We’re so quick to attack Trump and Clinton for being crooked, phony liars, but maybe it’s time we see ourselves as the true hypocrites. The 2016 presidential election has been touted as America’s most progressive election yet. Not only are the “real” issues coming to the forefront, but people are also visibly staking their personal claims in the outcome. From Facebook posts to baseball caps to hostile arguments at the dinner table, voters are making their personal allegiances known.
Despite these allegiances, many of us are ambivalent about the candidates we’re rooting for. We believe one of the candidates has a better chance at instigating change and will put our country in a better position than the other, but we’re still not gung-ho about them. However qualified they may be, we have a difficult time trusting them. They’ve been shady in the past and we can’t seem to stop rehashing their perceived betrayals.
Herein lies the first election hypocrisy: we expect it all from our presidential candidates. We want them to be tough on enemies (though who constitutes as an enemy can be nebulous. In his latest Last Week Tonight, John Oliver revealed that a handful of prisoners held captive at Guantanamo Bay were apprehended because they were wearing Casio watches.) and compassionate when it comes to Americans. We want them to be experienced, but not so experienced that we can’t consider them “one of us.” And above all, we want them to be likeable. We want them to flirt with us and flatter our egos, to tell us the things we want to hear no matter how unrealistic they are, while also being completely and totally honest with us.
Admittedly, our fixation with having the perfect presidential candidate is not unique to this election, but expecting perfection from a fellow man or woman when we are so deeply flawed ourselves marks only the beginning of our many double-standards.
Our heightened perception of Bill Clinton is thoroughly illogical when compared to our debased notion of Trump — at least on the matter of sexual assault. Trump is an entitled degenerate, but he did say one thought-provoking thing during Sunday night’s debate: “If you look at Bill Clinton, far worse. Mine are words, and his was action. His was what he’s done to women…Bill Clinton was abusive to women.” Trump clearly brought up Clinton’s indiscretions to deflect the negative attention he received for his disgusting remarks in the video released on Friday, in which he bragged about grabbing women “by the pussy” and kissing them without their consent, but the situation begged the question: why isn’t anyone castigating Bill Clinton for his actions?
But we did condemn Bill Clinton for his violence against women, we say. He was impeached in 1998, following his year and a half long affair with Monica Lewinsky. Wasn’t that enough punishment? Perhaps, but to consider his sexual indiscretions — to even chalk up his actions as indiscretions in the first place — no longer relevant would be misguided. Clinton’s actions may have occurred nearly two decades ago, but they still affect our presidential elections and the way women are treated today.
Even if Bill’s affair with Monica Lewinsky was consensual, there’s no denying that he is a sexual predator. Monica Lewinsky was a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed twenty-one year old girl when she came to Washington to start her career in politics. Of course, she was just as responsible for the affair as Bill was and wasn’t completely clueless about its implications, but Bill was more than twenty years older than she was at the time. If he didn’t find moral fault in conducting the affair, he should have recognized it as an unprofessional abuse of power.
But he made a mistake, we say. He made several. Bill’s liaison with Monica Lewinsky was not an isolated affair. Clinton has been accused of raping multiple women: Paula Jones, Kathy Shelton, Juanita Broaddrick and Kathleen Willey. And while they remain accusations at this time, the fact that most of America refuses to acknowledge them is a disturbing harbinger of the way sexual assault will be addressed in the future: the privileged and rich will never be held accountable. We’ve already forgiven Clinton, and some of us are on our way to forgiving Trump. A recent New York Times article states that a number of the Republican leaders who publicly disavowed Trump after the video was released have now gone back on their word. If defeating Hillary means supporting Trump, then support Trump they will. The safety of women is only valued by these figureheads when it doesn’t interfere with a Republican win — yet another glaring hypocrisy.
Where does Hillary fit in with these unsavory and duplicitous politics? Many have questioned why she hasn’t divorced Bill. How can she stand by a licentious man who has repeatedly been unfaithful to her, and who has potentially raped a handful of women? We may never know the arrangement behind the Clintons’ marriage, but it is worth questioning whether Hillary would be the Democratic presidential nominee if she wasn’t married to Bill. Does being married — even to a reprehensible man — raise her standing and feed into the public’s expectations of women being able to balance career and family and essentially do it all? Is there still stigma attached to being a single or divorced woman? Moreover, had Hillary been the partner to commit adultery, would she have been able to clinch the nomination? Or would she have been deemed a whore, banned from the political arena as swiftly as Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter was shunned from Puritan society? There is a lot of discussion about “history being made” with our first female presidential nominee. Undoubtedly, female representation in such a high position of power is colossal. Nonetheless, these hypotheticals should still be considered as they point towards the fact that female candidates cannot waver from a stringent path in pursuing politics.
The latest display of election hypocrisy is the public’s mania over Kenneth Boone’s red sweater. Clothed in a IZOD zip-up during Sunday’s debate, Boone asked the candidates about their plans for clean energy and job retention among those working in the coal industry. Since the Town Hall, Boone went from having seven Twitter followers (two of which were his grandmother because she forgot the password to one of her accounts) to several hundred. His sweater has already sold out on Amazon a couple of times, sandwiches have been named after him at local businesses and people are planning to dress up like him for Halloween. Why? In this grave election it makes sense that voters are seeking levity and comic relief, but the fact remains that we cannot afford to continually misplace our political priorities. We may hate the system, but we are the ones creating its hysterics.