By Holly Baxter
09 November 2016
Yesterday, I sat down and completed the finishing touches on an article I had written in advance of the victory of President Hillary Clinton. Ironically enough, it began with this sentence: “We are now living in the unlikeliest of worlds.”
I waxed lyrical about the fact that the US President and the UK’s Prime Minister were both women, and congratulated Americans on realising the absurdity of pretending, as so much of the mainstream American media did, that a president who stood accused of sexual assault by dougle digit numbers of women was just as bad as a president who had been accused of using her email servers irresponsibly. Now that article, which will never see the light of day, is nothing more than a eulogy for a time when I still felt optimistic about global politics.
It is testament to how difficult it is for a woman to be elected in the US that Donald Trump has been elected President, long after he pledged to a population which is almost 20 per cent Hispanic that he would build a gigantic wall at the border with Mexico to keep further immigrants out and “make them pay for it”; long after he dismissed Black Lives Matter as a “divisive” movement that was “looking for trouble” in a country with a 15 per cent black population; long after he stated that women “should be punished” for having abortions (before retracting it after an outcry); long after he told Fox News host Megyn Kelly that she had “blood coming out of her wherever” when she questioned him at a Republican debate; long after the release of a video showing him stating that you can “grab [women] by the pussy” if you’re famous.
Trump has always been powerful: privileged, media-savvy, well-connected and able to pour eye-watering amounts into his own publicity, he made millions believe he was the anti-establishment underdog. Throughout the debates and the electoral campaign, he managed to magically have his cake and eat it too. It has been frightening to see many swept up in the fervour of Make America Great Again, that meaningless phrase which was used to suggest that Barack Obama – another history-making President simply by virtue of who he was – had somehow dragged the US into the gutter, when he had in fact spent years toiling to undo the reputational damage done to the country by his predecessor George W Bush.
“The lesser of two evils” is the way too many political pundits put it when they discussed Hillary Clinton, a phrase which did her a lot of damage. Why were so many scared to say that, like when Barack Obama was elected against all odds in a fundamentally racist country, it would have been a historic moment and a triumph if Clinton had made the Oval Office? This is, after all, a country where men still make up 81 per cent of Congress, 75 per cent of state legislators and 88 per cent of governors, and 100 per cent of presidents.
Clinton pledged that half her cabinet will be women, and her closest political adviser, Huma Abedin, was Muslim. The last Muslim woman who appeared prominently at a Trump rally was Ghazala Khan, the mother of a fallen American soldier who Trump implied was not allowed to speak because of her religion. And now a white man who promised to ban Muslim immigration is entering the White House.
A future under Hillary Clinton meant the continuation of Obamacare, rather than its destruction (“Repealing Obamacare and stopping Hillary’s healthcare takeover is one of the single most important reasons that we must win on November 8,” Trump said recently); the protection of rights for LGBT people (Trump opposes same-sex marriage, opposes legislation protecting the rights of transgender people to use bathrooms matching their gender, and his running mate Mike Pence once suggested that funds for HIV sufferers could be better spent on gay conversion therapy); the protection of rights for women; the continuation of a positive and progressive climate change policy (Trump wanted to “cancel all wasteful climate change spending”); and a nuclear policy which doesn’t boil down to: “Why do we have them if we can’t use them?” and repeated statements that America should be “unpredictable” with its use of nuclear weapons. All we really know about a future under Donald Trump is these snippets of negativity, plus an array of confused, convoluted and often contradictory statements which came out of the mouth of a man who built his campaign on hatred.
This will forever be known as the election that proved the US would rather elect any sort of man than a qualified and competent woman. American voters, I hope you’re proud.