As the American presidential election draws to a close on November 8th, it has undoubtedly been one of the most controversial elections in history. Two unpopular candidates, representing vastly contrasting ideals, are facing off in an era of change and uncertainty. On the one hand, Hillary Clinton is the epitome of continuity in politics, bringing a wealth of experience after having served in the government for nearly 30 years. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Donald Trump as a ‘self-made’ multi-millionaire champions the plight of the ordinary working class who desire a break away from the establishment and towards the more hardline measure that Trump promises. Both candidates have thrown up a multitude of issues that require all of us to reflect critically upon in America and society at large.
Of all the issues that this election has brought to the forefront such as income inequality, racism, terrorism, the one that has struck a chord among Americans is sexism and the treatment of women. So far, Trump has been able to espouse whatever he wanted to during the Republican primaries and the presidential election. From his generalization on Mexican immigrants as drug dealers, criminals and rapists, to his proposal to ban all Muslims on entering the US, mocking reporters with disabilities, etc… his supporters and the Republican leadership have mainly stood by him as Trump gained in polling, week after week. These gains finally shuddered to a stop on October 7th after a 2005 recording regarding Trump’s comments on his treatment of women was leaked. Trump was recorded stating that he could ‘grab [women] by the p*ssy’ and that they would let him do whatever he wanted because of his fame. An immediate public outcry and a subsequent dip in his polling led to Clinton surging in her polls to a create a double-digit gap between her and Trump. Similarly, 16 prominent Republican senators have withdrawn their support for him in light of his comments.
What remains troubling is how Trump’s comments and his subsequent attempt to justify it as ‘locker-room banter’ have highlighted society’s casual attitude towards sexual harassment and assault. Trump’s remaining supporters have tried to brush his comments off either as something that is not that serious or something that is common for him to do. Both excuses are poor. Trump, as a potential president, has tremendous impact on how women will be viewed. He already has a history of being a misogynist and rating women based on their looks and body. If such sexist and disturbing comments can be made public without any severe repercussions, there might be a tragic normalization of this attitude in that people will think that it is fine to express such comments. There is already a prevalent mindset towards rape and sexual assault in America, reflected in the spate of college rape cases and lenient sentencing of rape perpetrators. A Trump win would reinforce this mindset and cause a setback.
Trump’s supporters argue that they support Trump for many other reasons such as his immigration policies or being anti-Hillary and anti-establishment. Whatever Trump may say does not affect their decisions. Yet, the consequences of electing such a man to be the face of nearly 300 million Americans are certainly dire, for both Americans and the world.