This 2016 presidential election isn't about the candidates, Hillary or Trump. It’s about choosing the fate of our future. Our presidential nominees, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, symbolize different relationship and leadership models: domination and partnership.
In her landmark book, "The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future," social scientist, attorney and equal rights advocate Riane Eisler challenged a commonly held belief that human beings are historically and inherently selfish, violent and competitive. Her research and interpretation of history presented other glimpses into peaceful, equitable and highly advanced human societies that have existed in the past. Eisler found that "gender equality and a more peaceful way of life [have] ancient roots going back thousands of years."
Eisler's analysis proposed a cultural theory that provides a simple yet highly useful lens through which to view the way humans interact interpersonally and as a society. Eisler’s model of human relationships suggests that societies tend to orient toward either a domination model or a partnership model.
Dominator societies are organized by ranking, led by hierarchies that exert “power over” others through fear and force. Stereotypical “masculinity” is glorified, violence permeates every level of society, and women and behaviors and characteristics assigned to women are devalued.
In contrast, partnership societies are organized by linking and governed by hierarchies of actualization wherein leaders use their “power to” benefit all. The spectrum of human behavior is celebrated. Differences are not a problem but a necessary strength. Valuing diversity, engaging disagreement productively, and caring for other human beings, especially the vulnerable, are core partnership societal values. Mutual solutions to conflict are actively sought.
Conservatives and liberals blame one another for the social problems we face. Yet the causes aren’t located in one political party or social class or ethnicity or culture, or even in the seemingly complex and insurmountable issues of a radically diverse global community. The causes are more universal, rooted in human needs and societal patterns.
Trump's rhetoric consistently points toward a dominator model fueled by self-aggrandizement ("I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created. I tell you that.") and the idealization of stereotypical notions of “masculinity.” His campaign centers on themes of fear, force and “power over” others. Trump has belittled Mexicans, Muslims, women, African-Americas, made comments that degrade women, and continues to post hundreds of mean-spirited comments on social media about a variety of individuals and organizations. When talking about immigration, Trump has said that he'd prioritize the deportation of 5 million to 6.5 million people and build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and make Mexico pay for it. While he talks about improving and protecting America, he uses fear as a primary motivating force.
While I acknowledge serious concerns about Hillary Clinton’s judgment, partnership themes can be found in her rhetoric. Hillary’s policies, platforms and language demonstrate an awareness of our shared humanity and an appreciation for diversity. She actively advocates for women's rights, family-friendly policies such as FMLA, and shows compassion and concern for refugees and immigrants through putting forth policies that try to balance the law with moral sensitivity. Her book, "It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us," acknowledges the need for collaboration, partnership and community to meet the needs of children and families. Additionally, research findings suggest that female leaders tend to focus more on issues that directly impact families and vulnerable populations.
I believe that understanding this election, and our global well-being, requires recognizing and choosing the hope of partnership over domination. Partnership trumps domination because it’s the only way to honor difference, integrate perspectives, utilize experience, solve conflicts and begin to address the complexity of the challenges we face. Partnership is the only possible path to creating a healthy, solid, humane and enlightened society.
Ultimately, the 2016 presidential election isn't about voting for Hillary or Trump or their administration — it’s about voting for a set of values and leadership styles organized by domination or partnership. I choose partnership, which means I will choose Hillary Clinton.
Julie de Azevedo Hanks, Ph.D., LCSW is a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker, media contributor, consultant, owner of Wasatch Family Therapy, and author of "The Assertiveness Guide for Women." She is passionate about working with individuals and systems to create partnership values and principles.