Sexism is why Clinton's not winning by more
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A wheezing, near-obese Donald Trump plays his silverback gorilla routine to huge roars from the crowds. Thumping his chest, he huffs and puffs about Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGillibrand announces exploratory committee to run for president on Colbert Former PepsiCo CEO being considered for World Bank chief post: report Live coverage: Trump AG pick grilled on Mueller probe at confirmation hearing MORE's lack of stamina. Even the media play along: It's rare to hear the pundits ruminate about GOP nominee Trump's health, his apparent routine consumption of fast food or his addiction to diet soda.

Meanwhile, Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, recently wondered why Clinton was not totally crushing her candidate, considering the deluge of bad news about Trump and Clinton’s historic candidacy.

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Although Clinton leads by a wide margin in the RealClearPolitics polling average — most recently clocking in at a 5.5 percentage point advantage over Trump — she's still being pilloried by the media for not being even more dominantly ahead, like President-Lyndon-Johnson-squashing-1964-Republican-nominee-Barry-Goldwater ahead.

The usual trope that Clinton is unpopular has been trotted out, as if that were the only factor driving voter preference. She may be unpopular among certain segments of the voting population, but that's not the real problem. That's a symptom.

But back to wheezing Trump and Clinton's "stamina," and the double standard implied by both. Sometimes the explanation is staring us in the face. Clinton is a woman — the first viable female candidate for president in the history of the nation.

Somehow this startling fact gets routinely trivialized.

So as the political media spend hours and trillions of bits trying to dissect why Clinton is not swamping Trump (which she kind of is), there is an obvious answer to this question.

Sexism is not dead.

Trump's attacks on Clinton's "stamina" are code for his message that only men have the necessary strength for the job. In this context, Trump is depicting Clinton as face of the "weaker sex."

Trump has been successful in perpetuating this weaker-sex myth because it mirrors the relative position of women in our society. Aside from the asymmetrical cases of men-on-women violence, there are many other examples of women's lack of power.

Looking at business, only 4 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. In government, things are marginally better, but still objectively dismal. Even as women are a majority of voters, only 20 women serve in the U.S. Senate. Is that a function of lower quality women candidates?

Or are we seeing one of the most culturally engrained "isms," sexism, play out routinely at all levels of government?

The data for lack of equality between sexes is clear. There are only six women serving as governors of states today. Fewer than 25 percent of all state legislators are women. Only 19 percent of mayors are women (of cities with more than 30,000 residents.). In total, only 84 women serve in the House of Representatives, accounting for 19.3 percent of the members.

Why are there so few women in government? Men have enjoyed a monopoly of power for most of our country's history. They tend to hire men, they mentor men, they give money to other men. They tend vote for men.

Even some women, because of ideological, cultural, or religious beliefs, may prefer men to women — the theory being that men tend to display greater aggression, a quality that appeals to people seeking "strong" leadership. (I suspect many people don’t remember Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Nicaraguan President Violeta Chamorro, and the many other women in modern times who have been plenty aggressive in holding the reins of government.)

Yet when the Pew Research Center researched gender attitudes during Clinton's first run for the presidency in 2008, they found a mess of contradictions. Even though women were ranked positively in a range of key leadership traits, only 6 percent of people surveyed said women make better leaders than men, while 21 percent of respondents thought men make better leaders. Yet in a hopeful finding, Pew reports a clear majority of 69 percent said men and women were equally qualified for political leadership.

In a more recent study, Pew has reconfirmed the partisan gender gap between parties. Generally speaking, Democrats outperform Republicans among women voters. While this phenomenon helps explain why there are significantly more women in Democratic ranks, other studies have shown that there is evidence that voter attitudes toward gender influence the significant underrepresentation of women in American politics.

Conway, Trump's campaign manager, may suffer from an irony deficit — she's the first woman to ever head a GOP presidential campaign. Is there really such dearth of talented Republican women? Of course not. But gender prejudice has been pervasive.

Perhaps a President Hillary Clinton will represent a great cultural break that accelerates our country's path of equal representation of men and women in government. Until then, don't expect that thousands of years of cultural conditioning favoring men will disappear with a single candidacy.

Some people, it seems, would rather have a wheezing gorilla.

Espuelas is Washington-based political journalist working in broadcast, digital and print media. He can be reached at contact@espuelas.com. Follow him on Twitter @EspuelasVox.


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