It was my last day at work in the newsroom before going on maternity leave with my second son, and my boss had a treat for me. “Today is the day Donald Trump is set to announce he is throwing his hat into the ring to become the Republican candidate for the White House,” she said. “So I want you to make a video of all the ludicrous things he has ever said. Above all, have fun with it!” Oh how I chuckled as I scrolled through his most outlandish quotes and truly magnificent photos of his hair throughout the decades. Well, I’ll tell you something: I’m not laughing now.
Sixteen months ago, The Donald – as he likes to be called – was best known in the UK for insisting: “I do not wear a wig,” rowing about golf courses, swanning about in a long black coat on The Apprentice USA and, essentially, branding the word “TRUMP” all over luxury goods and buildings in Manhattan. Nowadays, things have got a little more serious: he wants to build a wall between Mexico and the US, ban Muslims from entering America, he mocks war heroes, the terminally ill and women (more of that later). He couldn’t really win, could he? And yet…
For months now, I have watched from afar as The Donald’s path to the White House has cleared to the point where all that is standing between him and the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is Hillary Clinton. For me – watching from this side of the Atlantic, it seems like a no-brainer: Clinton should win. Why would the most powerful country in the world pass up the opportunity of electing a forward-thinking, sane, experienced, capable woman in favour of a man with no political experience who seems to let any old word-bile spew from his mouth without engaging his brain? But then, I am a bleeding-heart liberal with a rampant dislike of war, a love of women’s rights and a Muslim husband, so I would say that, wouldn’t I?
But of all the ridiculous things Donald Trump has said in his time, it is his remarks about women that I have found most offensive. He has claimed that all the women he encountered on The Apprentice fancied him because: “that’s to be expected,” and joked that he would consider dating his own daughter if they weren’t related. He described breastfeeding as “disgusting,” made period jokes about an interviewer and nicknamed a beauty queen “Miss Piggy”. This outdated and abhorrent sexism did little to slow the Trump juggernaut down as it seemingly ploughed through decades of advances in women’s rights.
It looked as though there was no stopping Trump, but – in fact – it seems that his archaic attitude to women could prove to be his undoing. The emergence of a recording from 2005 – in which Trump makes crude remarks about women, bragging about kissing, groping and using his celebrity status to try to have sex with them – has sent his campaign into a tailspin. “When you’re a star, they let you do it,” he can be heard saying. It made me feel sick to my stomach.
“Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am,” he hit back in a hastily-released video message. “I said it, I was wrong, and I apologise.” His party is in chaos, he is haemorrhaging high-profile supporters faster than you can say: “You’re Fired!” And yet, he fights on, making allegations about Bill and Hillary Clinton. He has come this far and he is prepared to fight to the end.
It would, of course be naïve to suggest that Hillary is perfect presidential material. She has been dogged by rumour and scandal since long before her husband was running for the White House over 20 years ago. The Clintons are firmly part of the American political establishment and plenty of people are fed up with the establishment these days. Speculation about her health, questions about her emails – the list goes on. Being viewed by a proportion of the electorate as the lesser of two evils may help, but will it be enough?
This has been a funny old year in which, arguably, everything we thought we knew has been turned on its head. Horrendous terror attacks, high-profile deaths, Brexit – and with each new development, the questions keep popping up on Facebook walls and Twitter feeds: “Oh no, 2016 – how could you? Not again, 2016, surely not?” In the battle of Clinton versus Trump, could this year be about to throw us its biggest curveball yet?
About Geraldine Cooper
Geraldine is a multimedia journalist who has spent her career working in some of the UK’s busiest newsrooms. Her hobbies include singing, learning useless trivia, watching terrible TV and eating chocolate. She lives with her husband and two young sons in a house in South London which may one day be lost under a pile of unsorted laundry.