Is the US election the end of days of or the resurgence of privilege?

As the voting citizens of the United States complete their votes, the rest of the world looks on. Either way at the end of the election campaign, substantial cracks in American society have become visible. It is a set of fractures around race, gender and class.  Either result will result in significant shifts in American political life, the delivery of public goods, and its ability to administer its domestic policy and work with international partners. There seems to be significant risks for the economy, for personal safety and for public goods. Race, gender, class. Questions are likely to be raised in relation to the efficacy and appropriateness of the Electoral College system

 

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The campaign has been for me, an example of cracks in how a society has been constructed. Privilege is being challenged – no longer can you be a white man and expect to maintain your privileged status. Other groups are demanding more, more safety, more representation, more leadership, more opportunity. For them, America hasn’t been great. They don’t want to make America great again. They would just take having it be great for them. Race, gender, class. On the other hand, the heartland, made up of men who benefited from their privileges against these groups, have had a rough time through the global financial crisis and recession that follows. They haven’t had stable employment. The economy is shifting away from manufacturing into service and knowledge industries which they may be poorly equipped to deal with. They blame the rich, the smooth talking politician, the professional and “minorities” for the tough times. Trump, despite being immensely privileged and wealthy, speaks to the disenfranchised.  Clinton, represents a challenge. A woman, who is public, not private. A public officer, experienced in the ways of government and articulating the needs of certain groups.

Clinton has been presented as the natural choice for women.That we would feel camaraderie.  We saw in early parts of the campaign, a reluctance for women to join this rank and file. There are two reasons for this – the first, internalised misogyny and the belief that a man, like Sanders would be a more “natural choice”, that she was somehow in-congruent with what people conceived as a leader and the second, that there was problems with how previous work had been performed, a question of the way in which she has performed her duties in public office, and that perhaps she was not representing the contemporary interests of women – that perhaps she was not radical or inter-sectional enough. These concerns, represent, engagement with the ability to do the job appropriately, rather than the capability to do so as a woman.

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As other Republicans fell away, we saw more people choose her as a “better choice” than the man that she was competing against. Prepared and measured in direct comparison with a man who was thoroughly thoughtless in his representations and disrespectful of many interests in the country in which he would like to represent. The question is not the unsuitability of Trump, which is clearly on the record, but the degree to which Clinton is suitable and whether the public discourse has done this suitability justice. I am reminded of the discourse surrounding Julia Gillard, who broke the draught of Australian female Prime Ministers. For me, the questions surrounding these women’s tone, her register, her tiredness, her husband’s infidelities all are representations of the ideas around female leadership generally, that the cultural construction of leadership has been male, and by seeking high office she is acting in a way that is in-congruent with her gender.How this plays out alongside the phenomena of structures of society fracturing will be determined soon!

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