Break out the puppet theaters. As Donald Trump moves closer to the Republican nomination, it looks like we might need them. Unless Trump can be stopped, the 2016 election is likely to go down in history as a grotesque Punch and Judy show. Prepare your pan pipes and kazoos.
That performance is sure to extend into an extended airing of gender grievances, regardless of what happens in November. Either a President Trump or a President Hillary Clinton would be a sure ticket to a four-year-long national chat about gender. Were you irked by the War on Women meme? Do you roll your eyes at the parade of pink ribbons, hats, and football cleats each October during Breast Cancer Awareness month? You ain’t seen nothing yet.
Let’s start with Hillary Clinton. Perhaps you’ve heard that she’s running for president — but that’s not quite it. She’s running to be America’s First Female President. The title matters far more than the job.
Already the usual ghoulish figures (Gloria Steinem, Cecile Richards) have been dispatched to browbeat their compatriots into getting it done for the Sisterhood. These Golden Girl cheerleaders may be hard to take seriously, but they’re zealous for a reason: If she succeeds, Clinton will stand uncontested as the most powerful and influential woman in the history of these United States.
As a group, American women are considerably less zealous. The reasons presumably vary. Some women may just find Clinton unappealing; after all, she’s is anything but a fresh face. Old, shrill, and drowning in corruption, her persona does not scream “liberation.”
Other women have more serious objections, starting with Clinton’s 100 percent NARAL score. Are women better off when they have the opportunity to kill their unborn children at any time, for any reason? Clinton clearly thinks so. Some of us strenuously disagree. She has a long history of fighting for equal-pay legislation, along with lots of free goodies (day care, universal pre-K) that would empower women to institutionalize their children while they get full-time jobs. That fits with Clinton’s own life story, but it’s not what most mothers today really want.
When a chauvinist creep faces off with a hard-charging feminist on a national stage, what are we likely to get?
Clinton’s election would be a kind of watershed victory for late-20th-century feminist ideals. Some women are happy to risk Madeleine Albright’s special place in hell rather than celebrate that, but Clinton’s coronation is sure to be a pink-streamered bonanza nonetheless — and we’ll all be expected to participate in the fem fest. Hang onto your bonnets; this could get ugly.
Then there is Trump. Ironically, his reputation for tweaking PC pieties may offer a smidgeon of cover for his repulsive attitudes towards women. He’s even persuaded some pundits that he isn’t so much a misogynist as a crass opportunist. Don’t believe it. He is both.
Though happy to capitalize on any available source of negativity, the evidence of Trump’s personal racism is fairly thin. Yes, 40 years ago his early businesses were hit by the Department of Justice with some anti-discrimination lawsuits. But we don’t have litanies of personal stories about Trump sneering at miscegenation or calling grown black men “boy.” He probably isn’t a racist, even if he plays one on TV.
#share#By contrast, Trump has a decades-long record of calling women “dogs” and “disgusting animals,” and bragging that he can have any one he wants. He likes to keep women near him as prizes and playthings, but those who trouble him with aspirations to full-fledged personhood can trigger a vindictive fury. Trump doesn’t seem to feel bad about his serial infidelities. And he refuses to say if he’s ever paid for an abortion.
Digging into his writings, we find that Trump’s superficially disgusting behavior is supported by more carefully considered warnings against the manipulations of the fairer sex. His books present women as wily vixens (“far worse than men”) riding a raging hormonal tide (“their sex drive makes us look like babies”). It’s pretty clear what’s going on here. He’s taken the red pill.
When a chauvinist creep faces off with a hard-charging feminist on a national stage, what are we likely to get? A national conversation on sex and gender. Prepare for a long, soul-searching discussion of Mars and Venus, and which one has more cooties.
With so much else at stake, there hasn’t been much time to consider how Trump’s nomination might affect relations between the sexes. We worry about whether women will be alienated from a political party. But how might the 2016 election alienate women from men (and vice-versa)?
Already, marriage in America is declining. Millennials are the most untrusting and marriage-averse generation in our history, and birth rates are likewise declining. This has contributed substantially to economic inequality and to gloomy, longer-term demographic projections. It’s also a source of loneliness and regret. More and more young people seem clueless as to how they might forge successful relationships. Growing up with the advantages of a married father and mother is becoming a mark of privilege, not a normal expectation for all children.
Now, all eyes turn toward our two leading presidential candidates, both with spectacularly unhappy marital histories and notably belligerent attitudes toward the opposite sex. If I were a wedding vendor, I’d start considering a new line of work.
As blogger David Upham notes, the alienation shows up clearly in the numbers. Trump is triply toxic among college-educated women, while no one hates Hillary like men without college degrees. In other words, Trump inspires particular animosity among the women already most likely to cheer for the end of men. Clinton pushes all the wrong buttons for those men who are already least likely to marry or forge relationships with their children. These are also the men most likely to be alienated, both from women and from society as a whole.
#related#We’ve already seen this movie, or something very like it. Barack Obama’s election in 2008 was supposed to mark a watershed moment for racial reconciliation. Eight years later, we’re enjoying a glorious renaissance of race riots and alt-right skinheads, and Americans are gloomier than ever about race relations in our society. It turns out that polemical, uncompromising politics and passive-aggressive grievance-mongering don’t help build national solidarity. Who knew?
Now that we’re revving up a similar sort of Great Leap in our gender relations, it’s time to ask: How much more of this “reconciliation” can our social fabric stand?