Sun | Jan 21, 2018

Carolyn Cooper | Race trumps gender in US elections

Published:Sunday | November 13, 2016 | 12:01 AM

White women sold Hillary Clinton down the river. Fifty-three per cent of white female voters chose Trump. In America, race matters far more than gender or class. Of course, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are white and wealthy. But Trump is definitely a whiter shade of pale. Beyond the pale! Not the peculiar colour of his cosmetic face. It's his deep-rooted machismo and his white supremacist prejudices.

Donald Trump is the classic privileged white male who believes he's naturally entitled to whatever his heart and other body parts desire. Whether it's the presidency of the United States or women's genitals. And he has no shame. Just think about the long list of crazy things Trump said during the election campaign and way before that. And he's offered no apology.

To name just a few: Barack Obama wasn't born in the US; Hillary Clinton did nothing constructive in her 30 years in public office; 'smart' people don't pay taxes; sexual abuse of women is no big deal; Mexico must pay for a wall to keep out illegal immigrants. No Muslims should be allowed into America. ISIS will be defeated as soon as he becomes president. And on and on!




Trump appeals to the lowest common denominator in American society: the aggrieved and gullible masses who want to make their country great again. No blacks in the White House! Hillary Clinton was quite right to put half of Trump's supporters in a "basket of deplorables". She prefaced her remarks by admitting that she was being "grossly generalistic". But that didn't take the sting out of her sharp attack. To resounding applause, this is what she said at a September rally in New York:

"You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic - you name it. And, unfortunately, there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people, now have 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive, hateful, mean-spirited rhetoric."

One of the big issues in this campaign was language. Trump doesn't seem to be able to speak in sentences. It's all sound bites. Or a long stream of unconsciousness! But Trump's supporters had no problem understanding him. He didn't need to be coherent. He just had to throw out cheap and easy phrases: "nasty woman"!

By contrast, Hillary's language was way above the heads of half of Trump's supporters: generalistic; deplorables; phobic! Many of the deplorables wouldn't be exactly sure of what Clinton meant by deplorable. It took a vague tweet from Trump to make it clear: "While Hillary said horrible things about my supporters, and while many of her supporters will never vote for me, I still respect them all!" Lie!

Clinton's "deplorable" is translated by Trump as "horrible things". He doesn't have to be precise. All his supporters need to know is that Hillary says bad things about them. But Trump himself is firmly lodged in Clinton's basket of deplorables. He is "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic - you name it." And that's precisely why his followers love him. They are just like him.




Some white women actually approve of Trump's predatory sexism. In an XXfactor article posted on the Slate website on November 9, Associate Editor L.V. Anderson quotes a female Trump supporter: "I heard that he said something about groping women, and I'm thinking, okay, No. 1, I think that'd be great. I like getting groped!"

That's the kind of woman who sold Hillary Clinton down the river. This turn of phrase became popular in the late 1800s. It refers to enslaved African-Americans sold down the Mississippi and Ohio rivers to work on cotton plantations in the Deep South. It was a terrible fate.

Aaron Fry, a white man from Missouri, gives a first-hand account in his journal of the actions of an enslaved man who was about to be transported: "A Negro man of Mr Elies, having been sold to go down the river, attempted first to cut off both of his legs, failing to do that, cut his throat, did not entirely take his life, went a short distance and drowned himself."




It might seem peculiar to put privileged Hillary Clinton in the same boat as enslaved African-Americans floating to their doom down rivers of oppression. She's no innocent victim. All the same, sexism is a turbulent force in America. In the contest for the US presidency, an ignorant male con artist defeated an extraordinarily accomplished female public servant.

True, class was a factor in Trump's victory. The billionaire appealed to white working-class voters. Clinton did not. Trump persuaded poor white people in rural America that he represented their interests. A typical con job. But the trick worked.

Trump will soon realise that winning the race was the real fun. Actually, being president is a lot of work, no matter how much he plans to delegate. Trump can't file for bankruptcy when it becomes obvious that he doesn't have sufficient capital to meet the demands of the presidency and deliver on his electoral promises. He'll just be a big-time loser.

- Carolyn Cooper, PhD is a specialist on culture and development. Email feedback to and