Can Sexism Sink Trump’s White House?

Democrats need to hit Americans with a reality stick as the dangers of Trump’s presidency, both politically and culturally, to have a chance to win the House or the Senate in November, and even the White House in 2020. As Trump’s policies come home to roost, with the attending consequences, Democrats need to attack him on all of the ways that he is not making America great, especially in terms of their key values. The key to success will be to contrast the concerns of actual Americans with the attitudes and policies of the Trump administration.

Speaking up on Trump’s inability and unwillingness to handle issues that are fundamental to America, including equality for women, is vital. Democrats need to be clear and simple with their message, as clear and simple as Trump is with his vitriol.  As Bakari Sellars, a former Democratic representative from South Carolina, says “[the Democratic party] all believe in caring for the poor, immigration, education, and healthcare,” and Democrats can win votes by actively responding to and discussing these issues, which are fundamental to quality of life and the most important to many Americans.

Trump’s disparaging comments at his rally in Montana are dangerous, both in terms of America elections and women’s rights, but also a stunning example of sexism. Not only does Trump not understand the #MeToo movement, bizarrely talking about not physically injuring Senator Elizabeth Warren with his imaginary DNA kit, because she is a weak and frail women, I guess. Trump repeatedly disparages women publicly and not only is he not called out on it, he is cheered on by a massive crowd, including both men and women.

In addition to marginalizing female politicians, even those within the administration, like Niki Haley, who Larry Kudlow said must have “misunderstood,” to Kirsten Gillibrand (who Trump tweeted “would do anything” for contributions), Maxine Waters, Elizabeth Warren, and of course, Hillary Clinton. Thankfully, Haley shot back that she did not misunderstand, but more people, men and women, need to stand up to Trump and sexism in the White House and across the political spectrum.

Out of Trump’s sixteen cabinet members, three are women. When he was elected Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau promised a 50/50 gender cabinet. Trudeau is facing a fair amount of criticism right now and his famous, “Because it’s 2015” line seems long ago, but it is worth recognizing the significance of his decision and the value that he set on gender equality. By contrast, as the Globe and Mail reports, the Trump cabinet is very much in Donald Trump’s own image, noting “many are ultrarich white men, and generally well past normal retirement age.”

Trump Cabinet
Trump Cabinet Image by Sporkle, Retrieved from https://www.sporcle.com/games/chaosBEE/dt-cabinet

Trump’s White House has been an exemplar of the old boys club, with officials accused of a range of gender-based misconduct, from domestic abuse to sexual harassment and assault, all while being defended as good men. John Kelly praises the old world view and wishes that women were still “sacred,” also calling them more emotional, remarks that Vox reports actually rattled female White House staff. This mindset may have also led him to defend and commend Rob Porter, when he was accused of domestic violence. In addition, the White House offered as a defence that Kelly won’t let men use foul language “when a lady is present,” and one official even agreed that “generally speaking women are more emotional than men,” demonstrating that they just don’t get it.

Unsurprisingly, their policies so far have been hostile to women, including halting equal pay that would have made pay data for large companies public to help close the gender wage gap, which is even greater for people of colour. Ivanka Trump, who gives lip service to supporting women in the workplace, said: “Ultimately, while I believe the intention was good and agree that pay transparency is important, the proposed policy would not yield the intended results.” Even though the policy would provide data and evidence to address pay discrimination effectively, apparently making records public is “a burden to employers,” never mind the women who are being paid less for the same work every single day.

In March, Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and seven of his Senate colleagues, wrote in a letter to the president that they have ‘“ongoing concern” over his “administration’s demotion of the rights of women and girls as a foreign policy priority and efforts to roll back initiatives that have advanced health, prosperity and stability around the world.” Trump confirmed these fears by showing up late to the G7 meeting on gender equality, demonstrating how unimportant it is, as well as not funding a vital girls education initiative. These statements are important, but the Democrats need to be louder, stronger, and simpler in their message.

It is unacceptable for so many in the media and in politics to simply ignore or just comment upon, especially when it is so pervasive, with even women in the White House supporting officials with sexist attitudes. Making things even worse, Trump recently brought in Bill Shine, the Fox News executive responsible for the cover-up of its sexual harassment scandal. Apparently, the White House is aware of the possible push back, but thinks that it is survivable, which is exactly the problem. For this White House, sexism is survivable, because there are no consequences for it.

There is a very long 2020 campaign ahead, and if the President of the United States is allowed to continue as he has, sexist attitudes and behavior will explode across the country. Trump’s first response to Megyn Kelly’s debate questions made it clear that he would be continuing his pattern of making misogynist and sexist remarks, but he is now the President and that language is unacceptable from the leader of the free world. If Democrats want a fighting chance, they must actually fight back and not allow Trump to attack and disparage half of the population as less than worthy.

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