Donald, the Accident
In the long run, we may see Donald Trump as having done the nation a huge favor with his misbegotten presidential campaign. Especially as it looks ever more likely that he will lose, we can provisionally begin to take account of the effects of his campaign.
We have things to worry about in the near term. More than one observer has argued that Trump’s repeated claim that the election is “rigged” is dangerous. Even some Republicans have said so. The most concrete concern is that Trump supporters will try to intimidate voters at polling places. Democrats have gone so far as to file suit, claiming that the Donald and the Republican National Committee have violated a consent decree, in existence since 1982, settling Democratic allegations that Republicans had deliberately intimidated voters in 1981, because of the Donald’s calling on his followers to monitor polling places in urban areas to watch for allegedly widespread voter fraud, even though there is zero evidence of such fraud.
Nothing about Trump’s absurd allegations on this topic is funny, but it is, um, ironic that, by saying the election is rigged, he may depress Republican turnout because people don’t want to vote in elections they don’t think are fair, and Republicans are far more likely to believe what he says than any sane people.
Teachers complain that Trump’s bad example has resulted in increased bullying in schools. A man claims his son suffered a beating on a school bus because of anti-Muslim sentiment that Trump has encouraged.
It’s hard to tell what Trump believes, if anything, because his statements vary so much, but in the current context, it is even harder to say that he does not intend any of the pernicious effects of his statements simply because he has no regard for anything but what he thinks will benefit him the most in the immediate term, a bad habit that makes him a good Republican.
Since the Donald has no concern for the long term, he likely has given no thought to the accidental benefits that may accrue from the crazy things he has said, but some of them are starting to peek out, and, amusingly enough, the people who may benefit the most are women. That is entirely as it should be, given the harm the Donald as an individual, and the Republican Party as an institution, have done to women since forever.
Famously, in the last debate, the Donald called Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman.” Hillary did call Trump supporters, or half of them, a “basket of deplorables,” a line that sounds so stilted and contrived that someone must have written it for her, and her use of it must have been deliberate. But she recanted and expressed regret, something the Donald never does, because apologizing and expressing regret require a level of maturity he has not achieved.
In good American fashion, of course, Hillary’s “deplorables” comment prompted Trump supporters to start wearing the appellation as a badge of honor.
How does this benefit women, you may wonder? Well, the basket of deplorables kerfuffle doesn’t, but, also in good American fashion, women all over the country have taken up the designation, “nasty woman,” as a rallying cry. The comment immediately elicited responses from women on Twitter, claiming it proudly as an identity. It works well on numerous levels for anyone on the left. It allows for solidarity between black and white women, since the easiest referent for the term is the song, “Nasty,” by prominent black singer Janet Jackson. Calling women “nasty” evokes slut walks, which have the purpose of asserting women’s sexual agency and fighting against rape culture. In all, the Donald, who has never been popular with women voters, may well regret having evoked the image of a “nasty woman.”
The other thing the Donald said in the last debate that produced an immediate response from many women was his comments on late term abortions. He stated that doctors perform abortions literally at the end of pregnancies, the day before birth. Doctors who perform abortions say Trump’s claim is nonsense. Opponents of abortion have long used the tactic of trying to make abortion sound as grotesque as possible to make people share their opposition to it. They cooked up the term, “partial birth abortion” to describe late term abortions, which they then applied to a statute that prohibits the practice. President Bush signed the statute in 2003.
This has proven to benefit women in the unexpected way that it has prompted women to come forward and describe their actual experiences of having late term abortions, which is arguably the best tactic abortion rights activists can use because it shows false the preconceived ideas about abortion many people have and debunks many of the myths opponents of abortion rights rely on, especially when one of the women speaking up is Mormon mother of six who explained that one of the twins she was carrying was already dead, and the other, because of spina bifida, would survive only for days if she did deliver it. Apparently there are “conservatives” who think government should have forced this woman to deliver a baby and endure its suffering for days until its inevitable death to satisfy what they would have us believe are moral concerns. The morality of persons who believe their abstractions are more important than any human’s actual lived experience is utterly lacking in compassion or empathy, and not a moral system we should encourage. It is the morality of discrimination and oppression.
Finally, and perhaps most notoriously, video emerged of Donald Trump bragging about his ability to commit sexual assault on women because he is “a star.” Unsurprisingly, lots of women expressed varying shades of disgust and outrage at this news. Amazingly, in an indication that the Donald’s complete lack of self awareness and shamelessness, one of his spokespersons appeared on CNN after Trump issued an apology of sorts and complained about another commentator using the word, “pussy” because her daughter was listening.
But other Republican women expressed outrage, not only at the Donald’s comments, but at the fact that Republican men were slow to share their outrage. Somewhat sadly, one allegedly prominent “conservative” woman uttered a tweet storm saying that she had defended the Republican Party against accusations of sexism and was dismayed that Republican men were not uniform and vocal in denouncing the Donald for his reprehensible, inexcusable comments about assaulting women.
But, um, what did she expect? She really thought Republican men as a class had any respect for women? She must have seen John McCain choose his vice presidential candidate more for her looks than her brains. No one who respects women can take Sarah Palin seriously for anything, but certainly not Vice President of the United States.
Donald Trump’s accidental benefit to the nation may end up being in the long run how he forced into the open various divisions in U.S. society over issues of race, gender, and other issues, including tolerance and generosity, with people either supporting Trump’s narrow, paranoid, jingoistic vision of the nation and its future, or the relatively optimistic, expansive, generous vision that is more consistent with our history of gradually, too slowly, but surely, overcoming the mistakes of our past to achieve a more egalitarian future.