Sunday 26 March 2017

Hillary holding all the aces against 'The Joker' Donald

Donald Trump: 'Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don't think she'd get 5pc of the vote. The only thing she's got going (for her) is the women's card, and the beautiful thing is: women don't like her' Photo: REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Donald Trump: 'Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don't think she'd get 5pc of the vote. The only thing she's got going (for her) is the women's card, and the beautiful thing is: women don't like her' Photo: REUTERS/Jim Bourg

Hannah Fearn

So, now we (almost) know for sure: it's Hillary versus The Donald. The Establishment versus the The Outsider. The Woman versus The Man.

For that, according to Mr Trump, is all that Hillary Clinton - lawyer, public policy expert, senator, secretary of state and, let us not forget, the former First Lady - has going for her. Her campaign is two-dimensional. She's playing "the woman card".

In his pre-victory speech at Trump Tower, the man who will surely contest the presidential election for the Republicans made explicit his trademark lack of respect for his opposite number. "Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don't think she'd get 5pc of the vote. The only thing she's got going (for her) is the women's card, and the beautiful thing is: women don't like her," he said.

If she's playing the "woman card" and yet women don't respond to that, that's not much of a card at all, is it? More like a joker. But logic hasn't been much of a strong point for Mr Trump so far, so I'll let that one slip in favour of a closer look at how his comments reflect the position of women in US politics today.

The fact that being a woman is being considered as an asset or otherwise for Ms Clinton is no surprise - as a female politician in the US she is, necessarily, an outlier. In 2014, America ranked 98th in the world for the percentage of women within the national legislature, dropping from 59th in 1998. Only 11 states have ever elected both a female governor and a female senator. Importantly, there is no significant link between political leanings by state and their likeliness to have elected a women; it's a problem right across the political spectrum.

So if Hillary has a gender card in her pack, why shouldn't she play it? Goodness knows American women need an advocate in high places. Although they make up almost half the workforce (47pc), an average salary for a woman working full time in 2014 was $39,621 (€35,002), compared with $50,383 (€44,521) for a man working full time. A woman in the US is earning an average of 70 cents for every dollar that a man takes home.

Equality

Women make up 74pc of cashiers in the US, and 91pc of nurses - but just 32pc of physicians and surgeons and 14pc of police officers. And how can a Western nation allow businesses to dictate that 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave - unpaid! - is sufficient to support half the workforce in balancing work and family life? You never see a pro-life campaigner touting a placard about that moral question, do you?

Mr Trump is, of course, entirely wrong about one thing here: the claim that Ms Clinton would not be considered a serious candidate is so ridiculous it is amusing. If she were a man, there would be no other candidate in town. A professional, experienced, polished politician with experience inside the White House? He'd be just the man to see off an ill-equipped challenger fighting the presidency on an ego ticket.

The problem that Hillary faces - or the "woman card" that Mr Trump perceives her to be playing - is the way people still feel about women and power.

As Hanna Schank wrote for 'Salon' in her excellent essay describing why she intended to vote for Hillary: "I understand what it's like to be the most qualified person in the room and still be overlooked in favour of the charismatic guy just because, well, you'd rather have a beer with him. And I know that until the world sees what it looks like for this country to have a female president, we're going to forever be finding reasons not to vote for one."

There is, as Ms Schank concludes, still so much for American women to fight for. And that fight starts with a woman standing for president, facing down all the criticism levelled at her for having the audacity to do so.

Of course, the best card in Hillary's hand is also Donald Trump: when Americans go to the polls in November, she'll be on the ballot paper as his opponent. I know who I'd put my wager on to fold in the final round.

Irish Independent

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