How Trump’s ‘authoritarian impulses’ mobilized women voters against him — including this conservative author

How Trump’s ‘authoritarian impulses’ mobilized women voters against him — including this conservative author

Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin voted Republican in nine presidential elections in a row, starting with Ronald Reagan in 1980 and ending with Mitt Romney in 2012. But the conservative columnist was so repulsed by Donald Trump's misogyny that she voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020, and the fact that Trump turned off so many female voters is the focus of Rubin's new book, "Resistance: How Women Saved Democracy from Donald Trump," due out this Tuesday, September 21.

Rubin, in fact, believes that Trumpism has been so toxic for the Republican Party that she no longer describes herself as "conservative" — a word she believes Trumpistas have tainted and sullied. The Post columnist, born in the early 1960s, was never a far-right culture warrior, but she was a Republican along the lines of former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, former New Jersey Gov. Christie Todd Whitman and the late Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

In an except from her book published by the Washington Post, Rubin explains, "Donald Trump's victory in 2016 came as a shock to Republican-leaning women like me who had crossed party lines to vote for Hillary Clinton. I had always voted Republican for president — from my first vote, for Ronald Reagan, to my last, for Mitt Romney. I admired mainstream Republicans who were dedicated to victory in the Cold War. I looked to free markets for expanded economic opportunity and embraced free trade and robust legal immigration."

Rubin adds, "If I differed with 'movement conservatives' on some issues, I appreciated their preference for incrementalism and resistance to allowing centralized power to bigfoot the 'laboratories of democracy.' I shared their wariness that the executive branch had aggrandized power at the expense of Congress."

The fact that Rubin voted for Clinton in 2016 after voting GOP in nine presidential elections in a row showed how low an opinion she had of Trump. Although Rubin had her disagreements with Clinton, she reasoned that a Clinton presidency would be much better than four years of Trump.

"I watched in horror in 2016 as Republicans embraced a racist bully bent on undermining our democracy and promoting White Christians' quest for political dominance," Rubin recalls. "I witnessed one conservative 'intellectual' and 'respectable' publication after another deny, then rationalize, then defend and then laud a detestable figure who repudiated principles and positions that once animated them. I saw social conservatives who demonized Bill Clinton swoon at the feet of a serial liar, adulterer and racist whose cruelty became a central feature of his presidency."

Rubin, in the book except, goes on to say that female voters have played a crucial role in the anti-Trump movement — and that includes former Republicans like herself.

"Trump's election had awakened women who imagined that our democracy was secure from a homegrown authoritarian and that their progress toward full equality was irreversible," Rubin explains. "In following women I otherwise might never have known or agreed with, I joined a broad alliance between Democrats and former Republicans bound together in a common effort to prevent devastating corruption of public institutions and contain Trump's authoritarian impulses."

In 2020, Rubin was glad to see Democrats nominate Biden, as she saw him as the most electable Democratic candidate and believed that four more years of Trump would be disastrous for the United States.

"Roughly nine months into Biden's term," Rubin writes, "we have not erased the scourge of Trumpism. Nor has Biden's performance been flawless…. If anything, I now worry that Democrats lack the instinct for the jugular needed to expose the GOP's seditious conduct, habitual lying and radical obstructionism. The Democrats' naive belief that policies alone can win the day is misplaced when opponents will stop at nothing — not voter suppression, not remorseless disinformation and not race-baiting — to secure power."

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