From 1969 through 1974 Israel was fine with Golda Meir. From 1979 through 1990 the Brits were fine with Margaret Thatcher. Since 2005 the Germans have been fine with Angela Merkel. A woman can lead a nation. It’s no big deal, but we haven’t tried it yet, and those three ran for office and then governed as gender-neutral. The issues were national security and the economy. They weren’t champions for women – they wanted to keep things from falling apart. Women didn’t vote for them out of solidarity. Women voted for them for practical reasons. Each could do the job.
We haven’t got the hang of this yet. Hillary Clinton, the first woman with a reasonable chance to become president, knows we haven’t got the hang of it. America cannot be gender-neutral quite yet. Too many Americans see women as pretty little things, all sweetness and fluff, or as repulsive ball-busting dykes who refuse to act like a lady – as they should. Even many women feel that way, so Hillary Clinton has had to make adjustments, as she did in her 2008 campaign and as she is doing now. Be a policy wonk, but be soft and friendly about it. Be warm and open, but show that you’re tough as nails underneath. Show that you’re as severe and bloodthirsty as any guy talking about ISIS or Iran – but that you’ll bring a woman’s clear compassion to the situation.
This is an impossible balancing act. That may be why Hillary Clinton seems to have shifted to being a champion for women. More than half the voters are women. She can get their vote, and win the presidency, by addressing their specific issues, not national security and the economy and all the rest. America isn’t ready for that – so play the women’s issues. There are enough votes there. Cause a stir.
That’s what she did:
The weekly firestorm in the 2016 presidential campaign was lit Thursday in Ohio by Hillary Clinton when she likened GOP candidates’ views on women to those of terrorists.
“What an obscene person,” was the reaction of Ohio Republican Chairman Matt Borges.
Ohio Right to Life’s Michael Gonidakis tweeted: “If HRC can’t tell difference b/t pro-life supporters & murderous rapists in ISIS it’s no wonder she messed up Benghazi so badly!”
Republican National Committee press secretary Allison Moore called for an immediate apology “for her inflammatory rhetoric.” Moore said, “For Hillary Clinton to equate her political opponents to terrorists is a new low for her flailing campaign.”
No, this is not a new low. It’s an attempt to grab the votes she needs by shifting to issues where she doesn’t have to be not quite a man and not quite a woman day in and day out. There’s no ambiguity here:
While saying “this election can’t be a race to the bottom” in her first official Ohio campaign speech this year, Clinton took shots at Ohio Gov. John Kasich as well as other GOP presidential hopefuls for their anti-abortion stances and calls to defund Planned Parenthood.
“I would like these Republican candidates to look the mom in the eye who caught her breast cancer early because she was able to get a screening for cancer, or the teenager who didn’t get pregnant because she had access to contraception, or anyone who’s ever been protected by an HIV test,” Clinton told several hundred supporters at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
“Now, extreme views about women? We expect that from some of the terrorist groups. We expect that from people who don’t want to live in the modern world. But it’s a little hard to take coming from Republicans who want to be president of the United States.”
Clinton’s swipe at Kasich – she didn’t mention him by name – came in response to the 2013 state budget bill he signed that included a ban on state-funded rape-crisis centers counseling women about abortion…
If no one will take her seriously on all the other stuff – America is not Israel or Britain or Germany – there are these women’s issues, and women decide presidential elections – and the Republicans have made themselves vulnerable. Deal with it.
One of them did deal with it:
Donald Trump pledged Thursday that supporting women’s health will be “a very major thing” in his presidential campaign.
“I will take care of women’s health and women’s health issues better than anybody and far better than Hillary Clinton, who doesn’t have a clue,” he told reporters after an afternoon rally here.
What was he saying? She’s a woman and what does a woman know about such things? That’s an odd argument, but Republicans know they have to deal with this:
The Republican, campaigning in the Bible Belt, also slammed Jeb Bush for saying recently that he’s “not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.” The former Florida governor later said he misspoke.
But Trump said it’s a window into what he really thinks.
“That was a terrible thing for him to say,” he said of Bush. “I cherish women, and I say it all the time. I will take a care of women. Women under my administration will be taken care of, not like Jeb Bush; what he said was a disgrace.”
Bush’s campaign was having none of that:
“Mr. Trump is trying to overcompensate for the fact that he knows Jeb has experience as a successful pro-life conservative Governor who funded women’s health initiatives, while Trump has spent his life as a liberal New York socialite who has supported partial birth abortion and socialized health care,” Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said in an email. “Governor Bush remains committed to defunding Planned Parenthood and ensuring those dollars instead to the many quality women’s healthcare programs across the nation.”
Yeah, but Donald Trump cherishes women, whatever that means.
Actually that means a lot, as MSNBC’s Aliyah Frumin explains here:
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s public life has long been littered with demeaning, sexist remarks about women. And for just as long, he has refused to apologize. But so far, potential female voters aren’t running away from the billionaire real estate mogul’s 2016 candidacy.
