Published in the New York Times
For a great many women around the world, Donald J. Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton feels like a painful setback not just for democracy, but for our gender.
Voters chose a loose cannon of a man with zero government experience over a calm, collected and supremely qualified woman. The root cause of this injustice, many have suggested, can only be sexism — proof that the glass ceiling protecting the highest reaches of power cannot yet be shattered.
The reaction is understandable. It’s also wrong and unnecessarily demoralizing.
Of course no female or nonwhite candidate with Mr. Trump’s lack of experience, angry outbursts, boasts of sexual assault or trail of broken marriages could have gotten elected. That Mr. Trump did, while spouting such ugliness about women and minorities, speaks to deep and persistent strains of misogyny and white supremacy in American society.
But we can recognize all this yet still reject the idea that all women who reach as high as Mrs. Clinton will meet the same fate. Yes, she had a gold-plated résumé that more than qualified her to be president. But that overlooks an important fact: Virtually everything about Mrs. Clinton’s biography made her uniquely unsuited to draw blood where Mr. Trump was most vulnerable.
This election needed a Democrat who could call out, again and again, the myriad hypocrisies and absurdities of Mr. Trump’s claim to be a hero for the downtrodden working class. In the debates, Mrs. Clinton landed points when she exposed Mr. Trump’s history of outsourcing and tax dodging. But by then Mr. Trump had already spent the summer mocking his opponent for her private parties with oligarchs, painting her own lifestyle as profoundly out of touch with ordinary Americans (which it is).
In short, she landed on many of the right messages, but she was the wrong messenger.
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