How Winning the Nomination Could Be Trump's Worst Nightmare
We had been promised something of a new candidate, one more “presidential” in demeanor than we’re accustomed to seeing in the ostentatious settings at which he stages his post-primary speeches. But when Donald J. Trump, the Republican presidential frontrunner, stepped up to the mic in Manhattan’s Trump Tower to celebrate of his epic sweep of Tuesday night’s GOP nominating contests in all five of the states in play, what we saw was a Trump more subdued in tone but as misogynist in substance as ever.
After declaring himself to be “like, a very smart person,” Donald J. Trump made an astonishing claim: If Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton—who won four of Tuesday’s five Democratic primaries—were a man, he said, “she’d be at 5 percent” in the polls. As if being a woman granted the female politician some great advantage. Were that the case, each chamber of Congress, one might assume, would be a body in which women represented 80 percent of the membership, rather than the other way around. Surely, given such great gender privilege, the 50 states might muster more than a grand total of six female governors among them.
Trump appeared to be grasping at some explanation for why, in general election match-up polls, he trails behind a woman. (It must be because she’s a woman! The system is rigged!)
“I’ve always been very good at math,” Trump told us, though apparently that prowess ended before the probability exam began.
The only thing that Clinton had going for her, Trump said, was “the women's card,” perhaps failing to notice that in the 2012 presidential election, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, 71.4 percent of women reported voting, while only 61.6 percent of men did. Add in the fact that there are more eligible female voters than male voters, one might see that very card maligned by Trump as something of a trump in and of itself.
"Women don’t like her,” Trump said of Clinton, apparently not aware of the fact that in all but three states since the beginning of the presidential campaign season, Clinton has won the majority of the women’s vote. Meanwhile, Gallup reports, 7 in 10 women have an unfavorable view of Trump.
The ancient Greek philosophers saw misogyny as evidence of fear of women. Whatever the original roots of the showman’s misogyny, the polls would indicate he has good reason to fear women in November—those, at least, who turn up at the voting booth. Which may explain Trump’s urging, in his latest victory speech, of Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s flagging Democratic challenger, to run as an independent in the general election. An independent progressive would presumably peel off votes that would have otherwise gone to the Democrat.
But then Trump went on to echo Sanders’s allegation that Clinton is “unqualified” for the presidency, an attack that many women, including this writer, heard as distinctly gendered in nature. (Sanders has since walked back that claim, which he said was based on the fact that, while serving in the Senate, Clinton had voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq during the presidency of George W. Bush.) But given Trump’s free-associative invocation of that particular Sanders attack on Clinton, coupled with the Bernie Bro phenomenon and Sanders’s dismissal of Planned Parenthood as an “establishment” organization, one could wonder whether an independent Sanders candidacy might just peel off misogynist voters from Trump.
Before the night’s end, the Sanders campaign issued a statement that suggested the U.S. senator from Vermont was no longer in it to win it, but would instead stay in the contest in the hope of injecting his campaign’s driving issues—income inequality and the break-up of big banks—into the Democratic Party platform at the national convention in Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, pundits were once again using such words as “unstoppable” to describe Trump’s march to his party’s nomination, what with the establishment types who had once seemed so vehemently opposed to him on moral ground now submitting, between sighs, to what suddenly seemed inevitable. (Both U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Governor John Kasich fared poorly in Tuesday’s contests—in the Eastern states of Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware and Maryland—and the non-aggression pact they had forged for next week’s contests unraveled soon after it was announced.)
As Clinton’s nomination became all but sealed on Tuesday night, the pundits barely seemed to register the historic nature of it. For the first time, a woman was almost certain to be the standard-bearer of one of the two major political parties in a presidential election. But Donald Trump surely noticed.
With his male challengers falling away, Trump is now faced with two outcomes he likely once deemed improbable, if not impossible: that he could win the nomination of the Party of Lincoln, and that he could lose the biggest game of his life—to a woman.