Donald Trump, self-indulgent lout that he is, has presented Americans with a clear choice this election year. We can’t shrug and say that both candidates are the same, not without scrapping any principles we might still hold.
In that respect, Trump’s campaign has been a good thing. It has exposed America for what this country has become: racist, sexist, and despite all our sincere attempts to promote free and equitable education, ignorant. Fortunately these are inadequacies we can correct, though it’s going to take some time.
In 2008 when Barack Obama was elected president, we gloated that we had finally overcome racial prejudice—that like the rest of the world we had entrusted the leadership of our country to a minority. But then in rapid succession came the tea party, and “you lie,” and the birther movement, and Trayvon Martin, and web pages filled with racist drawings, and Ferguson, and three years of killing unarmed black citizens. Eight years after that election we can attend a Trump rally and hear his supporters unabashedly denigrate Blacks, Latinos, and Muslims, not to mention anyone who lives an alternative lifestyle. It’s the new openness, and it has forced many of us to reexamine ourselves and the country we extol in anthem and song. Crown thy good with brotherhood? Really?
But as rife as racial prejudice is, it is subtle and restrained compared to the bias toward women. It’s out there for everyone to see, and nobody seems terribly embarrassed by it. (We still have beauty contests, people!) There’s a quote attributed to Gloria Steinem, but one which she claimed to have heard from a woman cab driver in Boston: “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.” I remember that every time I hear Hillary Clinton upbraided for having the qualities that we not only expect and tolerate, but rhapsodize about in men: ambition, purpose, clarity, seriousness, intelligence. Men—and women too: sorry, ladies, you don’t get a pass on this—overlook all those strengths, impugn her honesty, and dismiss her. Fair enough if you differ in policy, but Trump claims she doesn’t have a presidential look, and instead of agreeing that a remark that deplorable makes him unsuitable for a position of authority at any level, we hardly bat an eye.
Hillary Clinton has her faults—everyone does. I’m not going to deny them or sugarcoat them—go to Trump’s website and read about them. (You won’t see his marital history included, but that’s easy enough to find.) Let’s be honest here: Hillary Clinton’s biggest sin was trying to initiate health care in the 90s and rankling all the politicians who were in bed with the insurance companies. That she has been able to withstand thirty years of enmity without coming apart is probably reason enough to choose her over her whining and wheezing opponent.
But then again she’s a woman, and now that Trump has declared open season on individual women (Megyn Kelly, Sarah Jessica Parker, Angelina Jolie, Cher) as well as women in general (they’re all gold diggers, they find him irresistible, sexual assault in the military is to be expected, breast feeding is disgusting), all the hitherto dirty little prejudices have been released like the evils in Pandora’s box. But if that simile holds, remember—when Pandora closed the box again, hope remained. I wonder though, after fifteen months of this, if that box could have anything remaining inside.