By Maggie Beazer '20
It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the Donald Trump campaign. In the wake of the 2005 tape release that showed Trump speaking lewdly about women and even describing sexual assault, his once-tight polling has slipped. Allegations of sexual assault from women with whom Trump has worked, coupled with his increasingly vehement and violent denials, have sent Trump’s campaign scrambling to save its image. In a powerful and emotional speech on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, FLOTUS Michelle Obama denounced his actions, calling them “cruel” and “frightening.” Some Republicans demanded that Trump pull out of the election. With this kind of bipartisan condemnation of Trump’s alleged treatment of women, there is no way women could still support him – right?
Not necessarily. While moderates flee from the Trump ticket, his core constituency has entrenched ever deeper. This weekend, after FiveThirtyEight pollster Nate Silver published an electoral map that showed Hillary Clinton winning in a landslide if only women voted, Trump supporters trended #RepealThe19th on Twitter. The logic was that a hypothetical repeal of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution would deny women the right to vote in time for the election, ensuring Trump the victory. Female Trump supporters expressed their willingness to sacrifice their own right to vote. While it could certainly be argued that this kind of demonstration is confined to the most extreme wing of Republican women, even the very existence of this type of thinking is troubling to me. Early in the campaign season, Republican women could justify voting for Trump by pointing to his business dealings – he had employed women in high-ranking positions within his company, so naturally, gender equality wouldn’t be an issue in a Trump presidency. More commonly, these Trump supporters went after the women who supported Secretary Clinton, labeling them as emotionally compromised or as voting for Clinton only to elect a female president. Much of the vitriol labeled at Clinton is thinly veiled sexism, complaints about her “robotic” or “lecturing” style of speaking. There are valid criticisms of Secretary Clinton based upon missteps made in her years of political service, and her debate performances have shown that she is eager to explain them. This makes it all the more exhausting when relevant political discourse gets bogged down in conversations about Clinton’s stamina or gossip about her husband’s affairs.
Female conservative sentiment is best personified by Tomi Lahren, a 24-year-old political commentator for TheBlaze. Because she (somewhat) defies the stereotypical Republican image of old white men, she’s developed a large social media following, and odds are, if you have a Facebook, you’ve come across one of her acrid segments. Beyoncé’s performance at the Super Bowl, Colin Kaepernick’s silent protest, and the call for more comprehensive background checks for gun owners have proved to be fodder for Lahren’s brand of political commentary. She denies a link between racial bias and police brutality, instead tweeting comparisons between Black Lives Matter and the KKK. She dislikes the pro-family planning policies of Democrats, instead insisting that women should “take care of [themselves].” With this perspective of a prominent woman in the Republican party, it’s easier to see the type of beliefs that would compel someone to vote for a candidate who seems diametrically opposed to their best interests.
Women who vote for Trump, then, seem to believe that considering gender equality when they vote is superfluous. They insist that ours is a post-feminist era and that women who continue to discuss the systematic inequality they face are perpetuating victimhood. When the sexual assault allegations piling up against Donald Trump combine to provide proof of gender-based rape culture and injustice, these women will brush it to the side, claiming that focusing on Trump’s past personal mistakes distracts from the “issues.” No matter where the chips ultimately fall on November 8, the female vote will be more critical than ever, and awareness of the women who will vote for Trump allows us to have a more thorough understanding of the election and a clearer picture of the nation.