After his recent string of victories in the Northeast, Donald Trump has given us a taste of what's to come as he and Hillary Clinton square off in the 2016 presidential elections: he accused Clinton of playing "the woman card." Whatever that means . . . .
As Amy Chozick and Ashley Parker note in today's New York Times, one thing it does mean is that the issue of gender will be front and center in the presidential contest — as will Trump's now well-documented tendency to go beyond what are considered the normal and respectable boundaries of public discourse in political comments. All indicators, in other words, suggest that stepped-up, blatant misogyny will be one of Trump's campaign tactics in his race against Hillary Clinton.
Here's some commentary about this issue from news sites I've visited this morning:
As Joseph Palermo reminds us at Huffington Post, the Republicans invented "the woman card," and so why should we be surprised to see Trump now playing it? He writes,
The Republicans know the "woman card" well since they’re the ones who invented it. They’ve been playing it since 1984 when the Democrats nominated Geraldine Ferraro for vice president, the first woman to make it onto the ticket of a major American political party. . . .
Since 1984, the GOP has seen women as little more than adornments to be used as political slings and arrows. Trump and Cruz are only the latest manifestation. If Clinton is the nominee the cunning Republican strategists are guaranteed to turn up the volume to eleven on their sexist attacks. They can't help themselves.
As Josh Marshall maintains at TPM Cafe, there are dangers connected to Trump's apparent willingness to normalize blatantly misogynistic discourse — dangers for women in a society already fraught with violence against them, but also dangers for himself, as he seeks to secure women's votes: Marshall states,
Trump's rhetoric is normalizing the public invocation of increasingly vulgar and rancid attacks on Clinton. A top Republican official in Florida is quoted in the Post this morning confidently predicting that "I think when Donald Trump debates Hillary Clinton she’s going to go down like Monica Lewinsky."
I don't want to be Pollyannaish about this. This is ugly stuff and it's going to bring a lot of ugliness to the surface, just as Trump's playing to white identity politics has in the primaries. But the numbers tell the story pretty clearly. If you are planning to fight a campaign explicitly on gender divisiveness, in this day and age and as long as the 19th Amendment isn't repealed this summer (Republican Congress, who knows?) you're toast.
Steve Benen (the Maddow Blog) thinks Trump's woman-baiting attack on Hillary Clinton may backfire on him by reminding many of us about which of the two candidates has far better qualifications to govern the nation:
I haven't the foggiest idea what Trump thinks the "woman's card" is, exactly, but the assertion that Hillary Clinton has nothing going for her aside from her gender is ridiculous. Love her or hate her, Clinton is an accomplished public official with an extensive record of public service. Indeed, she’d be the first president in 150 years to have won a statewide election and served as a cabinet secretary before taking office.
For Trump to look at Clinton's background and conclude "the only thing she’s got going for her is the fact that she’s a woman" says far more about Trump than Clinton.
As Tierney Sneed notes at TPM Cafe, "Trump is not just angering the women who were maybe leaning Democratic anyway." She crunches polling numbers to suggest that open, ugly attacks on Clinton as a woman may very well alienate Republican-leaning women who are already dubious about Trump:
Current polling shows Trump is turning off the subset of women voters who are typically up for grabs in elections and who in other cycles have swung races towards Republicans. He is even alienating the type of dependable Republican female voters who turned out for Romney the last time around. To make matters worse for him, Trump's deficit among women are blunting some of the vulnerabilities Clinton would be facing if pitted against a less controversial Republican. . . .
Trump’s deficit among women is enormous and getting worse. Per Gallup’s tracking, 70 percent of women view him unfavorably, up from 58 percent last July. Trump’s problem looks even more dire when broken down by the subsets women that are typically in play or can depended on by Republicans.
As a reminder of the prejudice and violence many women in the U.S. already face, without the Republican party stirring the misogyny pot: have a look at the video at the head of this posting, which has gone viral in the past several days. It was produced by the JustNotSports group for its #MoreThanMean campaign, and has male volunteers reading tweets that have been sent to two Chicago-area sportscasters, Sarah Spain and Julie DiCaro.