruz: a tea-party senator (granted, one who’d drifted towards the establishment over time) and the most hated man in Washington, one who’s so despised that even as establishment a Republican as Bob Dole said he preferred Trump. Trump got away with things that no one, man or woman, has ever managed to get away with in my lifetime. It’s not his sex, it’s him, personally.

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