In just under two weeks, the next US president will be announced. And most Americans are glad the race is finally coming to an end. Over the past two weeks, the level of the debate, replete in Twitter spats and personal insults, between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump has been horrendous.
But perhaps the worst part of the political punch-up between Trump and Clinton has been the use and abuse of sexual-assault allegations. Both candidates have used past allegations and affairs to smear one another. As a result, the TV debates looked more like reality TV than serious political debate. In the final few weeks of the presidential campaign, there’s been more talk about sex than there has been about policy.
Since the start of her campaign, Hillary has asked people to vote for her because she is a woman. But when Trump was confirmed as Clinton’s rival for the White House, her use of gender politics became more pronounced. At Clinton’s rallies, claims about Trump’s attitude towards women were front and centre. At one such event, celebrity feminist Lena Dunham joked that Trump would rate her body ‘as probably like a two’. In the first presidential debate, Hillary brought up Alicia Machado, a former Miss Universe, who Trump ‘fat-shamed’ in 1996 by calling her ‘Miss Piggy’. In her video for Clinton’s campaign, Machado warned voters against voting for Apprentice star Trump, saying ‘this is not a reality show’. And yet Clinton continues to rely on scandalous secrets to denounce her opponent.
Clinton’s smear campaign against Trump was boosted just before the second presidential debate when the Washington Post released a video from 2005 showing Trump telling Access Hollywood presenter Billy Bush that he could have any woman he wanted, and that all he had to do was ‘grab them by the pussy’. That particular comment was pounced upon by Clinton’s campaign. Since then, the Clinton camp has promoted various claims made about Trump’s past conduct, ranging from claims that he hired women based purely on their appearance to the claim that he raped a 13-year-old. ‘We know what he has said and what he’s done to women’, Clinton said, during the final presidential debate.
Similarly, Trump has tried to use allegations of sexual misconduct against Bill Clinton to bring down Hillary’s campaign. In an email exchange at the start of October, Trump declared ‘I want to win this election on my policies for the future, not on Bill Clinton’s past’. Needless to say, that didn’t last long. An hour before the second presidential debate, Trump held a press conference with four women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault and rape, including Paula Jones, who claims Clinton sexually harassed her in 1991; Juanita Broaddrick, who claims Clinton raped her in 1978; and Kathleen Willey, a former White House aide who claims Clinton groped her 1993. Hillary has long been criticised for covering up Bill’s misdeeds, and Trump has used this to deflect from allegations about his own conduct. As a result, the presidential race has become a battle of he-said, she-said.