The outrage against Donald Trump’s revolting sexism has dealt a possibly fatal blow to his presidential campaign. The election on 8 November was set to be held just after this article was written.
Now infamous video footage showed Trump gloating that his wealth and power allows him to sexually assault women and get away with it. At the time of writing another 12 women had come forward with sexual assault and harassment allegations against him.
The media labelled it “lewd” and “locker room talk.” Trump himself claimed innocence by implying the women were not attractive enough to warrant his harassment. His son said if women weren’t prepared to be harassed on the job, perhaps they shouldn’t enter the workforce.
Trump is a particularly rank case of sexism. But he is a product of a system that continually sanctions this kind of talk and behavior through its mistreatment of women.
The capitalist system benefits from a family structure where women still perform the bulk of domestic labor and child rearing. The OECD found women perform more than 30 hours a week of housework while men contribute less than half that.
Wealthy capitalists like Trump and politicians like Clinton rely on this free labor so employers and the state don’t have to pay for services like childcare, communal kitchens or laundries.
This creates sexist gender roles so that when women are outside the home, they are concentrated in low wage jobs like nursing, teaching and caregiving. Advertising depicting women as sexual objects is rife.
Capitalist institutions also systematically fail to deal with sexual violence. Athletes and other figures that capitalism holds up as heroes are more likely to commit sexual assault than the general population, but far less likely to be punished for it.
The rich often escape serious punishment. Last year Brock Turner, a student at the elite Stanford University, raped a 22-year-old woman. The maximum sentence was 16 years, but he served only three months in prison. While harsher prison sentences won’t stop sexual assault, this sends a message that it isn’t a serious crime.
The way capitalism’s institutions treat women, it’s little wonder that Trump speaks about and behaves toward women in this way.
Sexist attacks on Clinton
The Trump campaign has routinely mixed sexism into its attacks on Clinton. But they have also tapped into the very real rage at her as a representative of the political elite.
As both Secretary of State and First Lady, Clinton helped manage a political system that has driven down living standards for ordinary Americans. She sat on the board of Walmart and has a bevy of corporate backers bankrolling her campaign.
Clinton wants to continue the work of the Obama administration and its expensive and inefficient Obamacare package, deportations of undocumented migrants, and its drone killing spree.
Trump mixes legitimate anger at this with sexism, labelling her incompetent, a “nasty woman” and holding rallies where supporters wear t-shirts saying “Trump That Bitch.” This creates a toxic political cocktail that breeds woman-hating ideas.
Clinton is no solution
Many people see this and want to defend Clinton. Certainly, the sexist attacks on her shouldn’t be tolerated. But despite being a victim of sexism, Clinton’s own position managing US capitalism means she won’t stand up for ordinary women’s rights.
She supported welfare reforms implemented while her husband was President that have driven millions of people, including many single mothers, into poverty.
While they claimed the reforms would encourage welfare recipients to find work, the main result has simply been to push people off benefits. In 1996, before the reforms, 68 per cent of poor families received government assistance. In 2014 it was only 23 per cent. Millions of unemployed workers in the US now receive no unemployment benefits.
In the final presidential debate Trump’s pro-life position made Clinton look progressive on reproductive rights. But she concedes to the right by arguing that abortion needs to be rare—a position that only stigmatises choice.
More legislation restriction abortion was passed during the last Clinton administration than the preceding Bush Senior years because Democrats worked hard in office to accommodate Republicans.
Clinton is expected to win the election on 8 November. Many will breathe a sigh of relief to see Trump lose, but we cannot make the mistake of seeing Clinton as a lesser evil.
Under a Clinton presidency we’ll have to fight sexism just as hard over issues like choice and equal pay. She will continue the Democrats’ neo-liberal legacy and entrench inequality and bitterness at the political system. Workers in the US desperately need to fight for a left-wing alternative to the Democrats.