Scratching the Surface of the US Elections

Typical of a politics and international relations student, the hot topic in every single class was the US elections this week. Funnily enough, the topic for this week’s class and lectures was voting preferences and we discussed what factors had mattered in the US elections. Primarily talking about Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, otherwise known as the “blue collar states”, we were asked why they had voted Republican when, as most models had suggested, the vote would have been a democratic one on an individual level. Answers such as anti-establishment, nationalism, and valence came up and was swiftly followed by ‘post-materialist’ issues.

Brought up next was the gender inequality issue and the image of Hillary Clinton. Where had she failed against Donald Trump? We spoke about her need to become “masculine” so that the public would take her seriously, her lack of charm and her personality stripped away from her (which, in my opinion, only comes from her need to portray herself as ‘masculine’, which shouldn’t have been a prerequisite in the first place). When asked about how and why women had let her down in the election, a girl spoke up and said that Hillary Clinton “is the pioneer of feminism in the United States of America as the first woman in the history of America to run for presidency.” Girl, no. She was not the first woman in America’s history to run for presidency. She was, in fact, the twelfth. The first woman to run for presidency was in the 1800s and her name was Victoria Woodhull. She was known for her radicalism as a woman suffrage activist. I wonder how many people knew of that name, and the 10 others that followed until Hillary Clinton’s? I wonder how long it would be until Hillary Clinton’s name would be wiped out of history like all of these other women who had run for presidency. Hillary Clinton is also far from the “pioneer of feminism in the United States of America”. By calling her this, the names of women of colour who have fought long and hard for women’s rights and against racism have been wiped and replaced by a white woman who has time and time again contradicted herself in an attempt to gain the popular vote. Nevertheless, she is extremely admirable in her drive and her perseverance throughout her 30 years as a public servant to reach where she wanted to be. I respect her so much for that. I also admire her deeply for her strength and grace in all the sacrifices she must have made and her courage in withstanding the cruel and unfair prejudices that comes with being an incredibly successful woman.

Whilst the topic of gender was widely discussed, race was not touched upon at all. I would even go so far as to say it was avoided. During the discussion of how women had let Clinton down, I contributed my two cents. In short, first cent: White women let Clinton down, not women of colour. Second cent: Because of privilege. I received, “that’s an interesting answer” as a response and the topic was swiftly moved on to other things that had affected the US elections. But why? Race played an immense role in the US elections. You cannot blame women for letting Clinton down when it was only one group of women who had experienced the highest form of privilege women can experience in the United States. Why is it sensitive to talk about and analyse the factor of race and its repercussions? Based purely on gender, exit polls say 42% of women voted for Trump. That’s a staggeringly high number of women who do support Trump. Once race is factored in, exit polls tell a different story.  53% of white women voted for Trump and only 43% voted for Clinton, whilst 4% of black women voted for Trump and 94% for Clinton. Despite the week where all that was discussed and condemned was Trump’s ‘locker room banter’, over half of white women still saw Trump as the best candidate. This is not to say that women was the only factor in Clinton’s campaign that failed her. Women did not let Clinton down, white women did.

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