Joined by Attorney General Tom Miller, five dozen local Democrats and campaign staffers gathered at party headquarters in Ames Monday night to witness what was surely the most surreal general election debate in modern American history – and the most widely watched.
In the audience, the Informer spotted longtime Dem Johnie Hammond, who served Ames in the state Senate until 2002 and remains an active supporter of the party and, in particular, its women candidates at the local level. She’s a loyal Hillary Clinton backer, too, and said she thought sexism played a role in the fact that Donald Trump still has a shot at the presidency.
“There’s a lot of sexism there,” Hammond said of people’s impressions of Clinton as a woman running for public office, “and it’s unconscious, it’s built into us, I think until we have the experience of a woman president, and maybe even after that. So many other countries have worked fine with a woman president, and I think it’s terrible that we have not.”
With an incredulous grin on her face throughout, Clinton successfully baited Trump into defending calling Rosie O’Donnell a “pig,” talking at length about his past support for the racist notion that President Obama’s birth certificate was fake, saying he was “smart” for dodging tax payments, bragging about exploiting the housing crash that caused the Great Recession (“That’s called business”), and lying about everything from his conspiracy theory that climate change is a Chinese hoax to his supposed opposition to the Iraq war while citing such esteemed policy experts as Sean Hannity and Howard Stern.
The crowd of Democrats at the Kellogg Avenue HQ cheered and laughed at every jab Clinton managed to land between Trump’s constant interruptions – 51 in all – as the GOP nominee played the role of the arrogant corporate executive who’s got no time for the bitch with ideas at the boardroom table, attempting to drown her out with his shouted refrain of “wrong!” while he sniffled as though fighting a cold. Or, as Howard Dean suggested in a tweet, as though his debate prep consisted of snorting rails – although if it had, Trump must have been on the comedown, because by the end of the debate he was so low-energy that you may have mistaken him for Jeb Bush.
By night’s end, despite a broad consensus that Clinton had wiped the floor with the orange-faced windbag, Dems in the room remained cautious about the election’s outlook. Before the debate, Trump had managed to take a slight edge in the polls in Iowa, and nationally, what once looked like a near-landslide for Clinton appeared to be turning into the sort of neck-and-neck contest beat reporters on the campaign trail crave that allows them to contrive sufficient drama to keep the horserace interesting.
The Informer spotted Hammond as she was on her way out and asked her what she thought of the spectacle. “It will be interesting to see if anything is reflected in the debate performance of the two individuals,” she told us. “I have no question myself about who won that debate.”
Hammond contrasted Clinton’s policy chops with Trump’s propensity to wing it. “He just bluffs his way through, and it will be a tragedy if he bluffs enough people to win,” she said. “It will be a tragedy for our nation. I think we’ll see something like Germany faced in the ‘30s. That’s what I think.”
She also expanded on her thoughts about sexism in American politics. “Countries that we would think of as way behind us have had [women] presidents and leaders,” she said. “I mean, India, and of course Great Britain many years ago, Germany. And they get booted out just like the men do, and they get accepted just like the men do. It turns out, women are people too.” (“You think?” another woman said, overhearing our conversation as she walked out the door.)
Relating this to her past experiences as a lawmaker, Hammond recalled something she did after having to deal with chauvinist colleagues.
“You know, I used to get frustrated when I served in the Legislature, I sometimes got frustrated with the sexism, and I put on Helen Reddy on the way home,” she said, chuckling and breaking into song. “I am woman, hear me roar! It was a good one to sing along with her.”
Correction: This story originally misspelled Johnie Hammond’s first name Johnnie.