How least qualified man beat the most qualified woman
History will probably only remember it for purposes of mockery but something amazing happened in 2016 — and no one seemed to notice how remarkable it was. Actually, that turned out to be exactly what went wrong.
For much of the year, experts and non-experts of all sorts spent time speculating how large the victory of our first woman president would be.
“There may never be a safer election in which to vote for a third option,” Edward Snowden tweeted from Russia in late October, noting that the New York Times Upshot model was giving Hillary Clinton a 93 percent chance of being elected president.
Less than 100 years after women began to gain the right to vote, the biggest question seemed to be “Just how many cracks will be in that ceiling?”
Earlier that month, a tape of Donald Trump bragging about sexual assault on the set of Access Hollywood seemed to confirm Americans worst fears about the GOP nominee — namely that he was rapey monster who considered others, especially women, vessels for his conquest.
But what we didn’t see coming was the confluence of a variety of unprecedented, unimaginable attacks simmering against Hillary Clinton beginning just an hour after the release of the Access Hollywood tape with the first release of John Podesta’s emails and ending with FBI Director James Comey making his second insanely improper intervention into a presidential campaign with a comically vague memo that gave Republicans cause to scream “EMAILS!” for the last week of the election while Donald Trump got off Twitter and stuck to his script. And culminated with Comey “clearing” Clinton again the day before the election so that America woke up to headlines not pondering the significance of the election but again screaming “EMAILS!”
The shocking results on Election Day confirmed what Democratic pollsters saw immediately after Comey’s memo — it had finished her off.
Some will refuse that assessment and argue that Trump’s win was already coming as voters had decades of information about the Clintons baked into their brains. More will say, “Well, then Democrats shouldn’t have nominated someone under FBI investigation.” They should have nominated another woman who could easily be elected president — which is easy to imagine, somehow, yet has never yet appeared in American history.
Sure, there are legitimate critiques Clintons, and like the legitimate critiques of President Obama, almost all of them come from the left.
But even those arguments tend to ignore the cosmic injustice of an investigation into her unforced error of bad email security being born out of an endless witchhunt into the Benghazi tragedy, meant first to destroy President Obama and then deployed to hammer Clinton’s candidacy. And this comes after decades of trumped up, specious or downright abusive uses of taxpayer money to attack a couple whose greatest crime to the right will always be that they beat Republicans.
We imagined America had the immune system to stop our nation from electing a megalomaniac whose career has been spent in the opposite of the public interest. Instead, we were reminded that a woman — especially a woman ambitious enough to be the first major party nominee for president — is still held to standards that tower over her male opponent.
Everything seems to be excused away because she was an imperfect candidate. We don’t need to investigate a foreign power interfering in our elections to shift our foreign policy toward their financial and strategic advantage because Clinton didn’t visit Wisconsin. It’s no big deal that FBI Director weighed in on the extreme carelessness of one candidate while suppressing any comment about investigations into the other because John Kerry had more canvassers in Michigan. A candidate who was caught using his Foundation and his “University” for unethical and possible illegal gains refused to reveal the one legal document that will give a peak into the extraordinary conflicts of interests he will bring into the presidency, in direct violation of the Constitution. But that’s fine because Clinton didn’t spend enough time in the small towns of rural Pennsylvania.
It’s true that Clinton could have done better and Democrats will have do better. Still, so many of her mistakes were born out of believing that America was not just ready for a woman president, but that she should win easily. No one saw a category 4 storm of patriarchy’s worst whims boiling up against her.
One of the worst things about Trump’s election is the people it proved right — like Dilbert creator Scott Adams who posited in June that “the biggest unreported story of this presidential election is the humiliation of the American male.”
He predicted Trump would win with the largest male turnout in history, which sort of happened. It was the widest gender gap in generations, with men supporting Trump by 5 percent over manly Mitt Romney.
Adams wrote in that same post:
In my opinion, Hillary Clinton has already done a great service to the country because – win or lose – she already effectively broke the glass ceiling on the most visible and important job in the nation. If she falls short of the presidency, few people will think it was because of gender discrimination against women. Clinton has been a strong role model for women and deserves massive credit for that.
That’s the credit he’s willing to give to Clinton. It’s enough that people thought she should win and that misogyny can’t be blamed for her loss. She doesn’t deserve the job she’s obviously more qualified for. Some guys don’t even believe she deserves all the electoral votes she won, even though she got three million more votes than the “winner.”
That’s the victory of misogyny of 2016. Men can claim they’ve solved it without ceding any actual power.
[Photo by the great Anne Savage.]