Naomi Klein writes:
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.
Similarly, there was much to be made of the scandals at Mr. Trump’s foundation and at Trump University.
But the Clinton Foundation — and its various entangled relationships between private corporations, foreign governments and public officials — made Mrs. Clinton’s attacks far too easy to turn back at her.
We’ll never know what it would have looked like for a woman who is outside the Davos class to have run against Mr. Trump, because voters were not given that option.
And then there is Mr. Trump’s record with women: the open talk of sexual grabbing without consent, the career made rating women’s bodies as if they were slabs of meat, the infidelity and serial marriages.
Once again, these were all weaknesses that Mrs. Clinton was poorly suited to fully exploit.
Not because she is a woman but because, as Mr. Trump pointed out in the most public and humiliating of ways, Bill Clinton has repeatedly been accused of sexual assault — and Mrs. Clinton has an on-camera record of working with her husband to discredit his accusers.
Mrs. Clinton’s behavior during these personal crises may be understandable, and she is certainly not responsible for her husband’s actions.
But the fact remains that no matter which major party won, a grabby man was about to move into the White House residence.
Would the election results have been different if Mr. Trump had faced a female adversary who could credibly have pledged that, under her watch, we would be free of this kind of seedy drama?
Here is the biggest problem with elevating sexism to the defining explanation of Mrs. Clinton’s loss: It lets her machine and her failed policies off the hook.
It erases the role played by the appetite for endless war and the comfort with market-friendly incremental change, no matter the urgency of the crisis (from climate change to police violence to raging inequality).
It erases the disgust over Mrs. Clinton’s coziness with Wall Street and with the wreckage left behind by trade deals that benefited corporations at the expense of workers.
In this version, it’s all about sexism.
And that is the surest way to ensure that the Democratic Party’s disastrous 2016 mistakes will be repeated — only next time, with a man at the top of the ticket.
Letting this early draft of history go unchallenged also means accepting a powerful constraint on the full potential of American women of all backgrounds and ideologies.
Right now, all women are being bombarded with the message that they will be perennially kept down by that highest of glass ceilings — never mind that this barrier could well prove significantly more fragile than it seems.
That Mrs. Clinton could be defeated by the likes of Mr. Trump remains disgraceful.
But Mrs. Clinton was too flawed a candidate for this disgrace to go down in history as a defeat for her gender.
Come January, Donald Trump and the Republican Party will have a great deal of power.
Let’s not hand them power they have not actually earned — the power to crush the possibility that the right woman may one day become president.