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Stop blaming sexism for Hillary Clinton's defeat

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One of the few consolations afforded by Donald Trump’s victory was to be found in its corollary. Trump won, therefore Hillary Clinton lost. And I can think of few people more deserving of defeat than she.

This Goldwater Republican turned Dixiecrat, this ‘friend’ of the gays who backed both DoMA and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, this ‘friend’ of the blacks who employed Dick Morris and played the race card against Obama in ’08, and who backed her husband’s welfare and justice ‘reforms’, this ‘friend’ of refugees who wants more of the wars from which they flee, this ‘friend’ of Main Street who’s never comfortable away from Wall Street, this ‘advocate’ of healthcare who deliberately squandered, in the ‘90s, the best chance for a universal system there has ever been, this ‘honest’ candidate who lies about everything from her name to her politics and financiers. The only shame was that her loss was not more total.

Nor was I particularly displeased when, in the days and weeks that followed, the doyen of Wall Street and nominal head of the opposition was nowhere to be found. I thought then and think now that this behaviour was typical of someone whose only principle is one of self-aggrandisement. Denied her chance at promotion, why should she bother working at all?

Might we, finally, be rid of the Clintons and their mutant dauphins, their hideous jesters and corrupted enablers?

Alas, no such luck. Just as it looked as though even her media lackeys were packing up to go home, along comes an opportunity to do what they do best: squawk and crow with wounded pride, and whine about perceived injustice. Their gal had been cheated, the world was set against her from the off; the blame belongs on anyone, with anything or anywhere, but her.

What revived this pique? Why, the prototype humanoid Mike Pence, of course. He, whilst governor of Indiana, had used a private email server! This obviously makes him guilty of the same crime as Clinton had been accused of… which, given that her supporters insisted there was nothing wrong with it, makes Pence guilty of nothing at all.

Ah, but the reaction. We’d all made such a big deal out of Clinton’s server; why was there no equivalent fuss about Pence’s use of the same? The answer is obvious, apparently: sexism. The press and the public don’t mind Mike Pence’s misdemeanours (which, remember, aren’t actually misdemeanours, or are not when Clinton does them) because he has a penis. By contrast, the same actions by Hillary Clinton are blown out of all proportion because she’s a woman and has a vagina.

Never mind that Pence’s use of a private server as governor of Indiana was legal under state law, and never mind that – with apologies to the citizens of that state – the governorship of Indiana is significantly less important than the office of Secretary of State, and never mind that the governor of a state handles far less by way of sensitive or damaging information than the Secretary of State, and never mind that Mike Pence has not once lied, in public, about his use of a private server, as Clinton did on several occasions, and never mind that none of his emails have been deleted after receipt of a subpoena, and never mind…

At least, that is the contention of Emma Gray, of The Huffington Post, who decided to take a break from compiling ‘snarky tweets’ about The Bachelor to write that the Clinton email scandal was “always about sexism” and that “the non-reaction to Mike Pence’s private email account proves it.” She cites this difference in the reaction of press and public, and numerous opinion polls (which, as we know, are as unimpeachable as a Clinton) which highlight it, to support… well… this: “In 1683, the people of Salem had witches to channel their rage and distrust of women towards. In 2016, Americans had Hillary Clinton.”

This is an unfortunate as well as an absurd analogy to make. I don’t doubt that Hillary Clinton resembles a character from The Crucible, but that character is surely the powerful and deceitful Abigail Williams and not the poor, put-upon Tituba. If we were to retell Arthur Miller’s play and pay special attention to its gendered connotations, we’d find that few have more capacity to do harm to the sisterhood than powerful, privileged women who insist on speaking for the rest, and who themselves do quite well out of society’s inequalities.

The odious Madeleine Albright, she who could call the deaths of half a million Iraqi children “worth it” in support of the corrupt and murderous sanctions programme placed on that country, spoke more truly than she knew when she suggested that there is “a special place in hell for women who don’t support Hillary Clinton.”

Said women are those made to suffer by the policies of the last Clinton administration, who are ignored by doting fools like Emma Gray, insulted by those for whom anything other than unquestioning deference is grounds for expulsion from the sorority, and include those – Lewinsky, Jones, Broaddrick, Willey – whose reward for being assaulted by the former president was the wrath, vile and venom of his apparently irreproachable wife. (For more on this, see the relevant chapters of Christopher Hitchens’s book No one left to lie to.) A special place in hell, indeed.

On the whole, people dislike being told that the only decent thing to do is put up and shut up. They dislike being told that their doubts are unreasonable, and that they owe it to the candidate to vote for her. They dislike being insulted – branded sexist, homophobic, transphobic, racist – should they dare to question the narrative of ascension. It was spectacularly complacent of the Clinton campaign to assume that the work was already done, the coronation a moral right. People quickly become fed up with being told that policy and record and character are to be considered irrelevant by presumption of merit earned and that Ms. Clinton deserves their vote because of her gender.

Yes, women should not be held to a different standard – higher or lower – than men. And yes, too often they are. Take this representative example:

“How,” asked Anderson Cooper, “would you not be a third term of President Obama?”

“Well,” Clinton replied, grinning with arms outspread and a confident twinkle in the eye, “I think that’s pretty obvious.” She went on to say that, “Being the first woman president would be quite a change from the presidents we’ve had up until this point, including President Obama.” As is his fashion, Cooper declined to ask the obvious follow-up: Yes, but for what reason besides your mammary glands?

This is nonsense. Either women are to be treated as though they are, in some way, innately different than men when it comes to thought and feeling and intellect, or they are not. Either the vagina contains some unique and mystical power or it does not. I cannot speak to the motives of the tens of millions who voted against Clinton at the last election, but I can speak for myself when I say that I believe Clinton lost not because she is a woman but because she’s a liar, a fraud and a creep. And I would have been just as vocal and just as persistent in pointing this out had she been a man.

There is nothing demeaning or devaluing about having a uterus, but there’s no redemption in it, either. People, like Ms. Gray, would do well to remember that.




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