Election 2016

We Shouldn’t Be Surprised Donald Trump Wants Hillary Clinton Dead

It's not the first time the Trump campaign has encouraged violence against Clinton, with his rallies notorious for chants of “lock her up.”

Photo Credit: DonkeyHotey/flickr

Donald Trump’s thinly-veiled suggestion that gun owners should murder Hillary Clinton if the election doesn’t go his way drew criticism yesterday, but none of us should be shocked. Clinton may be a presidential candidate—but she’s also a woman. 

Speaking in front of a crowd at a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina, Trump made his case for why gun supporters should vote for him by focusing on the president’s role in appointing the next justices to the Supreme Court. “Hillary wants to abolish, essentially, the Second Amendment,” he said. “By the way, and if she gets the pick—if she gets the pick of her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I dunno.”

Trump’s campaign dismissed his implied threat against Clinton, claiming he wasn’t suggesting that gun owners resort to violence at all, but rather “the power of unification.” “Second Amendment people have amazing spirit and are tremendously unified, which gives them great political power,” said spokesman Jason Miller in a statement

But this isn’t the first time the Trump campaign has encouraged violence against Clinton. His campaign rallies are notorious for chants of “lock her up,” and a recent New York Times video featured Trump supporters chanting “fuck that whore,” “kill her,” and “hang the bitch.” One of Trump’s campaign advisors was even investigated by the Secret Service last month after saying Clinton should be “put in the firing line and shot for treason.” 

Despite the violence surrounding his campaign, yesterday’s comments are the first time Trump himself has suggested his supporters take up arms against Clinton. And while it’s tempting to dismiss his ranting as the thwarted rage of a self-destructing narcissist, the delighted reactions of his supporters should remind us exactly how dangerous he really is.

But what’s especially important to remember is that men like Trump aren’t rare. Most abusive men don’t have a podium and non-stop media coverage, but reacting with violence to a powerful woman is anything but unique.

In 2013, more than 1,600 women in the United States were murdered by men. Of those women, 94% knew their murderer. The most common murder weapon was a gun—and women are most at risk when they leave their abusers (and begin to regain their power).

Violence against women in the political arena isn’t new, either. During the fight for the vote, suffragettes were targeted by vicious propaganda that featured them shackled, force-fed, or even murdered. While violence as a method of deterring women from seeking power has roots much deeper than Clinton’s presidential bid, she’s long been a target. As a First Lady who dared to make policy, she was subjected to threats of violence that ultimately served to silence her. Is it any wonder that, as the first viable woman presidential candidate, those threats have endured?

There’s no easy fix for the type of misogyny that underlies this type of violence. It’s systemic and endemic—not to mention intertwined with our society’s racism, classism, and transphobia—and deeply ingrained in our cultural consciousness. The greatest danger is in dismissing Trump as an outlier or a madman, and forgetting that he is merely a reflection of ourselves. Trump isn’t pissing into the wind—his supporters are eager for the legitimization he brings to their darkest desires. Hate crimes against Muslims have spiked dramatically since Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims, and there’s no reason to suspect his anti-woman rhetoric won’t also fall on willing ears.

Indeed, as Rolling Stone reported, his words could all too easily instigate actual violence. Trump engaged in what’s known as “stochastic terrorism,” or using rhetoric “to incite random actors to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable.” Tellingly, Rolling Stone pointed out another time violent language has been used to induce violent acts: the recent Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood murders aimed at women seeking agency over their own bodies.

Electing a woman to the presidency won’t, of course, end this dangerous misogyny. Much like the election of our first Black president ripped the lid off enduring racism, Clinton’s election would further expose the sexism we like to pretend is a thing of the past. But there’s no denying that a woman president would play a role in paving the way for a new power dynamic—one that centers women instead of committing violence against them. It won’t happen next month or next year, but over time our perspectives will shift away from misogyny and toward a true idea of unity: a unity that is founded in tolerance and equality, instead of violence.

And if, as Trump argues, a Clinton presidency takes away our guns, there may finally be hope for women held hostage by cycles of violence at home. 

Until then, we will continue to inhabit a country that tells us the best way to deal with a woman you dislike is to murder her. Even, and especially, when she is running for president.

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Jody is a long-time techie turned freelance writer living in Seattle. Her online work has appeared on HuffPo, Time, and xoJane, among others. She writes about family, mothering, and life with a chronic illness from a staunchly (some might say stridently) feminist perspective.