In fact, even after his epic debate exchange with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly – in which Kelly asked the GOPer about calling women he dislikes “fat pigs,” “slobs” and “disgusting animals” – and then later suggesting that Kelly asked those questions because she was menstruating – Trump’s popularity among female voters did not take a hit, according to a Gallup survey. In fact, 29% of female voters viewed Trump favorably before the debate compared to 30% the week after.
Trump seems to be beating Clinton at her own new game:
The former reality TV show host continued to jab Kelly on Monday, engaging in a vindictive tweet-storm during Kelly’s show, resulting in Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes demanding that Trump apologize. But so far, none of it seems to be hurting Trump. And looking at Republican women specifically, while Trump had a lower favorability among that group compared to Republican men (by a 50% to 59% margin), that gender gap in favorability was typical among GOP candidates.
Frumin is not sure what to make of this:
Not only does Trump say sexist things, but his invariably macho stance on everything from foreign policy to immigration is the sort of testosterone-fueled bravado that typically rubs many female voters the wrong way. But with Trump, apparently, that’s not the case.
Take, for example, the battle against the terrorist group known as ISIS. Trump said his plan to beat ISIS involves “boots on the ground” and to “knock the hell out of them.” Meanwhile, according to Pew Research, there’s a 14-point gender gap when it comes to favoring ground troops in Iraq and Syria, with 51% of men being in favor and just 37% of women.
Even so, his numbers keep rising with Republican women, so Frumin looks into this:
“I like that he’s not politically correct,” said Michelle Letner, a 48-year-old commercial cleaner from Medina, Ohio, who donated $225 to Team Trump. On the derogatory names Kelly brought up during the debate, Letner – who said she’s never donated to a candidate in the past – said, “I have no problem with a man being a man. I like him because he’s real. He’s saying it like it is. If you want to be treated like a lady, act like a lady.”
Susan Speros, the CEO of a business technology company in Savannah, Georgia, who donated $500 to the campaign, said she too wasn’t concerned with Trump’s remarks. “Everyone needs to take their offended-hats off and needs to worry about what’s happening in this country,” like the economy and national security, she said. “I think Trump is a smart man and what he doesn’t know, he’ll surround himself with smart people and he’ll get the job done.”
Lori Pesta, creator of the Women for Donald Trump Facebook page – which has nearly 2,000 likes – is going as far to organize a “national women for Trump” day across the country on Oct. 18. “We want to show our support that women are behind Donald Trump, as are men as well … I think Donald Trump is very pro-women,” said the Atlanta resident.
He is? This is odd, or maybe it isn’t:
Jennifer Lawless, the director of American University’s Women & Politics Institute, argues that conservative women’s support for Trump is understandable. After all, “the records of other Republican candidates are just as half-full on women’s interests.” She also pointed to Trump’s soaring rhetoric on women when he’s pressed – declarations like “I cherish women” and “I would be the best for women.” Lawless said, “It’s vague, but it may mitigate concerns people may have.”
That’ll do. Everyone is vague. “Cherish” is a nice word, and there’s this:
The support may also stem from voters’ overall dissatisfaction with Washington, D.C. politics and Trump pitching himself as an outsider. “I think it’s frustration with the status quo,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. “I do think he’s tapping into this general frustration and anger that government isn’t working and it’s not getting things done.”
And “even though his macho tone might turn some people off, what they perceive as authenticity may counteract that,” added Lawless.
That’s the argument that he’s a pig, but at least he’s honest about it, and honesty is everything, but Frumin comes back to the intentional vagueness of Trump’s positions:
In many ways, he’s all hat and no cattle – talking a big game about being “the best for women” without offering any details, policy-wise, on how he’d actually do that. When recently asked about those issues on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump said, “As far as questions like that … I’m not going to do it on this show and I don’t want to discuss it on this show. I want to discuss those questions at a debate. But all I can say on women’s issues and women’s health issues, there will be nobody better than Donald Trump.”
That’s it? That’s it, and Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick provides some perspective:
By almost all accounts, 2012 was the year of the woman, as female voters opted for Barack Obama over Mitt Romney 56-44. For a while there, all we seemed to be talking about was the way in which women would not be talked down to again.
A series of remarkable gaffes by various GOP politicians that evinced a lack of concern about basic women’s health issues aided and abetted that effort. The various stupidisms of the 2012 campaign ranged from the assertion by Missouri Rep. Todd Akin that “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” to Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s fervent belief that pregnancy from “rape … is something that God intended to happen.” Wisconsin state Rep. Roger Rivard thoughtfully opined that “some girls rape easy,” and Mitt Romney’s infamous claim that he was in possession of “binders full of women” probably became the single most notorious episode, because it signified what a gender gaffe truly is: an inadvertent blurting out of a statement you secretly believe to be wholly true.
The attendant outcry from those gaffes led to some significant spinning and walking back, and the system seemed to finally be in perfect equipoise: GOP men said dopey things about women, women punched back, and GOP men retreated to their man caves of bewilderment to await 2016.
