Late on November 6, 2016, pundits were still predicting Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton would be the likely winner, a historic victory for the country’s first female leader.
Then came her catastrophic defeat.
Running against Republican nominee Donald Trump, a former reality TV star with no political experience who was reeling from accusations of sexual harassment, Ms Clinton’s win had seemed guaranteed, even with ongoing rumblings around her use of a private email server that were exacerbated by FBI director James Comey.
The Destruction of Hillary Clinton, a new book by Pulitzer Prize nominee Dr Susan Bordo, Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Kentucky, sets out in great detail how this incredulous defeat came about.
“Hillary and I are pretty much the same age,” Dr Bordo tells The New Daily.
“We’ve gone through the same cultural events and experienced shifts and hues of American culture together. I’ve always been very interested in her and the way in which she has functioned as a kind of cultural Rorschach test for the way people respond to whatever disturbs them about powerful women.”
Including chapters dedicated to the bruising primary race against fellow Democrat nominee Bernie Sanders and Mr Comey’s disastrous double intervention in the email scandal, Dr Bordo’s book is a fascinating dissection.
Criticism is part of politics, but Dr Bordo notes that, much like former prime minster Julia Gillard in Australia, what Ms Clinton endured was far more poisonous.
“I saw her as entirely admirable. Not a faultless person, none of us are, and yet she was being represented in such a way that people were shouting ‘lock her up,’ describing her as a bitch and a witch.”
Women in the pubic sphere have to walk an almost impossible tightrope, Dr Bordo argues.
“On the one hand, if a woman seems too strong, too competent, then it’s likely to be seen as repellently masculine in a way that women are not supposed to be. But on the other hand, we can’t be seen as too soft or feminine, or we’re seen as incompetent.”
Dr Bordo also discusses false equivalence in media coverage — news outlets unduly comparing supposed failings of Mr Trump and Ms Clinton that were not of similar proportion.
“Things are changing as we speak, but at the very beginning, because he wasn’t seen as a politician and wasn’t taken very seriously, people let Trump get away with murder,” she says.
“Lying comes as naturally to him as breathing and he would never get called on it, whereas anything Ms Clinton did that raised the slightest degree of suspicion immediately made headlines.”
Dr Bordo adds Ms Clinton was saddled with the scandals of her husband’s presidency while simultaneously being compared unfavourably to him.
“When Bill makes a dazzling speech, Hillary is compared negatively, ‘she’s such a boring, pedestrian speaker.’ But because Bill lied way back when or passed some bills that people found problematic, Hillary gets tarred with the reputation of being deceptive.”
Despite everything flung at her, Dr Bordo maintains that without the intrusion of Mr Comey and his seemingly contradictory decision to conceal an ongoing investigation into alleged ties between Mr Trump’s campaign and President Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Ms Clinton would have won.
“Comey’s timing was immensely damaging.”
The Destruction of Hillary Clinton is released by Text Publishing on April 3.