Why can the United States can put a man on the moon, but they can’t put a woman in the White House? originally appeared on Quora, the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.
It isn’t that America can’t elect a woman - or even that we won’t - it is simply that we didn’t. The 2016 Presidential election went the way it did for a myriad of reasons, only one of which is because Donald Trump’s opponent was a woman.
Hillary Clinton carried with her an excess of baggage that could not be overcome. When a candidate has a long history in politics, a public record of his/her positions on issues can be a hindrance. A legislator’s stance on social issues usually evolves pursuant to society’s changing views. (The progression of marriage equality and the legalization of marijuana over the past two decades demonstrate shifts in policy commensurate with a shift in public opinion.) Clinton has a 40-year history of publicly-recorded political service and activism, and disparate views at different times made it appear – rightly or wrongly – as if she were a flip-flopping candidate.
The Clintons have had a long-documented battle with the press over what has been deemed a lack of transparency in their public and private lives. This was likely a contributing factor to the plentiful coverage of Clinton’s private email server. Add her previous reputation for secrecy to the repeated partisan attacks on her character to the public statements made by then-F.B.I. Director James Comey, and it was a recipe for public angst.
At the same time, the GOP base was fascinated by Trump, leading him to a meteoric rise in political popularity. This rise was well documented by the press, and Trump was initially written off as merely being entertaining. Much of the public was simultaneously horrified and stunned by Trump’s apparent positions and ridiculous campaign antics, but it was good television and Americans couldn’t get enough of it. Contrast the press coverage of Trump with the coverage of Clinton, and you see pictures being painted in very different tones – neither of which offered a full representation of the candidates or their character.
Most Clinton supporters voted for her based on her public policy positions. Hillary Clinton runs on facts and figures. She’s a policy wonk. This prepared her to jump right into legislating from the Oval Office. This and her extensive experience on domestic and foreign policy - and even her somewhat stiff delivery in speeches - portrayed her as the quintessential Washington leader. Unfortunately for her, that is the opposite of what the public was craving.
2016 was all about Main Street, but Clinton was viewed as having irrevocable ties to Wall Street. Her reputation as an establishment candidate worked against her here. Under normal circumstances, her incredibly long list of accomplishments and experience would have served her well, but Americans wanted to feel connected to their President. The American electorate was seeking someone with demonstrable empathy toward the “common man,” and Clinton’s lack of grasp on the pulse of America portrayed her as being “out of touch.”
The single most important miscalculation of the Clinton campaign was taking the “Blue Wall” for granted. They assumed blue-collar voters in reliably blue states would deliver victories for her, but this was a grave miscalculation. The populist wave very clearly demonstrated by the rise of Donald Trump on the right and Bernie Sanders on the left did not resonate with her campaign, for whatever reason. The polls were wrong because “likely voters” being polled were voters who reliably showed up to the polls during previous Presidential elections. No one seemed to take into account that new voters were registering in droves, with their passion ignited.
Voters were galvanized on both the right and the left, but Clinton didn’t have the support of many Democrats who had been fervent Bernie Sanders supporters in the primaries. These voters had long suspected the DNC and the Clinton campaign were colluding to ensure Clinton had an advantage in the primary race. The nail in her coffin with many of these voters was when the DNC emails were hacked and released, offering proof of a coordinated effort to squash Sanders’ rise.
Had Clinton chosen a VP candidate who would have lured the most ardent Sanders supporters into her camp, Elizabeth Warren for example, those voters on the left would have been motivated to get to the polls on election day. But Clinton had painted those positions as unrealistic during the primary debates and opted to instead court the center.
Overt racism rose to a fever pitch in American society after the election of Barack Obama, growing throughout his Presidency. Anger and prejudice intensified as echo chambers were formed during the rise of social media over those 8 years.
There are also single-issue voters whose views align mostly with the Democratic party but their hot-button emotional issues pull them to the right. These are are most often the issues of gun rights and abortion. Another issue that dogged Clinton, and continues to hinder Democratic candidates nationwide, are the pro-life views of white suburban and rural female voters. Many voices resounded in churches and on social media leading up to the election saying, “I want to vote for Hillary Clinton, but the Democratic party has made it clear there is no room for pro-life voters in their party.”
America voted in 2016 based on a feeling. Trump tied into voters’ fears about the economy and social issues tied largely to widely-held religious beliefs that invite discrimination and appeal to voters who lean towards racism, sexism, and homophobia. Clinton tied into voters’ rational side and intellectual positions, but the electorate was ruled by emotion. Dislike of Hillary Clinton on the right runs deep and wide, as does the conjoining of Church and State on many issues.
And an issue many people, especially Democrats, have been avoiding is Hillary Clinton’s husband. While he is a charismatic campaigner who can light up a crowd, Bill Clinton was in some ways a giant liability for her. As much as people didn’t want to blame her for his transgressions, or the circus that ensued throughout the Whitewater investigation and impeachment proceedings that followed it, one fact remained: if SHE went to the White House, HE would accompany her. It wasn’t often said publicly, but there were whispers aplenty in private by many voters who desperately wanted Hillary in the White House but were having trouble stomaching the return of Bill.
Even with all of the above said, Clinton was poised to win the 2016 election until, in the final days leading up to the election, the email investigation came rushing back to the public consciousness thanks to a note from Jim Comey. The fact that it was tied to Anthony Wiener via Huma Abedin’s computer only tainted the situation further. That ick factor played a role in canceling out the ick factor of the comments made on Trump’s famous Access Hollywood tape.
So, it isn’t that America can not elect a woman; it is that America would not elect Hillary Clinton. Another candidate in another race will prove more auspicious for a female American Presidency.
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