If there was one mantra that defined Hillary Clinton’s vainglorious bid for the Oval Office, it was ‘It’s the demographics, stupid’. From the day the self-touting grandmother-in-chief stepped out on to the stump she tirelessly targeted women, Hispanics and African-Americans in a bid to ride Obama’s Democratic coalition all the way to the White House. It took the ignoble demographic game that has always defined American politics into the 21st century: a kind of pork-barrel identity politics focused less on pledging favours to particular communities and more on insisting HRC understood, or felt the pain of, America’s various biological or racial blocs.
At times, it was downright farcical. Alongside her vagina-vote-seeking slogan, ‘I’m With Her’, her constant appeals to women’s issues, and her last-minute wheeling out of the Obamas, were stunts straight out of satire. In April, in an interview on hip-hop radio station Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club, she revealed that – like Beyoncé – she kept hot sauce in her bag. On occasion, it was also pretty nasty. When millennial Sanders-supporting women were refusing to plump for Hillary, up popped Democratic doyennes Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem to castigate the errant young women. ‘When you’re young, you’re thinking: “Where are the boys?” The boys are with Bernie’, said Steinem.
Every step of the way, Clinton was helped no end – it seemed – by the cretinous fulminations of Donald Trump, a man who’s most memorable moments on the campaign trail involved insulting all of the Clinton camp’s target groups. He opened his bid for the Republican nomination by fearmongering about Mexican rapists and drug-dealers; he called for a ‘total and complete shutdown’ of Muslim immigration; and boasted – on a 10-year-old tape – about grabbing women ‘by the pussy’. He seemed to be playing straight into Clinton’s game. Or so it seemed. Now, with Trump named the next president of the United States, the exit polls paint a remarkably different picture.
Among women, Trump’s ‘locker-room talk’ seems to have made barely a dent. He gained 44 per cent of the female vote, down just two points behind Mitt Romney – the 2012 Republican candidate who refused to support the ‘sexist’ Trump. Clinton’s share, meanwhile, dropped by one per cent. It was hardly a disaster, but the idea-lite Clinton’s desperate attempt to make gender the issue of this election clearly fell on deaf ears. The vote share among white women was even more striking, with 53 per cent backing Trump – in spite of his wandering, tiny hands. When news broke, East Coast feminists spat out their smoothies at their sisters’ ‘internalised misogyny’.
Then there’s the Hispanic vote. Though it has historically always swung to the Democrats, the Republicans have long tried to cultivate it. After hitting a 45 per cent high in the 2004 re-election of George W Bush, Mitt Romney scored just 27 per cent Hispanic support in 2012. It was assumed that Trump – and The Wall – would effectively decimate it. And a surge in early voting among Hispanics suggested a possible Clinton win in the key swing state of Florida – which has a significant Hispanic population. But in the end, Trump scored 29 per cent of Latinos’ votes, two per cent higher than Romney, and Florida turned red.