One of the biggest mistakes made by the Clinton campaign was assuming that Hillary would have the support of most women. This would be their first real chance at breaking the biggest “glass ceiling” of all, and their first real chance to end the “testosterone poisoning” that has fueled our domestic and foreign policy since the county’s founding. Best of all, she would provide a great model to show all young girls that they can do anything and achieve anything.
But it didn’t work out that way. It was women that gave Trump the election. White working class women. It turned out class was much more important than gender: white working class women voted 62% to 34% for Trump. If it had been 50-50, Clinton would have won the election.
Part of the explanation is that what “working class” actually signifies has changed. It once suggested productivity and sturdiness. Now it’s a euphemism for downwardly mobile and poor. This New Yorker piece notes,
“A significant part of the W.W.C. has succumbed to the ills that used to be associated with the black urban “underclass”: intergenerational poverty, welfare, debt, bankruptcy, out-of-wedlock births, trash entertainment, addiction, jail, social distrust, political cynicism, bad health, unhappiness, early death.”
Here in the People’s Republic of Cambridge, most of us are subject to the mis-perception that the “women’s vote” consists mainly of like minded sisters: progressive, educated feminists who mostly subscribe to similar views on issues. We think, in general, women will be pro-choice, favor stricter gun control, favor an Equal Rights Amendment, equal pay for equal work (perhaps even “comparable worth”), and so on. We naturally think that women would vote for a like-minded woman given the chance, and Hillary would be the perfect choice. So smart, so qualified, so committed to their causes.
In Cambridge, 650 women at the Harvard Business School united in their dislike of Trump and signed a letter denouncing their fellow HBS alumnus, Steve Bannon, who had been appointed Chief Strategist for Trump. It said,
We are female graduates and current students of Harvard Business School. We represent a wide range of religions, ethnicities and professions. We are daughters, sisters and mothers; native-born Americans and immigrants; Republicans and Democrats.
Mr. Bannon has been described as one of the chief architects of the alt-right movement, a movement that preaches white nationalism, racism, misogyny and hatred. He has repeatedly put forth hateful rhetoric against women, including a radio interview in which he referred to progressive, educated women as “a bunch of dykes.”
But the “wide range”of the women inside H.B.S. is not as wide as they think. Outside Cambridge, in the real world, things are very different. This excellent article, also from the Harvard Business Review explains a lot about Trump’s appeal, the “culture gap”, and why class is more important than gender.
One little-known element of that gap is that the white working class (WWC) resents professionals but admires the rich. Class migrants (white-collar professionals born to blue-collar families) report that “professional people were generally suspect” and that managers are college kids “who don’t know shit about how to do anything but are full of ideas about how I have to do my job,” said Alfred Lubrano in Limbo. Barbara Ehrenreich recalled in 1990 that her blue-collar dad “could not say the word doctor without the virtual prefix quack. Lawyers were shysters…and professors were without exception phonies.” Annette Lareau found tremendous resentment against teachers, who were perceived as condescending and unhelpful.
Hillary Clinton epitomizes the dorky arrogance and smugness of the professional elite. The dorkiness: the pantsuits. The arrogance: the email server. The smugness: the basket of deplorables. Worse, her mere presence rubs it in that even women from her class can treat working-class men with disrespect. Look at how she condescends to Trump as unfit to hold the office of the presidency and dismisses his supporters as racist, sexist, homophobic, or xenophobic.
The lesson here may be that the interests of women and men are, in fact, not nearly as far apart as we thought. But the interests of the “elites” are completely different than the interests of the “working class”.
Check out this article from the New York Times just yesterday, explaining the rationale that various women had for preferring Trump. Prepare to be disheartened.
OK, I get it. I get why someone like Hillary is so unappealing to so many men and, yes, so many women. I really do. But it still must be asked, is there no better alternative than a dishonest, impulsive, narcissistic, belligerent con-artist?