At the Democratic National Convention last month, everyone who has ever been president of the United States — all men — towered over the crowd in a giant video montage. Suddenly, their faces shattered, as though someone chucked a rock through the screen. Then a grinning Hillary Clinton appeared, proclaiming, “We just put the biggest crack in that glass ceiling yet.”
The symbolism marks a first in presidential politics, similar to
the viral photo of a 3-year-old black boy staring up at President Obama in awe earlier this year. Both images speak to the power of role models. It’s hard to say, though, how Obama has changed America’s view of race or affected race relations — and it’s impossible to know whether a Hillary Clinton administration would transform how we see women.
Can a black president erase racism? Just this month, a Justice Department investigation of the Baltimore Police Department, which unearthed rampant discrimination against the city’s black residents, suggests the answer is no.
Can a female president curb sexism? A new survey from the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research conveys young Americans have little faith she could.
The national poll of 1,096 adults found 60 percent thought a Clinton administration would have no effect on the level of discrimination against women. (Just a quarter said they would expect conditions to improve.)
“While three-quarters of the public say discrimination against women has decreased over the past 25 years or so, an equal number of Americans think it continues to be an issue today for many women,” the authors noted.
Respondents were divided on whether Clinton's gender would boost or create problems for her campaign, though men were more likely to say it’s a benefit and women were more likely to say it’s a hindrance.
Seven in 10 respondents, meanwhile, said the historic nature of her candidacy would have no effect on their vote. Three-quarters of both the men and women said neither gender produces superior political leaders. (But 53 percent said women have fewer opportunities than men in politics.)
This seeming display of gender blindness will probably vanish in November, if Clinton is elected, wrote the Atlantic’s Michelle Cottle. She argued Clinton moving back into the White House could encourage a volcanic eruption of sexism.
“You know it’s coming,” Cottle wrote. “As hyperpartisanship, grievance politics, and garden-variety rage shift from America’s first black commander-in-chief onto its first female one, so too will the focus of political bigotry. Some of it will be driven by genuine gender grievance or discomfort among some at being led by a woman. But in plenty of other cases, slamming Hillary as a bitch, a c**t (Thanks, Scott Baio!), or a menopausal nut-job (an enduringly popular theme on Twitter) will simply be an easy-peasy shortcut for dismissing her and delegitimizing her presidency.”
*This story has been updated to reflect the survey reached a national sample
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