Thursday, April 28, 2016

ELECTION 2016 - Trump's Male Chauvinism on Display


NOTE: This is from the online edition of the paper, so no link to article.

Trump's remark about Clinton may signal direction of campaign

Donald Trump's accusation that Hillary Clinton is playing the “woman's card” and would be a failed candidate if she were a man touched off a contentious debate about gender politics and sexism that seems likely to define the presidential election as much as any issue.

While celebrating sweeping victories in five Republican primaries Tuesday night, Trump mocked the qualifications of the Democratic front-runner, saying she would be a bad President who lacks “strength.”  The remarks seemed a preview of a general-election strategy to use Clinton's potential to be the first female President against her.

“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 woman's card,” Trump said in a news conference at Trump Tower.  “And the beautiful thing is, women don't like her.”  That was a significant expansion of Trump's by-now familiar claims that Clinton is unqualified— and one that made New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's wife, standing behind Trump before the TV cameras, appear to grimace.

It also crystallized the question of how the nation will reckon with its first presidential election between a man and a woman.  What was once subtext— latent sexism in American life, and the question of what is and is not off-limits when contemplating a woman as commander in chief— is now a full part of the political conversation.

“What's shaping up is a battle for the ages,” said David Brock, a Clinton confidant who heads the pro-Clinton super PAC 'Correct the Record.'  “You've got one candidate who is vying to be the first woman President and is embracing the historic nature of her own candidacy, and on the other hand, you've got Trump, who represents a kind of retrograde social structure of the past” that is blatantly sexist, Brock said.  “There's no better foil for Hillary.”

Clinton allies and the campaign itself have been startled by what some call Trump's unsubtle line of attack, which stands in dramatic contrast with the more subtle presence of race in President Barack Obama's historic election eight years ago.

But most Clinton allies consider the newly escalated gender wars of 2016 a helpful point of comparison that she can use to rally women's support and show how each candidate might behave as President.

“They might make flashy headlines, but Trump's comments aren't a joke,” the campaign wrote Wednesday.  “Hillary can handle these attacks.  Millions of women shouldn't have to.”  In television interviews Wednesday, Trump dismissed critics who called the election-night remarks sexist.

“It's not sexist.  It's true.  It's just a very, very true statement.  If she were a man, she'd get 5 percent.  She's a bad candidate.  She's a flawed candidate,” Trump said Wednesday on ABC's “Good Morning America.”  “She's not going to do very well in the election, and I look forward to showing that.”

He also made fun both of Clinton's delivery on the stump and of the social niceties — or political taboo — that says you're not supposed to make fun of that.  “I haven't quite recovered — it's early in the morning— from her shouting that message,” he said on MSNBC's “Morning Joe.”  “And I know a lot of people would say you can't say that about a woman because, of course, a woman doesn't shout, but the way she shouted that message was not,” and with that Trump broke off with a dismissive, “eww.”

“I guess I'll have to get used to a lot of that over the next four or five months,” he added, while also saying that he expects to do well with female voters.

Some responses on Clinton's behalf were outraged and some mocking.  And some sought to raise money from what Clinton allies see as an unappealing glimpse into both Trump as a Republican standard-bearer and a slice of the GOP electorate that is receptive to language and viewpoints other politicians have been schooled to avoid.  “Women still face too many barriers— a President shouldn't be part of the problem.  Comments like Trump's set us back,” Clinton said in one of a blizzard of Twitter messages about the remarks Wednesday.  The real estate mogul has won female voters on average by 10 percentage points over his rivals in primary contests this year.  On Tuesday, he won by more than 20 points among female voters in Connecticut, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.  But Trump's successes in winning Republican women has not translated to popularity with women or men in the broader electorate, where he continues to be deeply unpopular.

A USA Today/Suffolk University poll released this week found 66 percent of likely women voters nationwide have an unfavorable view of Trump, compared with 48 percent who have a negative opinion of Clinton.  Among men the two are closer — 57 percent see Trump negatively while 61 percent say the same of Clinton.

“He continues to paint women with a broad, reductive brush, which may be a great strategy in appealing to his very particular audience of primary voters who have found his offensive tone endearing,” said Stephanie Schriock, who heads Emily's List, a group that promotes and funds Democratic women running for office.  “But in a general election, it is really difficult to shift from the place where he is to being presidential.”

Women are far more likely to have intensely negative views of Trump.  A Washington Post-ABC News poll this month found 64 percent of women feeling “strongly unfavorable” toward Trump, compared with 41 percent of men.

Trump has consistently trailed Clinton, as well as Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, in general-election matchups.  The USA Today/ Suffolk University poll found Clinton leading Trump by 11 percentage points, fueled by a 21-point lead among women.  Women have historically leaned more toward Democrats than men have, but Trump's deep unpopularity with women threatens to diminish his Republican support.

Clinton has built a 2016 campaign focused on issues of keen interest to female voters, including equal pay, health care, and paid family leave.  Her economic plan promises to “lift up participation in the workforce — especially for women.”

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