If you had described the circumstances of the current election to me four years ago, I would have never believed it. Emboldened by the re-election of Barack Obama and the progressive strides of the Marriage Equality movement, I would have told you that we were too socially evolved for an openly bigoted candidate to prevail. I would, of course, have been wrong. I did not factor in the backlash against diversity and multiculturalism. I did not factor in the incendiary power that a fear-mongerer would have over the masses. I did not factor in how much the Republican Party had nurtured anti-intellectualism or the role that social media would play in the dissemination of propaganda. I did not factor it that America’s obsession with Reality TV would set the stage for someone like Donald Trump to dominate the media. These are all contributing factors to the seemingly preposterous election climate in which we find ourselves. Yet, there is more going on with the rise of Trump than is represented by his often openly bigoted supporters. A recent poll showed Hillary Clinton with an unfavorability rating of 56% compared to Donald Trump’s at 63%. It is common to hear people lament that both candidates are poor choices. When you consider the circus act that has been the Trump campaign, this is hard to understand. It reeks of false-equivalency, and, ultimately, it reeks of sexism.
While the alt-Right and white-supremacists have used Trump’s popularity to move their white-identity politics and nationalist approach from the fringe to center stage, there are supporters who cling to the idea that they are not racist. These are the people who respond to #BlackLivesMatter with #AllLivesMatter. They deny the existence of systematic racism because they don’t want to acknowledge racism in themselves. Self-awareness takes strength and courage. It is easier to deny the problem exists and criticize those who are bringing it to light. It is by this same tradition that a former First Lady, Secretary of State, and Senator with over 25 years of active political experience can be considered on par with a Reality TV Celebrity with a history of racism, mysogony, an illustrated lack of political knowledge, and a penchant for putting his foot in his mouth. Let’s face it, he’s a walking tabloid.
A journey into the comments of any political blog, social media thread or news story yields unsettling results. Vulgarity and violence pepper the screen in a way I’ve never seen with reference to a Presidential candidate…but, we’ve never had a woman come this close to the Presidency. Even worse, is the constant reference to Hillary Clinton’s “scandals”. No matter how many fact-checking articles you present people with, or how many committees find her innocent, the anti-Clinton echo-chamber reverbates with chants of “Lock Her Up!”, “Killary” and “Crooked Hillary.” The Pro-Trump camp says that she is a liar, when fact-checkers have given Trump a truth-telling rate of 4%. They cling to the email-controversy, even though the use of private email servers and security issues have happened under Republican Administrations, as well (500,000 during George W. Bush’s administration). Now, the Clinton Foundation is under attack for “pay for play”. One could, of course, make the claim that there is some overlap between the type of person who would donate to the Clinton Foundation and the type of person who would request meetings with the State Department. Nevertheless, newspaper headlines like to pull in readers with talks of the latest Clinton scandal, but so far they have turned out to be non-scandals. One must ask themselves why they are so intent on fanning the smoke surrounding Hillary Clinton, instead of accepting that there is no fire. Particularly, when there is a blazing inferno in Donald Trump.
This double-standard is not new to women. There is a cultural desire for women to be beyond reproach, while men are forgiven for their foibles. This means that in order to be considered equal to a man, a woman must be significantly better than that man. The rules of the game are different for women. In her blog today, Rachel Maddow lists some of the Clinton Rules discussed in an article originally from Vox:
- Everything, no matter how ludicrous-sounding, is worthy of a full investigation by federal agencies, Congress, the “vast right-wing conspiracy,” and mainstream media outlets.
- Every allegation, no matter how ludicrous, is believable until it can be proven completely and utterly false. And even then, it keeps a life of its own in the conservative media world.
- The media assumes that Clinton is acting in bad faith until there’s hard evidence otherwise.
With all the “controversy” surrounding Hillary Clinton, it is important to note that she has not been charged with any actual wrong-doing. She may not be the perfect candidate, but she is historically one of the most qualified-and she is enormously better suited for the Presidency than Donald Trump. If you find yourself resistant to accepting that, then you may need to take a look at why your expectations are so much higher for her than her male counterpart.