So it has begun, Donald Trump's election campaign against Hillary Clinton. The first shot:
While celebrating sweeping victories in five primaries Tuesday night, Donald Trump mocked the qualifications of Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and suggested she was playing "the women's card" to her advantage in the presidential race.
“Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don't think she'd get 5 percent of the vote. The only thing she's got going is the women's card,” Trump said during a news conference at Trump Tower. “And the beautiful thing is, women don't like her."
Do women like the Donald, then? Let's see. A Gallup poll published on April 1, 2016 tells us this:
Donald Trump's image among U.S. women tilts strongly negative, with 70% of women holding an unfavorable opinion and 23% a favorable opinion of the Republican front-runner in March.The percentage of men who held an unfavorable opinion on Trump in the same poll was 58%. And what about the Hillary? The same poll notes:
Hillary Clinton, like Trump and Cruz, is viewed more negatively than positively by both men and women, though of these two, women are far less negative. This likely reflects the basic female gender skew among Democrats and that Clinton is the only female candidate in the race. Clinton's stronger performance among women than among men has been a constant over the past nine months.Bolds are mine.
Trump employs that old Republican tactic of attacking his opponent where her strength is. But he is abominably bad at that, and no wonder: He seems to view women as walking racks for boobs, to be rated only for their looks.
To shift from that into seeing women as voters-with-some-power might be too big a leap for the Donald. And the last thing he should do is what he did in that quote: Played a gender card himself.
That's because he is a men's-locker-room type of guy when it comes to women. He makes tits and butt jokes, he brags about being a playah, he even sexualizes his own daughters in his jokes as well as his wife:
"Donald, what does Tiffany have of yours and what does she have of Marla's?" the show's host, Robin Leach, asked, referring to Trump's second wife Marla Maples.And:
Trump's answer to the "innocent question" left Noah speechless.
"I think she's got a lot of Marla, she's a beautiful baby. She's got beautiful legs. We don't know if she's got this part yet," Trump said, as he cupped his hands under his chest to signify breasts, "But time will tell."
Stern once asked Trump what he would do if Melania were in a terrible car accident, God forbid, and lost the use of her left arm, developed an oozing red splotch near her eye, and mangled her left foot. Would Donald stay with her?I'm sure Trump was joking in those two (and other) examples, but the jokes were aimed at a particular locker-room audience (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) and that audience doesn't include women. Women are the joke.
“How do the breasts look?” Trump asked.
“The breasts are okay,” Stern replied. Then, yeah, of course Trump stays. “Because that’s important.”
The link in that last quote is to a GQ interview with Melania Trump, Donald's current wife. Check it out and see if you agree with the impression I got from it: That marriage, to the Donald, is an employer-employee contract where the wife is the employee, the husband is the boss, and all chores are strictly sex-segregated.
When we put all that together what do we get as one possible appeal of Trump among a certain group of Republican male voters? *
He objectifies women, and not in the men's locker-room but in a very public sphere. That gives others the permission to do likewise (ah, the winds of freedom!).
He seems to wield the power in his own relationships with women, and that must appeal to those Republican men who pine for the power 1950s gender norms and roles gave middle-class men.
And it cannot hurt his attraction among that specific group of Republican male voters that his current wife is always beautiful and over time much younger than he is: Like trading cars for a newer model!
* All Trump supporters, men and women, obviously have other reasons to vote for Trump than his open sexism. Some of those supporters might not even like it, but still prefer a strong, bullying, protectionist, pro-war and anti-immigration president who is clearly not part of the political establishment, even if he is equally clearly part of the ruling classes.