Standort: / Meldung: "Shattering the last glass ceiling."

Steve Crilley

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5. 11. 2016 - 10:53

Shattering the last glass ceiling.

As part of FM4's coverage of the US elections, Paul Brennan sat down with author and contributor to the Daily Beast, Eleanor Clift in Washington DC, for a focus on Hillary Clinton.

Paul Brennan: Eleanor Clift, you wrote the book Madam President: Shattering The Last Glass Ceiling back in 2000. We’re 16 years on from when that was published. Did you think it would take that long to get where we are today?

Eleanor Clift: I didn’t think it would happen in my lifetime. It doesn’t feel it’s that long when I think about where we started from. When I first came to Washington, I think there were just a few female senators and they were huddled inside (the Congress building) and they had their seats because their husbands had died and they’d taken them. The first Democratic woman elected in her own right was Barbara Mikulski who is now retiring after 30 years. And she used to say, “some man has to die to get my seat”. Now we have women at roughly 20% of the Senate and in the House of Representatives. You have to really go back to 1992 when a record number of women were elected. And when I look around now, I don’t see a whole lot of women who would have the credibility to run for President and Hillary Clinton is kind of singular here.

She’s had a lot of criticism and she’ll get a lot of criticism if she wins. The opposition is already saying “she’ll be a one-term President”. And when Barack Obama was elected, his re-election was seen as very important, especially by African-Americans who saw it as a re-affirmation and I think that women will be that way about Hillary Clinton. We don’t want her to be a one-off. We want her to leave a sustaining legacy for future generations.

If she gets over the first hurdle on Tuesday and becomes President, what do you think of the chance that she would just be a one-term President?

She'd say she’s better at doing the job than running for the job. But when you look at any President elected in these very partisan polarised times in this country, it’s difficult. I’m sure she would campaign her heart out for re-election. But she hasn’t even won her first election yet, so I don’t think we want to get too far ahead of ourselves. Republicans, the morning after Barack Obama was elected, according to numerous accounts, their main goal was to make him a one-term President. And in deciding to do that they set about blocking everything that he did. They kept that promise. And we now have a vacant Supreme Court seat. It’s a very critical seat because it would sway the power. It’s a nine judge court & Republicans are now talking about leaving that seat vacant until the next mid-term elections, when they would have a chance to take back the Senate should they lose it this time. This kind of gridlock is new. It’s reached a level of where people start to question: is the system broken? And it’s created a lot of anger in the country although people tie it to different reasons and there is this sense that Washington doesn’t work.

When Hillary Clinton ran in 2008, some criticised her for not playing on the significance of being the first female President. She didn’t address that until the end when she conceded to Barack Obama. This time she’s done it but cautiously. Why the caution?

You will hear it from women who say – I’m not going to vote for her just because she’s a woman. There’s a real resistance on the part of the voting public to have someone run mainly on their gender. And in 2008, running to become the country’s first female Commander in Chief, I think her advisors were acutely aware that playing the woman card for this role went against that. She’s played it cautiously this time because in part, it hasn’t been welcomed. The historical significance of this election has largely been muted, there are a lot of reasons for that. I think young women in particular look at Hillary Clinton and all they know is twenty years of scandals and pseudo-scandals and they aren’t particularly interested. On the night of the election, should she win, I think we’ll see a lot more of pushing the women card. She’s done it in subtle ways, she’s worn white, the colour of the suffragettes so she’s sent signals to women who are paying attention that she knows what this is about.

Fighting misogyny is quite hard because then you can be accused of playing too hard on being a woman?:

Indeed, and the other thing she is fighting is ageism. We don’t have a lot of role models of older women in this country. Most of them think of themselves as being invisible. People have written about this phenomenon and Hillary Clinton’s age has got some attention. Her opponent Donald Trump has said that she doesn’t have the stamina. He accused her of having a nap schedule. She has done nothing to suggest that she doesn’t have the energy for office. And he is a year or so older than she is. But somehow his age and stamina has not been questioned.

Can we talk about Donald Trump? Could Hillary Clinton have dreamed of having a better opponent as far as highlighting misogyny?

In that way, he certainly has created a huge gender gap for himself. A lot of suburban women who generally vote cannot stand Donald Trump. So yes, from that point of view. I think initially she thought she’d be running against Jeb Bush who entered the race with the most money and the highest approval and quickly floundered. But she would have known how to run against him. He was a conventional country club Republican if you will. I think the problem with Trump was no-one knew exactly how to run against him and he’s broken all the rules and he’s come at her from the left, the right, the middle and he sucks up so much of the oxygen because he’s a performer and entertainer that, over the long period, you wouldn’t even know that Hillary Clinton existed. So I think Trump has been a blessing in some respects but a curse in others.

Everything that’s happened with Donald Trump with the revelations, there are still some women out there who are actively supporting Donald Trump?

I think there are some women who look at Donald Trump and they see him, giving the middle finger to the establishment who they feel looks down on them. So I think they are willing to forgive a lot of what he has said and done. And they would also say that they had seen and heard worse. “He’s a celebrity so no big deal” (is what they might say). People who want to support him find all kinds of ways to rationalize what he’s done and they will also say, “well look at Hillary Clinton’s husband and he’s been accused of various sexual misdeeds and she went along with that”. And Trump has given them the perfect explanation that Hillary Clinton enabled (all of this). And (Donald Trump) had women who accused Bill Clinton in the past show up at one of the debates in an attempt to rattle both Bill & Hillary. She did not get rattled at all through any of the debates and I think her performance in those three debates showed the skills that you need as a President really. But Donald Trump is still competitive and the race has tightened in these final days and I don't think anybody on the Democrats side is 100% comfortable that this is going to turn out the way they want.

If she does win, will we look back on this election as women voters being the downfall of Donald Trump?

Oh yes, absolutely! Women are the majority in this country and the gender gap has helped sustain Democratic candidates ever since it was first named, which is when Ronald Reagan ran in 1980. And Trump has really ignited that gender warfare in the country in the way he's expressed himself towards women.

And Bill Clinton, what do you foresee as his role, should his wife win on Tuesday?

I write for the Daily Beast and I wrote a piece about Bill Clinton being a bit like Eleanor Roosevelt. Because Hillary Clinton said she would use him as her eyes and ears. And he has said he will go wherever she wants, to the inner cities, to the rural areas and he will help with legislation. So I think domestically he could be a big help, plus he likes to play golf with Members of Congress which Barack Obama did not want to do. And schmoozing counts although I don't know if any amount of schmoozing that Barack Obama did would have broken through the gridlock on Capitol Hill but I think that the two Clintons working together will be far more social with Members of Congress and Bill Clinton will play a big role there.

Hear the full audio version of this interview below:

US2016 Eleanor Clift for Webstory

Reality Check Special - Postcard from DC

And, as the campaigning reaches a highpoint, we have expert opinion on the possible outcomes and what direction the United States is possibly heading in, after President Obama’s term ends. Paul Brennan sat down with Emily Ekins from the Cato Institute, Washington DC Guardian correspondent David Smith and Karlyn Bowman from the American Enterprise Institute,

Hear more in our pre-election special, broadcast at 12 midday on Saturday 5th November.

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