White America Proves How Much It Hates Women (and Latinos, Muslims, Blacks and Jews)
For many of the women of America—excluding those for whom the importance of their white, Christian identity supercedes that of the daily cruelties of misogyny—election night 2016 was the bitterest of pills. When Donald J. Trump takes the oath of office as he assumes the presidency, America will welcome into the White House a man who has boasted of sexually assaulting women, of referring to his opponent in negative, gendered terms, and of using his wealth and power to allow him to walk in on women in states of undress.
Nice goin’, America!
For this feminist, at least as difficult to grapple with as the Trump victory itself are the numbers of women who voted for him. Yes, Hillary Clinton won a majority of the female vote, but Trump still convinced 42 percent of women who voted to vote for him, according to exit polls posted by CNN. Among white women, Trump won the majority, 53 percent. And Trump won a far greater number of white, college-educated women than anyone expected: 45 percent.
In their day-after assessments of what went wrong for their candidate, liberals and progressives can be expected to advance the economic argument, the one that says it was the white people left behind in the new economy who elected Trump. But that’s just too simplistic an explanation to cover the whole reason for his victory. This did not happen simply because of economic displacement; it’s about changes in the social order.
Trump and Clinton evenly split the vote between people who earn more than $100,000 per year, and Trump won among those who earn between $50,000-$100,000. It was Clinton who won a strong majority among those who earn less than $50,000.
No, the Trump victory is not about the economic suffering of his voters; it’s a backlash to a new societal composition that allows non-white people to compete alongside whites; one in which non-Hispanic whites are shrinking in the share of U.S. population they represent. And one in which a woman dared to presume to seek the presidency.
On Election Day morning, I dashed from the taxi stand in front of Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan to the cab I was directed to by the dispatcher, when a young man accused me of rudely walking in front of him, and began screaming that I was a c*nt. “I hope Trump wins,” he said, looking me over. He continued yelling, hurling the c-word at me, saying I looked like garbage, saying he was glad his mother didn’t look like me.
Shocking, yes, but easy to write off as a chance encounter with a crazy person. But when I posted on social media and listservs about the incident, women began telling their own stories of similar recent encounters—a journalist was groped coming out of a Trump rally, another was yelled at. And then there’s the account published by Alison Turkos on Rewire of a particularly creepy act of aggression directed at her for the sin of wearing a Hillary T-shirt—a man sidled up to her as she waited at a street corner for the light to change, and whispered in her ear that Clinton was a c*nt and so was she.
Welcome to the Age of Trump. The president-elect has normalized this kind of behavior. After all, when Sid Miller, a Texas politician on the Trump campaign’s Agriculture Advisory Committee referred to Clinton herself by that awful, dehumanizing word, Trump never batted an eye, and even lauded Miller afterward for touting poll numbers that reflected positively on Trump. It was another of what Trump’s fanboys on the anti-Semitic, racist alt-right would call a Trump wink-wink. He didn’t specifically reward Miller for using the c-word to describe Clinton; he just talked up the tweet in which Miller did so.
Trump himself has made a habit of publicly demeaning women, sometimes sexually, even saying it would be OK for a radio host to refer to Trump’s daughter as “a hot piece of ass.” And who needs to be reminded of that Access Hollywood tape? Note, however, that Trump’s appeal to his voters is not something that exists in spite of such evidence of the president-elect’s misogyny; the appeal is in the misogyny.
In his pact with leaders of the religious right, Trump promised to appoint only anti-choice justices to the Supreme Court, and to defund Planned Parenthood. With a Republican House and Senate churning out anti-woman legislation, he’ll be expected to append his signature, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t.
The women of America—especially women of color—are in for it. For the other part of Trump’s appeal to his voters is his racism. And his nativism. And his religious bigotry. This was the backlash election to beat all backlash elections—backlash against a black president with a foreign-sounding name, and against the portent of a woman president.
For all of its glorious machinery, the Democratic Party (and the liberal establishment) has consistently failed to address the strength of the right-wing strain of populism in American politics. Designed for the launching and working of cyclical elections, the party apparatus, however sophisticated, is ill-suited to the sort of sustained base-building required to counter that of the right.
The Trump presidency is the result of more than 50 years of organizing and infrastructure-building by right-wing leaders, first among them Phyllis Schlafly, whose political career began with the 1964 Goldwater campaign, and reached its pinnacle with the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1982. Before her death in September, Schlafly endorsed Trump. One imagines her today, bursting with pride in the great beyond.