Race trumps gen­der in US elec­tions

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Carolyn Cooper, PhD is a spe­cial­ist on cul­ture and de­vel­op­ment. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com and karokupa@gmail.com.

WHITE WOMEN sold Hil­lary Clin­ton down the river. Fifty-three per cent of white fe­male vot­ers chose Trump. In Amer­ica, race mat­ters far more than gen­der or class. Of course, both Hil­lary Clin­ton and Don­ald Trump are white and wealthy. But Trump is def­i­nitely a whiter shade of pale. Be­yond the pale! Not the pe­cu­liar colour of his cos­metic face. It’s his deep-rooted machismo and his white su­prem­a­cist prej­u­dices.

Don­ald Trump is the clas­sic priv­i­leged white male who be­lieves he’s nat­u­rally en­ti­tled to what­ever his heart and other body parts de­sire. Whether it’s the pres­i­dency of the United States or women’s gen­i­tals. And he has no shame. Just think about the long list of crazy things Trump said dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign and way be­fore that. And he’s of­fered no apol­ogy.

To name just a few: Barack Obama wasn’t born in the US; Hil­lary Clin­ton did noth­ing con­struc­tive in her 30 years in pub­lic of­fice; ‘smart’ peo­ple don’t pay taxes; sex­ual abuse of women is no big deal; Mex­ico must pay for a wall to keep out il­le­gal im­mi­grants. No Mus­lims should be al­lowed into Amer­ica. ISIS will be de­feated as soon as he be­comes pres­i­dent. And on and on!


Trump ap­peals to the low­est com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor in Amer­i­can so­ci­ety: the ag­grieved and gullible masses who want to make their coun­try great again. No blacks in the White House! Hil­lary Clin­ton was quite right to put half of Trump’s sup­port­ers in a “bas­ket of de­plorables”. She pref­aced her re­marks by ad­mit­ting that she was be­ing “grossly gen­er­al­is­tic”. But that didn’t take the sting out of her sharp at­tack. To re­sound­ing ap­plause, this is what she said at a Septem­ber rally in New York:

“You know, to just be grossly gen­er­al­is­tic, you could put half of Trump’s sup­port­ers into what I call the bas­ket of de­plorables. Right? The racist, sex­ist, ho­mo­pho­bic, xeno­pho­bic, Is­lam­o­pho­bic – you name it. And, un­for­tu­nately, there are peo­ple like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their web­sites that used to only have 11,000 peo­ple, now have 11 mil­lion. He tweets and retweets their of­fen­sive, hate­ful, mean-spir­ited rhetoric.”

One of the big is­sues in this cam­paign was lan­guage. Trump doesn’t seem to be able to speak in sen­tences. It’s all sound bites. Or a long stream of un­con­scious­ness! But Trump’s sup­port­ers had no prob­lem un­der­stand­ing him. He didn’t need to be co­her­ent. He just had to throw out cheap and easy phrases: “nasty woman”!

By con­trast, Hil­lary’s lan­guage was way above the heads of half of Trump’s sup­port­ers: gen­er­al­is­tic; de­plorables; pho­bic! Many of the de­plorables wouldn’t be ex­actly sure of what Clin­ton meant by de­plorable. It took a vague tweet from Trump to make it clear: “While Hil­lary said hor­ri­ble things about my sup­port­ers, and while many of her sup­port­ers will never vote for me, I still re­spect them all!” Lie!

Clin­ton’s “de­plorable” is trans­lated by Trump as “hor­ri­ble things”. He doesn’t have to be pre­cise. All his sup­port­ers need to know is that Hil­lary says bad things about them. But Trump him­self is firmly lodged in Clin­ton’s bas­ket of de­plorables. He is “racist, sex­ist, ho­mo­pho­bic, xeno­pho­bic, Is­lam­o­pho­bic – you name it.” And that’s pre­cisely why his fol­low­ers love him. They are just like him.


Some white women ac­tu­ally ap­prove of Trump’s preda­tory sex­ism. In an XX­fac­tor ar­ti­cle posted on the Slate web­site on Novem­ber 9, As­so­ciate Editor L.V. An­der­son quotes a fe­male Trump sup­porter: “I heard that he said some­thing about grop­ing women, and I’m think­ing, okay, No. 1, I think that’d be great. I like get­ting groped!”

That’s the kind of woman who sold Hil­lary Clin­ton down the river. This turn of phrase be­came pop­u­lar in the late 1800s. It refers to en­slaved African-Amer­i­cans sold down the Mis­sis­sippi and Ohio rivers to work on cot­ton plan­ta­tions in the Deep South. It was a ter­ri­ble fate.

Aaron Fry, a white man from Mis­souri, gives a first-hand ac­count in his jour­nal of the ac­tions of an en­slaved man who was about to be trans­ported: “A Ne­gro man of Mr Elies, hav­ing been sold to go down the river, at­tempted first to cut off both of his legs, fail­ing to do that, cut his throat, did not en­tirely take his life, went a short dis­tance and drowned him­self.”


It might seem pe­cu­liar to put priv­i­leged Hil­lary Clin­ton in the same boat as en­slaved AfricanAmer­i­cans float­ing to their doom down rivers of op­pres­sion. She’s no innocent vic­tim. All the same, sex­ism is a tur­bu­lent force in Amer­ica. In the con­test for the US pres­i­dency, an ig­no­rant male con artist de­feated an ex­traor­di­nar­ily ac­com­plished fe­male pub­lic ser­vant.

True, class was a fac­tor in Trump’s vic­tory. The bil­lion­aire ap­pealed to white work­ing-class vot­ers. Clin­ton did not. Trump per­suaded poor white peo­ple in ru­ral Amer­ica that he rep­re­sented their in­ter­ests. A typ­i­cal con job. But the trick worked.

Trump will soon re­alise that win­ning the race was the real fun. Ac­tu­ally, be­ing pres­i­dent is a lot of work, no mat­ter how much he plans to del­e­gate. Trump can’t file for bank­ruptcy when it be­comes ob­vi­ous that he doesn’t have suf­fi­cient cap­i­tal to meet the de­mands of the pres­i­dency and de­liver on his elec­toral prom­ises. He’ll just be a big-time loser.

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