Everyone I have spoken to about the upcoming US presidential election, both in France and America, is shocked at the incredibly low level our presidential debates have sunken to. The French news media broadcast both debates live but it’s really the second one that is the most embarrassing. You see, when you’re an American living in Paris, your French friends and family feel it’s absolutely necessary to badger you with their opinions and questions about the elections.
They ask you how Donald Trump could have been nominated in the first place; why do Americans dislike Hillary Clinton so much; how does the electoral college work; why don’t the candidates talk about their policies during the debates; why is sex so important in the election and on and on. Explaining the electoral college system to the French is boring and useless so I’ll just skip it. Let’s talk about sex – and its part in both French and American recent and future elections.
The latest sexual development in the American campaign is, of course, the sound track of Donald Trump’s offensive comments regarding having a license to grab women’s private parts. This caused Republicans like Paul Ryan and John McCain to withdraw their support of Trump, saying he had crossed the line. This also gave hope to Hillary supporters who believe that the indecisive voters will now be on her side or not vote at all – which in the end is good for her. I just want to remind everyone that Trump crossed the line with racist comments many months ago. He also insulted families of soldiers who have died for their country. But fellow Republicans didn’t raise an eyebrow until he was exposed as a sexual aggressor. Just goes to show how women, or rather disrespecting women, could make or break this election.
Now the French have their sexually-related political problems too. Remember Dominique Strass-Kahn? He was the Director of the IMF (International Monetary Fund) who was supposed to have run as the Socialist candidate for president of France in 2012 but encountered a major obstacle in 2011. That was when he was taken off an Air France plane in New York and arrested in connection with the alleged rape of a hotel maid. His subsequent trial and eventual settlement blew his chances for political success and cleared the way for Francois Hollande’s win in May of 2012. Another potential-president bit the dust due to a woman-related issue.
Again back in the USA, the Trump campaign is hitting Hillary hard with claims that Bill Clinton has sexually attacked and abused women for many years. The fact that Bill Clinton is not running for president doesn’t seem to deter Mr. Trump. For the second debate, he brought in three women, Juanita Broaddrick, Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey who have all alleged that Mr. Clinton sexually assaulted them
during different points of his career. Their claims range from sexual harassment to rape. Mr. Trump thought he would show that Hillary is not a defender of women’s rights. He said and I quote, “Hillary was an enabler and she attacked the women who Bill Clinton mistreated afterward.” The second debate seemed like more of a reality-show-gone-horribly-bad or, even worse, a horribly bad TV show that suddenly becomes real. I have never seen anything so hard to watch.
The French have now begun their debates in view of the presidential elections which will take place in May of 2017. France is hosting primaries for the first time in its political history and the first meeting of seven candidates of the center-right party was held this week. It was a tame, polite meeting compared to the Trump-Clinton debates, but it’s only the beginning.
The current president, Francois Hollande, has not yet announced his candidacy and will not do so until December. That makes for only five months of French political campaigning, which seems like heaven at this point. Women-wise, we’ll see what happens. So far, so good, no major sexual scandals have emerged. But, like I said, it’s just the beginning.