Our Democracy and Women’s Lives in Peril

My name is desertdemocrat, and I am a political junkie. I read books about politics and political history, I follow political blogs, I keep up with political news in the NY Times, The Washington Post, and often have MSNBC on in the background when I work from home.  But even I’m finding the course of this election hard to follow and am sickened and, after last night’s debate, now even more despondent  Trump has turned our political system into a combination of the Jerry Springer show and the reality tv genre. Everything he says and does is unprecedented to the point that we need a new word for unprecedented.

I’m not going to list all the ways in which Trump is unqualified to be POTUS; that information is readily available to anyone who is open to facts and knows how to use the Google. That some 40% of Americans either don’t care that’s he’s so ill-suited for the job or refuse to believe what the rest of us can see with our own eyes and hear with our own ears greatly concerns me; in fact, it makes me fearful about the future of this country. That so many of them are non-college educated white men doesn’t surprise me one bit; it speaks volumes about the GOP’s success at removing critical thinking from the K-12 public education system.

I’m also horrified that the woman who will be the first female POTUS had to endure not only verbal abuse but also stalking as she shared the stage with a lifelong sexual predator, a man who believes he can sexually assault women without consequence and sees detailing his assaults as “locker room talk.” I know this is the first time she’s had to listen to the long litany of 1990’s attacks Trump repeated as he asserted Bill’s conduct had been “far worse” than his or the first time she’s been the subject of gossip, speculation, and GOP attacks. Yet, despite Trump’s efforts to drag Clinton and the American people into the muck, Clinton didn’t respond to his attacks. Instead she turned to a discussion of all of the other targets of Trump’s abuse and bigotry–his birtherism, his ridicule of a disabled reporter, his attacks on the Khan family and the Mexican-American judge, and his long history of demeaning and abusing women. She turned his attacks into even more evidence that someone like Trump who is so misogynist, hateful, bigoted, and pathologically abusive is unfit for the presidency.

We’ll have to see whether or not the debate was the low point of this election. But I think  the Huffington Post’s Catherine Pearson is exactly right when she notes in “This Election Isn’t About Politics. It’s About How America Sees Women,” that this election has become “a rallying cry for every woman who has ever felt her body threatened by a man who would try and claim it through words, touch, or legislation.” It has, she notes, “laid bare that, for better or worse, this presidential election has become a referendum on what America really thinks about women and how they should be treated.” And if my Twitter and Facebook feeds are any indication, women are even more determined to ensure Trump never gets any closer to the White House than his planned new hotel.

As Pearson writes:

Trump is a predatory misogynist. He insists he respects women while he simultaneously delights in cataloguing their physical attributes and supposed shortcomings. He has said it’s OK to call his daughter a piece of ass. He believes, wrongly, that only mothers should be granted paid family leave, and has assembled a coalition bent on taking away women’s access to safe, legal abortion services.

In this election we must show that we are not a country that will continue to condone sexism, male privilege, and rape culture. That we are, in fact, a country who will elect a President who has long been a champion for women’s rights; who believes in closing the gender pay gap; who will serve as a model for women and girls; who will lead this country forward rather than eradicating the progress we have made.

I heard a number of political pundits last night who suggested Trump’s debate performance “stopped the bleeding.” I disagree. His words and his actions last night likely reopened the wounds of women who have been raped, abused, assaulted, belittled, objectified, and stalked by predatory men. After the tape of Trump and Billy Bush was released, over a million women tweeted about their experiences with the hashtag #ithappenedtome. On November 8, 2016, these women and millions more will show that this is indeed a most consequential elections for women and our rights.

This is not to say that Trump’s attitudes about treatment of women are any worse or of any greater consequence than his treatment of and attitudes African Americans, Latinos, documented and undocumented immigrants, Muslims, veterans, LGBTs, the Khans, and so on. We all must work to ensure a man like Trump never becomes POTUS and to send the message that we reject racism, misogyny, and hate; that we want a country that embraces cooperation and celebrates differences.

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