Donald and Hillary: women hold the trump card
THE QUEUE outside the Donald Trump rally in Indianapolis, which had started to form five hours before the billionaire’s arrival and was now more than 100m long, featured a familiar cast of characters. As ever at his events, there were beefy, white, workingclass men, tattoos etched into their forearms, wearing ‘Make America Great Again’ baseball caps. There were clean-cut corporate types who looked like they were auditioning for his reality show, The Apprentice. There were elderly people who you could imagine playing the pokies in one of Trump’s casinos. Yet most striking of all was the presence of so many middle-aged women, some dressed in business attire, some wearing yoga leggings, who you might expect to see at a Hillary Clinton rally.
“I like his no-nonsense approach,” said one woman. “Washington is terribly broken and he is the only person who can fix it.” The woman standing next to her, whose young daughter had come draped in a Trump banner, nodded vigorously. “He’s not your everyday, regular politician,” she said. “He’s got a whole new perspective.”
Neither woman seemed perturbed by a street merchant spruiking T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan, ‘Hillary for Prison 2016’ – a reference to the FBI investigation into her use of a private email server during her years as US Secretary of State. Or that another, cruder T-shirt was also on sale: ‘Hillary sucks more than Monica’, a reminder of the Monica Lewinsky scandal that led to her husband’s impeachment.
The problem for Donald Trump, however, as he pursues his dream of becoming President, is that many women are unwilling to overlook the sexism and misogyny that has attached itself to his campaign, and which he himself has given voice to. Polls repeatedly suggest that threequarters of American women have a negative view of him. Given that more women vote in US presidential elections than men, his male chauvinism may well be the biggest obstacle standing between him and the White House. Donald Trump’s misogyny has been well documented. “A person who is flat-chested is very hard to be a 10,” said the former owner of the Miss Universe pageant, referring to his sliding scale of female beauty. “You know, it doesn’t really matter what [they] write, as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of arse,” he told Esquire magazine in 1991, when asked about getting hostile coverage in the press. “Women, you have to treat them like s***,” he reportedly told a friend, again in the 1990s.
One of the most dramatic moments in the campaign so far came when Trump was challenged during a
With more female than male voters, the US election will be in the hands of women and that is a problem for both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, writes Nick Bryant.
Republican televised debate about calling women “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals”. His response was to launch a vicious attack on the female anchor, the Fox News presenter Megyn Kelly, who posed the question. “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes,” he said afterwards. “Blood coming out of her wherever”, a comment which seemed to refer to her menstrual cycle.
Strong women and especially those such as Megyn Kelly, who challenge him, seem to make the billionaire even more chauvinistic. “Can you imagine that, the face of our next President?” he said of Carly Fiorina, a Republican rival and the former CEO of HewlettPackard. He once tweeted that Arianna Huffington, the founder of The Huffington Post, was “unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man – he made a good decision.”
Now that same vitriol is being directed against Hillary Clinton or “Crooked Hillary”, as he has taken to calling her. “If Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get five per cent of the vote,” Trump claimed, as he celebrated victory in the New York primary, in the atrium of Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. “The only thing she’s got going is the woman’s card. The beautiful thing is women don’t like her.”
I was at Trump Tower that night and saw the woman who was standing directly behind Trump, the wife of one of his main backers, roll her eyes contemptuously. Worryingly for Hillary Clinton, however, those last four words “women don’t like her” contain a kernel of truth. The same polls that highlight the fierce female hostility towards Trump also suggest that almost six out of 10 women have an unfavourable view of Hillary Clinton. Many women, rather than being thrilled at the prospect of electing the first female President in America’s 240-year history, would appear to have the same reservations as many men: that she is untrustworthy, too much of a political insider, not very likeable. The pro-Hillary sisterhood is much smaller than most commentators anticipated.
One of the most remarkable statistics in this extraordinary election season came from the first primary contest in New Hampshire, which Hillary lost to her Democratic rival Bernie Sanders. Eight out of 10 women aged under 30 voted for the 74-year-old Senator rather than Hillary, a feminist trailblazer who, for decades, has been in the thick of the fight for equality. When Hillary’s ally and feminist icon Gloria Steinem sought to explain this by saying, “When you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys?’, and the boys are with Bernie”, it not only sounded condescending but demeaning. It implied women should vote solely on the basis of gender. Yet for many young women, not voting for a female candidate has become an expression of female empowerment.
Many young women I’ve spoken to on the campaign trail seem to believe a female President is a historical inevitability, but they’re prepared to wait for someone other than Hillary Clinton to smash through the most resilient glass ceiling in world politics.
The irony is that Hillary Clinton has placed more emphasis on her femininity than she did eight years ago, when she ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination against Barack Obama. Then, she seemed determined to show how tough and macho she could be, especially as America’s commander-in-chief. This time, she’s projected a gentler image, highlighting, for instance, how she recently became a grandmother. Yet it doesn’t seem to be working.
Given women will ultimately decide the next President and Trump has infuriated so many female voters, the road to the White House should have been a cakewalk for Hillary Clinton. Yet the former First Lady also has a woman problem as she seeks to become America’s first Madam President.
Above: Hillary with daughter Chelsea, husband
Bill, son-in-law Marc and baby Charlotte.
Donald Trump may have female supporters, but his offensive remarks about women have made him unpopular with three-quarters of American women.