'From hope for Hillary to cold dread': Coming face to face with Donald Trump supporters in Australia. | Women's Agenda

‘From hope for Hillary to cold dread’: Coming face to face with Donald Trump supporters in Australia.

I started the day filled with optimism. I had the audacity to hope that today we would watch history unfold.

I tried to explain the US election and its significance to my two older daughters over breakfast before I fashioned a pant-suit from my wardrobe as best as I could. I briefly contemplated putting some bubbles in the fridge to toast tonight. I believed it was Hillary Clinton’s day. I believed we were on the precipice of a woman shattering the most impenetrable of glass ceilings.

Now, I am filled with cold dread. My optimism has vanished. Despair is sinking in.

I am here contemplating the fact that the least qualified candidate in history for president is on his way to defeating the most qualified candidate to ever run.

There is a chasm between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump that cannot be overstated or reconciled. There is no comparison.  

One is a candidate with no experience in public office. A man who many assumed and reported would never progress beyond his wildcard announcement that he was running. A man very few expected would win the nomination. A candidate no one seriously thought could compete with his opponent.  

A woman whose experience and credentials in public office are so vast that her nomination, and her election, seemed almost inevitable.

And yet, at this moment it seems likely that Donald Trump, a man who openly brags about sexually assaulting women, will defeat Hillary Clinton, the first woman to get within a whisker of the White House.  

It is shocking to type, let alone accept.

I have just come from Sydney University’s Manning Bar where the United States Studies Centre is hosting an election party. Right there, in the heart of one of Australia’s oldest, most prestigious institutions, was an ugly and confronting display.

A large group of men, young and exclusively white, sporting Make America Great Again hats, chanting “Build the wall, build the wall!”, “Lock her up”, “Trump, Trump, Trump”, “Grab her by the pussy”, “Drain the swamp”.

 

Their enthusiasm for Trump felt as visceral as their disregard for Clinton.   

It was disturbing and mesmerising to behold. Every bit as shocking, to me, as the results showing Donald Trump’s likely victory being screened via CNN.

A group of presumably well-educated young men chanting their support for a man who is openly racist, sexist, bigoted and patently unprepared for public office.   

I have stared into the abyss. I can put faces to the men – and the odd woman – who want Trump to prevail over Clinton.

It is not a sight I was prepared for.

Last night Jane Caro asked a question I hoped we wouldn’t need to contemplate. ‘If Clinton fails to win tomorrow where does that leave the rest of us? Is there a place for female leadership?’

 

Clinton losing to Trump will be emblematic of how much resistance there is to women holding positions of power. The fact it’s a close call is telling in itself and confirms what many champions for women have long argued: even to compete for the same job, women have to be so much better than their male peers.

If you’re tempted to argue that it isn’t about gender, don’t. It is about gender. How else could so much inexperience and bluster trump such a qualified presidential candidate?

And to think, just a few hours earlier, I had hope: It feels like a world away from here.    

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