Politics & Policy

Democrats Should Stop Pretending Trump’s Misogyny Represents the Conservative Movement

(Rick Wilking/Reuters)
He makes for a convenient straw man, but the underlying argument is dishonest.

‘A person who is flat-chested is very hard to be a ten.”

“She’s a disgusting pig, right?”

“You wouldn’t have your job if you weren’t beautiful.”

“They said, ‘How are you going to change the pageant?’ and I said, ‘I’m going to get the bathing suits to be smaller and the heels to be higher.’”

One by one, Donald Trump’s misogynistic statements were aired in a video at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) on Tuesday night. The video, presented just before Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards’s speech, showcased a recurring claim of this year’s DNC: Trump is living proof that Republicans, conservatives, and pro-lifers are perpetrating a war on women.

Trump’s attitudes toward women are indefensible, and the fact that he’s the Republican presidential nominee surely says something unwelcome about the direction of the party. But it is dishonest for Democrats to use his remarks as a cudgel with which to club the entire conservative movement.

In particular, Trump’s comments on abortion — which a number of DNC speeches attacked — are not representative of a pro-life movement that has worked, with much success, to change hearts and minds on abortion through compassionate outreach.

The video excerpted a now-infamous Trump interview in which he asserted that women should be punished for having an abortion. But even if he hadn’t backtracked from that assertion within hours of making it, the idea that women should be punished or jailed for having an abortion has long been anathema to the pro-life movement.

While Trump says he’s in line with the majority of pro-lifers on outlawing abortion and defunding Planned Parenthood, his callous dismissal of the women who undergo the procedure damages the progress pro-life activists have made in caring for those women. Project Rachel is just one example of this: a confidential ministry that offers resources not only to women, but also to fathers, grandparents, other relatives, and health-care providers who have been affected by abortion.

Democratic leaders, however, cause even more damage when they stifle productive debate by attacking the poor character of the Republican nominee, as if his comments alone invalidate all pro-life arguments against abortion. Take a few examples from DNC speeches.

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL:

[Trump] said women who have abortions like me should be punished. He calls women pigs. . . . Some people think he doesn’t really mean any of that, but look at who he picks for VP. . . . Donald Trump and Mike Pence have formed the “Make Misogyny Great Again” ticket. And the people who so loudly oppose abortion rights, let me let you into their dirty little secret: They are not only against abortion. Many of these people are also fighting to restrict access to contraception and block commonsense policies to support working moms. It’s not abortion that bothers them; it’s empowering women to live our own lives.

Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List:

[Republicans] don’t respect women. They don’t trust women. They want to control women. . . . They are desperate. That means they are dangerous. They nominated a man who said women should be punished for having an abortion, who has called us “fat pigs” and “animals.” He picked a running mate who led the fight to destroy Planned Parenthood and tried to redefine rape. . . . We have come too far to let that happen.

Senate minority leader Harry Reid:

When Trump decided to run for president, he probably said to himself, “I’m an egomaniac. I don’t believe in science. I think women are inferior. Where would I feel at home?” We know where that is. Parents, you are right to fear what comes out of his mouth. Republicans, you should have been careful. Also, he learned it from watching you. They say they believe in country first. What a joke.

Speakers also attacked Trump and the Republican party by claiming that Hillary Clinton and the Democrats are the only ones who believe women’s rights are human rights. No rational conservative disagrees with this statement; the disagreement is over what rights everyone is entitled to. They said only Democrats care about women receiving equal pay for equal work; conservatives respond that women already do. They said that only Democrats respect a woman’s “right to choose”; pro-lifers would say no one should have the choice to kill an unborn child.

Rather than articulating the merits of the policies they support, Democrats have spent their convention tying their opponents to Trump, a man who does not represent the conservative movement. He makes for a great straw man, and it must be immensely satisfying to tear him apart. But it’s dishonest all the same.

— Alexandra DeSanctis is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute.

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