Sunday,23 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1317, (27 October - 2 November 2016)
Sunday,23 September, 2018
Issue 1317, (27 October - 2 November 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Trump losing big

Through crass words, more than through policy positions, Donald Trump has all but lost the women’s vote, which will probably lose him the US presidential election, writes Said Okasha in Washington

Al-Ahram Weekly

“The Republicans are going to lose the women’s vote. That will cost them the elections by a landslide,” said Nadia Brown, political science professor at Purdue University. Her observation encapsulates the plight of the Republican Party and their candidate Donald Trump. Their difficulties have very little to do with any ideological differences between the US’s two major political parties on economic or social policies and a lot to do with the positions that certain voting blocs will take with respect to any candidate on the basis of how that candidate’s positions intersect with various religious, ethnic, gender or other affiliation-related sensitivities, regardless of whether or not that candidate has a better electoral platform than his/her rival.

Quite a large segment of Democratic Party voters is uncomfortable with Hillary Clinton’s nomination as their party’s presidential candidate. Either they believe that her platform fails to meet the ambitions of the middle class that has formed the party’s major base of support since at least the 1990s, or they harbour a deep mistrust of Clinton herself who they believe is continuing in her husband’s footsteps in terms of dragging the traditionally liberal party towards the political right on economic issues.

A few months before Hillary’s campaign began, Joy-Ann Reid’s Fracture: Obama, the Clintons and the Racial Divide (Harper Collins, September 2015) appeared. The author noted two important phenomena regarding the Democratic Party. One was its obvious inclination to adopt a platform that was not much different from that of the Republicans with regard to the transformation of the American economy into one that supports the rich. As a result, the question of the monopolisation of wealth remained outside the debate between the two major parties; or otherwise put, both parties were not prepared to clash with the major tycoons that controlled the American economy. The second was the Democratic Party’s habit of uttering promises of equality to African Americans, Latinos and other non-white ethnic groups but, when in power, pursuing polices not much different to the Republican Party’s declared policies that are more explicit in their promotion of discrimination in favour of white people.

The Republicans could probably have kept the Democrats struggling to keep up in the presidential race and may well have won it by a considerable lead had it not been for that unanticipated surprise that gave Donald Trump the opportunity to become the Republican presidential candidate. Trump’s nomination proved a lifeline to the Clinton campaign that had come under fierce attack by the younger generations of Democrats who backed Bernie Sanders (who is ideologically closer to social democratic trend of thought) as their party’s candidate. She was also spared the problem of having to enter into a debate, which she may not have been able to win, on social-economic programmes. Trump held the advantage, here, in that his populist rhetoric addressed the working class, and the poorer and less educated segments of this class in particular, with the promise of freeing them from the competition of illegal immigrants in the labour market.

When Trump won the Republican candidacy, the electoral battle became much easier for the Democrats and their candidate, Hillary Clinton. Instead of having to struggle to secure votes on the basis of the party’s electoral platform, it suddenly became possible to inflict heavy losses on the adversary within major voting blocs shaped by gender and ethnic affiliations, such as women, the LGBT community, African Americans, Latinos and Asians. All these groups were vehemently opposed to Trump because of his innumerable offensive remarks, especially against women and Latinos.

Women are now the largest voting bloc on which the Democrats can rely in the forthcoming polls. This has much less to do with women’s sympathy with or desire to support a female candidate than it does with their reactions against Trump’s vulgar and misogynous remarks.

Clinton, in her campaign, has homed in not just on Trump’s contempt for women, but also on his support for restrictions on women’s reproductive rights, which Clinton supports unequivocally. Trump, for his part, continues to voice his opposition to abortion rights, as occurred again in the third debate with Hillary some days ago. To make matters worse for the Republicans, some Republican congressmen have rushed to Trump’s defence over his sexist remarks. After Trump stirred another wave of outcry among many segments of the American public, because in the third debate he referred to Clinton a “nasty woman”, Representative Brian Babin (R-Texas) reiterated the offensive remark during a radio interview, a recording of which was posted on The Huffington Post on 21 October. In addition to endorsing Trump’s sexist insult to Clinton and repeating it, himself, Babin added: “I think sometimes a lady needs to be told when she’s being nasty.”

It is a mystery how the Republican Party brought itself to this unprecedented point of allowing itself to risk losing whatever support it had among half the US’s voting population. Surely it can not have been ignorant of well known facts and figures attesting to the growth in women’s political strength and influence during the past 20 years, whether in terms of the ratios of their participation in political and civil society bodies and organisations or in their capacity to muster financial and political support for congressional and presidential candidates. According to a recent study, from May up to the end of the Democratic and Republican primaries, women accounted for half — or even a little over half — of the members of the groups in charge of soliciting donations for the Hillary campaign, as opposed to about one-third of the numbers of such groups during the Obama campaign in 2012. In addition, 60 per cent of donations forthcoming came from women entrepreneurs who own major companies, especially in the construction and real estate sectors. It is particularly noteworthy that Emily’s List, a political action committee (PAC) founded in 1985 in order to promote the election of pro-choice Democratic female candidates to public office, has been a major fundraiser for the Hillary campaign. The $37 million it has collected is the largest amount of campaign contributions solicited by any single pro-Democratic PAC.

Of course there are women’s groups active in soliciting campaign contributions for Republican candidates, but they are considerably less effective than their Democratic counterparts, especially in this campaign season. The first and foremost reason for this is the Republican Party’s inability to bridle Trump’s tongue, which is universally offensive and offensive to women in particular.

Some observers believe that Trump might still stand a chance in the elections if some seismic shift occurs among the very sizeable bloc of swing voters, or if a major terrorist attack occurs, raising the lure of the extremist policies that Trump advocates against Muslim immigrants on the grounds that they are the direct or indirect cause of such attacks. But such horrific scenarios aside, Trump’s electoral prospects have declined considerably, not because of opposition to his campaign platform, but because he has lost the confidence of large and important voting blocs, such as women.

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