Donald Trump stands to be the most unpopular presidential candidate since that metric has been tracked, and with good reason: He is an inveterate bigot who insults women and fundamentally lacks the temperament and experience to be president. And yet he gets less negative coverage than Hillary Clinton, one of the most admired women in the world.
This is not a story about the issues: It is clear, if you are a liberal, that Hillary Clinton’s record and proposals are superior to Donald Trump’s in every conceivable way. This is also not an argument that Hillary is above criticism. This is a piece about double standards, priorities, and how we value women.
Hillary has, for decades, been subjected to all manner of attacks from a media who believe she doesn’t belong. They started while she was a popular First Lady, continued while she was a popular senator, increased while she was a popular presidential runner-up, persisted while she was a popular Secretary of State, and have reached a crescendo yet again while she fights her way to the Democratic nomination.
And still: There have been more negative stories about her in the corporate media than there have been about Donald Trump.
Even though Trump has run a disgraceful campaign centered on sexism, racism, and xenophobia—whose very campaign tagline, “Make America Great Again,” is a dogwhistle to those who hearken back to the imbalances and injustices of previous eras.
What does it say about this country, and how we value women, that the first woman with a legitimate shot at the US presidency gets more negative coverage than a man who trades in misogyny?
If you’ve been paying attention to corporate media, you can probably name all the figures, employed by major media outlets, who have a clear vendetta against Hillary—who traffic in overtly sexist tropes and language about her voice, her “cackle,” her desire to be “queen.”
And if you’ve been paying really close attention, you can probably name dozens more who make some attempt at being credible, but repeat demonstrably false narratives about “enthusiasm gaps” and coded personal attacks about “Wall Street transcripts,” as if these are objective truths.
By comparison, there aren’t a lot of prominent media figures with a similar vendetta against Trump. (With the possible exception of some employees of Fox News, of all places.) The media report his many egregious pronouncements, but, given that he says objectionable things explicitly to appeal to his base and draw media attention, they’re essentially doing his bidding.
He doesn’t have enemies in the press. Not the way Hillary does.
And no wonder—since he’s self-evidently awful, but people need to be convinced that Hillary is the monster the media purports her to be.
Trump is a man who has called an entire group of people rapists, who wants to build walls and barriers between people, who supports nuclear weapons proliferation, who has threatened to commit war crimes if elected president. And it is Hillary Clinton, a woman who has dedicated her career to improving the lot of women and children and breaking down systems of oppression, who gets the most negative coverage.
I am very angry about that. And you should be, too.
Defenders of this onslaught argue that it’s not because Hillary is a woman, but because she is Hillary Clinton and supposedly uniquely unlikable. This, dear readers, is horse puckey. If it were any other woman, she would be subjected to the same deplorable treatment—because women are always more “likable” until we decide to take up more space.
I am angry about the treatment of Hillary as an individual, based on her personal history and proposed platform. And I am angry about the treatment of Hillary as the first woman with a real shot at the US presidency.
I am angry about an esteemed woman who wants to make the world a better place being treated with more disdain from our national press than a wreck of a man who wants nothing more for the world than to be the one who helps destroy it for his own glorification.
And I am angry because this is an indication of how we treat women as a culture. Hillary is arguably the most accomplished woman on the planet, and if this is how she is regarded, if this is the ignominy to which she is subjected, what hope is there for the rest of us?
I refuse to abide this contemptible double standard without comment, without visible anger. Because somewhere, right now, is a little girl who doesn’t have Hillary’s immense profile. Somewhere, a little girl with darker skin, or who loves other little girls, or who has a disability, is watching this unfold. And she is calculating what it would mean to navigate what Hillary is navigating—plus the additional oppressions she would be required to bear.
I want that little girl, if she runs for president someday, to be elected—or not elected—on the merits, not because the media decide to write more negative stories about her than some jerk who wants to carpet-bomb whatever country is de rigeur to hate at that point in history.
I want the same for Hillary. And I am angry that this is not the case.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Come the general election, the media have a choice about what shape their coverage will take. I certainly hope, for both decency and this nation’s future, they make the right one.
(Photo: Hillary for America)