Richard Cohen brought a question to the forefront last week in an article published in the Washington Post after Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination to run for president. This question was not intended to ridicule the woman who became the first in U.S. history to win a nomination from one of the major political parties to compete for the most important office in the country.
The goal of this question was to shed light on the difficulties that Hillary Clinton faces as a woman, or in other words, the obstacles that still exist for American women. His answer was therefore to the point: if Hillary were a man, it would take her less effort to convince voters of her aptitude.
Far larger obstacles are placed in front of women than men, despite the fact that 97 years have passed since American women won the right to vote. For this reason, many consider the next election to be a battle for women in general, and not only for Hillary specifically. But has American society become ready to accept a female president, just as it determined eight years ago that it was ready to elect a black citizen to the same office?
It’s a mistake to think that the votes of women will automatically go to Hillary just for being female, or that women represent 57 percent of registered voters. Many women refuse the idea of voting for Hillary just because she’s a woman, and they also refuse to consider that voting for her rival is a betrayal to the cause of women and a stab at feminism. The primaries already revealed this reality from the beginning, when her Democratic rival won 55 percent of women’s votes versus her 44 percent in New Hampshire.
The reason for women’s reluctance to support Hillary may not be well understood, especially from a young and unmarried point of view. In general, some women are against her for specific reasons pertaining to her position and her political views, while other women have reservations for personal reasons. For example, Hillary faces an attack from American women angered by her continuation in married life with Bill Clinton after the sex scandal during his presidency. Many women consider her continuation with married life to mean that she is willing to be submissive and degraded, a quality that they reject. Others see that Hillary’s decision to not separate from her husband reveals her opportunism; she gave up her dignity in exchange for her political ambitions.
Everyone knows that American society is unaware, and may not believe, that it is largely a conservative society. As such, it doesn’t accept infidelity and really respects family life, making that an important factor for the popularity of any politician. Of course that doesn’t take away from Hillary’s foresight. She planned for her ambitious political career early on, and didn’t want to let it crash on the rock of marital infidelity. She is aware that a divorced woman has weaker chances of success in the elections, compared to the chances of a loyal and patient wife who safeguards her family and fights to remain attached to it. Time proved she was right when she won the election to the New York Senate in 2000. She was the first woman to win this seat in the history of the state.
Hillary is once more undertaking this important, revered venture. She knows better than to fight her battles as a woman, but rather as a veteran politician and a former secretary of state. Yet the thought of swing votes keeps her up at night; their enthusiasm for her was supposed to be so much greater. Nevertheless the situation does not seem so bad. The last polls indicate that 57 percent of women prefer Hillary compared with 45 percent for her Republican rival Donald Trump, while Trump outperforms among men with 55 percent compared to 45 percent for Hillary.*
The biggest mistake that Hillary could make now would be to transform the election campaign into a battle between men and women. On the one hand, she isn’t like that. On the other hand, American citizens — and the standard for electing congressmen, governors, and other officials — require candidates to be elected on the basis of their programs and positions, and not on the basis of their sex. Any attempt from Hillary’s side to manipulate the sex card to attract women will mean that she is politically bankrupt.
Hillary does not lack the intelligence to realize this fact. However, some of her supporters harm her unintentionally, as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright did when she addressed a feminist crowd, saying “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!” Hillary should ask God to protect her from the mistakes of her allies. As far as her opponent Trump is concerned, Hillary can handle him.
*Editor’s note: These percentages are accurately translated.