Sexism was the winner

If a portrait of a woman hangs inside the White House, it will be as first lady, not as US President

US flags under the Jacob Javits Center in New York City.
US flags under the Jacob Javits Center in New York City.J. M. / Getty

Last Tuesday, Donald Trump obtained fewer ballots than John McCain in 2008 or Mitt Romney in 2012. Hillary Clinton managed 445,000 more votes than Trump, but not with the kind of distribution that would have ensured her victory. With the vote count over, it has emerged that it’s not just middle- and low-income whites who decisively supported Trump: it’s also that a vast proportion of the Hispanic and black minorities did not even show up to vote for the Democratic candidate.

We cannot even talk about any kind of gender solidarity: 53% of white women voted for Trump (as did 32% of Hispanic women and 6% of African-American women).

Gossip magazines are brimming with accounts of Trump’s own infidelities

It did not matter that Trump and his acolytes’ misogynous attacks, at their lowest, verged on the slanderous. Rudy Giuliani, who was mayor of New York City during the 9/11 attacks and who could soon be heading the Justice Department, stated in September that if Clinton did not realize her husband was cheating on her with Monica Lewinsky, then “she’s too stupid to be president.”

In October, Trump decided there would be nothing wrong with making his opponent’s personal life a central point of his campaign, and used a televised rally to accuse her of cheating on her husband: “I don’t even think she’s loyal to Bill, if you want to know the truth.”

Gossip magazines are brimming with accounts of Trump’s own infidelities, which could fill entire books. But Clinton did not resort to them. Instead, she focused on her own proposals for a better country: making progress on health reform, reinforcing social security, immigration reform, the protection of minorities, and equal rights.

While she talked about economic policy and social reform at her rallies, the media ran shocking recordings of Trump calling a Hispanic model “Miss Piggy” because of her weight, or boasting that he can grab women’s private parts whenever he wants to because he is famous. And when he was accused of sexual abuse, his reply was that the accusers were “too ugly” for him to take any notice of.

Still and all, Clinton lost five million votes compared with Obama in 2012. There are several possible explanations for this: her role in her husband’s foundation, her alleged physical frailty and advanced age; her relationship with wealthy donors or the use of a private email server when she was secretary of state.

Trump attacked Clinton’s character, describing her as “dishonest,” “a liar” and “disgusting.”

In fact, most criticism against Hillary Clinton did not focus on her actual preparation for the job. The fact that she holds a bachelor’s degree from the prestigious Wesleyan College and a graduate degree in law from Yale, that she has built a successful career as a lawyer, been an admired senator and an efficient secretary of state – none of this mattered. Not even the fact that as First Lady she did not resign herself to serving tea and tending the garden, but instead pushed forward health reforms that would take more than a decade before getting passed.

Her main hurdle is her own surname: Clinton.

When Clinton was born in 1947, there were only eight women in Congress: Now there are 84

And there is nothing more unfair than describing her through the person that she is married to, rather than through her personal skills. She has become an appendix, a footnote. Trump adopted the right strategy, portraying her as the treacherous consort of a corrupt, unscrupulous family clan. Nobody paid attention to her proposals, just to her image and to her family.

When Clinton was born in 1947, there were only eight women in a Congress with 435 seats. Today, they don’t even represent a fourth of the chamber: 84 seats, or 19%. The situation in the Senate is similar. When the candidate was born, there was not a single woman senator, while there are now 21 out of 100.

Two female vice-presidential nominees came close to the White House: the Democrat Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and the Republican Sarah Palin in 2008. And now, Hillary Clinton joins the list of women who tried to shatter the glass ceiling but were unable to, because the message from half of American voters was clear: if a woman’s portrait has to hang inside the White House, it must be merely as the first lady.

English version by Susana Urra.

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