WASHINGTON: Donald Trump ridiculed it, saying it was the only thing Hillary Clinton had going for her candidacy. On Tuesday as she made history, she opted to play it proudly.
In the race for the White House, Clinton is playing the “woman card.”
“If America is going to lead, we need to learn from the women of the world who have blazed new paths”—from the start of her Brooklyn victory event Tuesday, when she claimed the Democratic presidential nomination, Clinton set the tone.
Clinton is now putting history at the heart of her campaign: 96 years after women earned the national right to vote in the United States, she has made history as the first woman to run for the US presidency as the candidate of a major party.
And in five months, she hopes to become America’s first female commander-in-chief.
Once again, she has shattered a glass ceiling—a term used to describe the invisible barriers faced by women in the workplace, who are a rare sight in the highest ranks of the corporate world, nonprofit world or in government.
During her first White House bid, which she lost in 2008 to Barack Obama, the former first lady, senator and secretary of state sometimes hesitated when confronting the sensitive issue.
But this time around, times have changed—and she’s facing a different kind of opponent.
“Rarely do we see a presidential candidate who is so willing to engage in sexist rhetoric,” Jennifer Lawless, an expert on women in politics at American University in Washington, said of Trump.
“Trump’s comments are unusual—and so over the top—that they provide an excellent opportunity for Hillary Clinton to respond in a multifaceted way.”
For Christopher Borick, a professor of political science at Muhlenberg College, “once the Sanders excitement fades and many of his supporters start to fear the possibility of Trump, the woman card could be an important means by which to build excitement for her candidacy.”
Clinton knows that her Republican adversary has dismal approval ratings among women voters, and she wants to maximize that advantage.
“When Donald Trump… calls women ‘pigs’—it goes against everything we stand for.
Because we want an America where everyone is treated with respect and where their work is valued,” Clinton said Tuesday before an enthusiastic crowd.
‘You can be anything… including President’
According to a recent Gallup poll, 70 percent of American women have an unfavorable opinion of Trump, a figure that has consistently risen over the course of the last nine months.
And since 1980, without any break in the trend, American women have proportionally voted more often than men in presidential elections. In 2012, 53 percent of voters were women.
Both Obama and Bill Clinton earned wide support from women in their election wins, and Hillary should also largely benefit from the gender gap in November.
But Borick noted: “Given her major weaknesses among white males, she will need the gap to be at least as big as it has been in the last 25 years and in all likelihood even larger if she is to prevail.”
Clinton has strong arguments on her side. According to an annual Gallup poll, she has been—20 times since 1993—the woman most admired by Americans, a record.
Some in Washington are raising the possibility that Clinton could choose a female running mate. But is America ready for an all-woman presidential ticket?
“I think at some point. Maybe this time, maybe in the future,” Clinton told ABC News in an interview taped moments before her victory speech Tuesday night and aired on Wednesday.
The former first lady now just must find a way to galvanize young female voters who overwhelmingly supported her rival Bernie Sanders and his “political revolution.”
“I do think the historic nature of her nomination will eventually start to reach the younger cohort of women voters and pay dividends in November,” Borick said. “But she will have to build out this message more thoroughly through the campaign this fall.”
Those voters, most of whom were born well after the struggles of women showcased in the Clinton campaign video, may not place the same importance on the historic nature of Clinton’s candidacy.
For now, Clinton is hammering home her belief that a win in November would have a huge impact on America, well beyond the world of politics.
“I think it will make a very big difference for a father or a mother to be able to look at their daughter, just like they can look at their son, and say, ‘You can be anything that you want to be in this country, including president of the United States’,” she said.