Seeing the election unfold south of the border, it’s hard to believe that you can be surprised anymore, but by spending one evening on Twitter last week, I found out that I still could be. Someone had tweeted that they had voted that day, and they were moved to tears because for the first time in their lifetime, they cast a vote for a major party nominee for president who happened to be female. That emotional honesty shared on social media put something in stark relief for me: we’ve been so obsessed with how this election has broken all conventions we haven’t taken the time to notice history being made right in front of us.
When the media calls this an historic election, they tend to mean that the orange-coloured carnival barker is getting away with doing and saying anything that comes into his mind whether that’s denying things he’s been caught on tape saying, insulting people once thought sacrosanct, or refusing to release information that’s been proforma for candidates for decades. Truth be told, a rich white guy running for president is not precedent setting, in fact all but nine of the 44 POTUSes have been worth over a million dollars each; even all-star socialist Bernie Sanders has several hundred thousand to his name.
The real story of this election, the real history of it, was driven home to me as a I started reading tweets from Americans voting early, some saying that they had tears in their eyes as they cast their ballot for the first major party female presidential candidate. It’s not fair to call Hillary Clinton the first female presidential nominee, but she is the first that has an honest chance of being the one to take the oath of office. As it sits today, there’s a very strong likelihood that the 45th President of the United States of America will be a woman, and that’s powerful. It’s also something that’s been vastly understated in this election cycle.
Let’s look at it another way, for millions of Americas, an entire generation that came of voting age after 2004, they’ve know two elections with an African-American major party nominee, and one election with a woman; two if you count for Gov. Sarah Palin’s vice-presidential nomination in 2008, and why not? One can think of no better way to gauge social progress that to think that three out of the five presidential elections of the 21st century so far have featured candidates of a marginalized group that didn’t even have the right to vote a century earlier. Or as Trump supporters might say, “We’re not winning anymore!”
Perhaps we’re so used to history being made we take it for granted; we’ve had two terms of a black president now, the current pope is the first from the so-called “New World,” and the Cubs just broke a 108 year drought between championships. Perhaps its a positive sign that we can do all these things, like seeing a major American political party nominate a woman for president, that we don’t have to remark on it as ostentatious, this is just the world we live in, and there are no more barriers. Except there still are.
It’s probably no coincidence that the election of Barack Obama saw a sudden resurgence in racism and extremist activities tied to radical groups based on racist or white nationalist ideology. The Southern Poverty Law Centre, who track these things, saw a 100 per cent increase in Klan-affiliated groups from 2014 to 2015 alone, from 72 to nearly 200 in just 12 months time. Many have wondered if there will be an equal response in sexist sentiment if Clinton is to win the presidency on Tuesday, and if you’ve seen t-shirts being sold at Trump rallies with slogans like “Trump That Bitch” and “Hillary Sucks, But Not Like Monica,” you probably already know the answer.
The ones that go first always carry the weight of all those that will inevitably follow them. Many people have commented that if the things that Trump has said had come out of the mount of Obama he would have a hard time getting a job at White Castle, forget about the White House. It’s weird that after 16 years of two happily married presidents raising two beautiful daughters that one potential successor has been married three times, the subject of numerous affairs, and was caught on tape as a newly wed saying that he can’t help himself around beautiful women, and that he kisses them and grabs their vagina because of his celebrity privilege. If Trump weren’t a rich land developer, he’d be a perennial guest facing Maury Povich’s lie detector. “You said you didn’t grab her pussy, the lie detector determined that that was a lie.”
Perhaps the only thing more startling than seeing the first female presidential candidate of a major party this close to victory is that the first female presidential candidate of a major party has had to run against such a tremendous example of human fertilizer. In so much as Trump has said horrible things about black people, Muslims, latinos, and the disabled, the thing that really hits Trump where he lives are the things he says about women. Forget pussy grabbing – well, don’t really forget it – he’s also bragged about walking backstage where *Teen* Miss USA candidates were getting dressed, he did an interview lamenting his disappointment when his former wife wanted to talk business when he got home rather than having his dinner ready, and let’s not forget “such a nasty woman”, “I’m going to date her in 10 years,” or all the times he’s sexualized his eldest daughter.
That’s history’s fine sense of irony that the woman about to break the ultimate glass ceiling is forced to earn the chance by beating someone with a laundry list of misogynistic statements and traits. As well, it’s proof of just how unseemly it still is in the eyes of some men for a woman to want power. For some strange reason, leadership has never been perceived as a lady-like trait, even after 100 year of women’s suffrage, an effort that was lead by women in spite of the male of the species, not because of them. From the moment Clinton arrived on the federal scene and said that she was going to be more active in crafting policy than the average First Lady, her critics had the knives out for her; they thought she didn’t know her place. I guess there are still some people that think that.
Elanor Roosevelt once said that, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right — for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be ‘damned if you do, and damned if you don’t,'” and it seems that in the case of Hillary Clinton she was especially right. Having said that, it’s a shame that the former Secretary of State or her surrogates couldn’t sell her candidacy the way that Michael Moore does in his one-man show Trumpland, painting Clinton as a woman of faults, but one that has dedicated her life to public service, and has been unfairly maligned – viciously so – for being a woman with a mind of her own. In other words, Hillary should have taken a page from the book of Madonna, “I’m tough, ambitious, and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, okay.”
Despite the concerns about the possibility of electing the deranged, desiccated corpse of Don Draper and allowing him access to nuclear codes and the ability to start trade wars and tear up international agreements, Americans would do well to stop and think about the other side of the ballot for a moment. Even if their conservative ideals are telling them to pull the lever for Trump, they should pause beforehand to get use to the idea that they’re going to be seeing more women at the top of the ticket, and sometimes they might even have an R beside their name.