But nothing changed:
The genius of Donald Trump’s run for the White House is that he has almost single-handedly upended the national gender stupidity/umbrage continuum. We have, seemingly without warning, reached the point in time at which when Trump says something hateful and misogynistic, nobody evinces any surprise, he declines to apologize, and nothing changes in the polls.
This new dynamic has stupefied Trump’s critics on the left, with the Onion putting it all pretty bluntly in a headline that reads: “Female Trump Supporters Just Feel More Comfortable with GOP Candidate Who’s Openly Horrible to Them.”
She notes the puzzlement of MSNBC’s Aliyah Frumin and shares it:
I confess to be equally baffled by the meh-reaction by GOP women to Trump’s decades of Pretty Woman–style musings on gender, including global statements about women being manipulative craven vixens who outsmart men largely by way of their extremely large boobs. (One tiny gem, from his 1997 book The Art of the Comeback: “Women have one of the great acts of all time. The smart ones act very feminine and needy, but inside they are real killers. The person who came up with the expression ‘the weaker sex’ was either very naive or had to be kidding. I have seen women manipulate men with just a twitch of their eye – or perhaps another body part.”)
Of late, poor Lindsey Graham has been reduced to sputtering that “the way he attacks women is going to be a death blow to the future of our party,” as he sags further and further behind Trump in the polls. Perhaps Trump’s greatest gift, as a steaming misogynist, is that he is basically always the drunk guy in the bar slurring “nice tits.” Serious women don’t take him seriously, and everyone else just thinks he’s deranged. Worse, he is the unrepentant drunk in the bar; he’s not sorry for calling women pigs or gold-diggers. Unlike the Romneys or the Mourdocks, he doesn’t let himself get “bullied” by politically correct women. He just sends them mail telling them they’re ugly.
Lithwick does, however, recommend Amanda Marcotte on how trashing women and defending doing just that has become a way of life in some conservative circles:
Conservative media and Fox News in particular have spent years – decades, if you count talk radio – training their audiences to believe that exhortations against sexism and racism are nothing but the “political correctness” police trying to kill your good time. Indeed, one reason that Trump was able to get so much attention for his presidential run in the first place is that Fox has spent years building him up, knowing that their audience enjoys vicariously needling imagined liberals and feminists with his loud-mouthed insult comic act.
As Jill Filipovic of Cosmopolitan recently explained in a feature piece about the conservative website Twitchy, there are entire sectors of the conservative media dedicated to getting the audiences to spend all day and night trying to piss off liberals, believing themselves to be courageous freedom fighters against the P.C. police. Women, in particular, are favorite targets. There’s apparently no getting tired of the pleasure of feeling naughty because you say mean things about women and racial minorities for conservative audiences.
So one thing leads to another and Megyn Kelly gets slammed:
You can’t tell people, day in and day out, that nothing is more fun than putting some mouthy broad in her place and then get upset when they continue to think that it’s fun, even when the mouthy broad is one of yours.
“Bossy” women are treated, in conservative media, like the great Darth Vaders of the world who need to be harassed and resisted and abused at all costs. Of this, there can be no doubt. Michelle Obama started a program to encourage exercise and healthy eating, and conservative media reacted like she was holding a gun to your dog’s head and telling you to eat broccoli or the pooch gets it. The news that women sometimes make more money than their husbands was treated like a national emergency on Fox, with Lou Dobbs suggesting that “society” is “dissolving around us” and Erick Erickson arguing that women’s inability to stay in our place is “tearing us apart.” The possibility of women being Army Rangers has created a similar meltdown at the network, with Andrea Tantaros whining, “Men can’t have anything to themselves anymore.”
Hell, this is a network where a man literally told a female host, “Know your role and shut your mouth.” [You could look it up.]
America is not Israel or Britain or Germany:
No one should understand this better than the people at Fox News. After all, this is the monster they created. They should know what it wants and what it’s capable of. But instead, they seem to think that if you just shake your finger at the right wing base and tell them to be nice to the lady who dared talk back to their hero, Donald Trump, they will somehow realize that they’re not actually courageous warriors holding back the forces of political correctness, but that they are instead just a bunch of jerks. But it doesn’t work that way.
There are some lines that Trump could cross that would derail his campaign. … But dog-piling a woman for daring to tell a man that sexist language isn’t cool? That’s just business as usual. Trump and his audience may seem like a bunch of idiots, but they know that there’s no good argument for why it’s cool to do it to liberals, but not cool when the victim is a conservative. And that’s why there’s no reason to think that telling them to cut it out will do anything but encourage them to do it more.
That’s where we are, and Lithwick adds this:
Since Trump’s putative opponent this year is Hillary Clinton, his gloves-off attitude toward gender may actually help him. One recent focus group, treated to details of Trump attacking Rosie O’Donnell as a fat pig, liked him more afterward than they did before. This, goes the theory, is how to take down a woman who keeps banging on and on and on about women.
That, however, is Hillary Clinton’s new strategy, given that America isn’t yet where Israel was in 1969, where the issue was who could best do the job, even, by the way, a woman, as if that really mattered. That still seems to matter in America today. We “cherish” women. We don’t let them run things. They may be getting tired of that.