If there was any doubt whether Donald Trump would become the Republican Party presidential candidate, now it is pretty certain that he has won a sufficient number of delegate votes. Hillary Clinton represents the Democratic Party. As the elections are getting closer, the battle is getting dirtier. Both candidates are exposed to various inspections and comments, from the state of their assets and behavior to intrusions into their intimacy. Everything in their lives is important and seeks the attention of the media. The impression is that the candidates need to be publicly denuded. The stakes are high, and the gap between Trump and Clinton is getting smaller. The comment of David Brooks in The New York Times about “Why Is Clinton Disliked?” is very interesting; Clinton with 57 percent of votes is as unpopular as Trump (NYT/CBS 60 percent). And while it is easy to understand that Trump gained this percentage due to his aggressiveness, insults and unpleasant behavior in general — Clinton’s popularity has fallen from the previous 39 percent. The question is why. Obviously due to voter reception.
In fact, Brooks concludes from various books and comments that the voters perceive Hillary Clinton as a professional, a woman dedicated mostly to her career, organized, devoted to social subjects and a workaholic. Besides that, she is calculated and distrustful. And just when you are about to believe that these virtues make her the perfect person for the job, it turns out otherwise. She is missing something! For example, no one knows how she spends her free time, what her hobbies and weaknesses are, or what she likes. Even though her close associates claim that Clinton is a warm and caring person, none of this reaches the public ear. “It’s hard from the outside to have a sense of her as a person; she is a role,” Brooks writes. For the public, Hillary Clinton is an ice queen: a cold woman, more of a robot than a human being. And that is not in her favor because it is hard for the ordinary people to establish a relationship with such a person.
For her opponent, Trump, the opposite is true. The general impression is that he only shows his human side with all its existing flaws and weaknesses, from roughness, superficiality and mendacity to his propensity for violent solutions to world issues. His virtues, except the ability to make money and manipulate the media, somehow have difficulties expressing themselves. He is “a man who talks the talk but does not walk the walk”* as he is described by those who know him well. Clinton has been punished with unpopularity for hiding her human side behind a role; Trump has been equally punished, but for a completely opposite behavior from hers. How should an ideal candidate look?
Of course, for many reasons, it is important whether the U.S. president will be a woman. That’s why the perception of Hillary Clinton as a “cold’’ woman is interesting — that is, as a woman who has control over her life, who knows what she wants and wants power. It is offensive to say that she is cold “for a woman.” Her professionalism and seriousness, as well as her political experience, are less important than that “motherly experience’’ she should be demonstrating. She should be warm and caring, gentle and vulnerable and peaceful — and she should demonstrate these virtues to satisfy still existing prejudices of how a woman, even a president, should be. But would the American voters consider such a strong feminine side a weakness, a lack of strength for the political leadership and for decisiveness in difficult situations?
It definitely isn’t easy for American voters, squeezed between the ridiculousness of one candidate and the prejudices about the other candidate.
Here in Europe, we have more experience with women, from Margaret Thatcher who didn’t demonstrate those allegedly motherly virtues in any situation, to Angela Merkel whose warm “maternal’’ appearance — which supposedly is trust-seeking — definitely doesn’t mean that she doesn’t rule with a firm, “manly’’ fist. And our homemade example of a president who wishes to rule with warmth, care and kindness, but doesn’t achieve anything, actually speaks against such hot-cold approaches to politics.
Clinton is the embodiment of the achievements of women’s emancipation in the USA, which allowed her to become a candidate: from the early 1970s when, for example, a widow couldn’t get a consumer loan, up to now, when some basic women’s rights are considered an achievement of a civilization. Clinton is aware of this, but her voters aren’t, especially young women. They aren’t aware that it was Clinton’s generation that fought for the rights that they take for granted today. The historical battles aren’t of their interest — they are interested in a better and in a fairer life, and that’s why their candidate is Bernie Sanders. Although, after everything is said and done, we should be reminded that this is a woman who entered politics thanks to her husband’s presidential position.
I met Hillary Clinton once, when her husband was president. I must say that the impression she left on me back then, as first lady, was of a business, ambitious and yes — cold — woman. On that occasion, she was the one who acted as the president, not her husband. Yet, let’s hope that her voters will be less interested in her warmth than in her ability for business, which she doesn’t lack. The symbolism of a woman in the presidential chair has the same importance as the symbolism Barack Obama’s case. And that is one of the reasons it would be great if Clinton won these elections.
*Editor’s note: This quote, as translated, could not be directly sourced.