Trump got by as a serial sexual harasser in 2016, but can he do it again in 2020? We are in the midst of a purge of men who have been guilty of sexual misconduct. A new world will emerge from that purge. Smart and insightful people need to start thinking about what that new world will look like. The tragedy is that it could have saved us a ton of headache if it had started a year early.
I make a concerted effort to take a broad view of things- which is why I am a committed progressive. Expansive ideas about solving complex problems and advancing society for the benefit of all demands a broad view. So as I watch the Alabama polls tighten in the special election senatorial race I am left with a harrowing conclusion. #MeToo came a year too late and the ultimate damage- the irreversible injury to a society that now accepts sexually predatory conduct from its elected leaders- has been done.
The bottom line is that white women in America voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton AFTER hearing the infamous Access Hollywood confessional.
You recall that confession I hope. The one where Trump states blithely that he can do whatever he wants to women because he is a celebrity, up to and including “grab them by the p*ssy.” It just can’t be any plainer than that. Yet, white American women said “yes” to Donald Trump as their president and NO to one of their own for many reasons but none relating to her sexual abuse of women. These are the election results according to Five-Thirty-Eight and they are still shocking to behold. So when Trump says he beat Hilary by a landslide, he would be right if he could only count white voters (and doesn’t he in fact only count white voters?)
|White women college graduates||51||45|
|White women non-college graduates||34||62|
|White men college graduates||39||54|
|White men non-college graduates||23||72|
I try to imagine if #MeToo had jumped off a few weeks before that Access Hollywood tape went viral. I have to believe that these numbers would have been different- if not in stark contrast, at least different enough to have rescued us from the disastrous presidency we are living through now. It wouldn’t have taken much to change the outcome. It is worth noting that being sexually harassed or assaulted seems to be the one area where American woman of all backgrounds and political persuasions actually can find some common ground- tenuous though it may be. So if women in Alabama and Minnesota can lock arms on this issue there might be something big lying ahead that we have not seen before.
But unfortunately #MeToo was not a thing yet and Trump got elected by the electoral college- the same one that he used to claim was “rigged” and a “scam”- despite losing the popular vote by the widest margin in American history for a winning candidate. That popular vote blow-out is courtesy of the near universal Trump rebuke by black folks who voted for Clinton by an 88% to 8% margin (you’re welcome). Where we are left today is with a society at war with itself and dizzy with confusion about what it’s cultural identity is going to be in the years ahead.
On one hand, we have a full on purge of men accused of bad behavior against women. From sexual insensitivity, to sexual harassment to sexual assault- men are being toppled from lofty posts if they are found to have acted an ass against women in any context- even if the offensive acts are decades old. There may be a statute of limitations in a court of law, but there is no such thing in the court of public opinion. And if you are found guilty there, the punishment could be anything ranging from the death penalty to a slap on the wrist depending on how you plead your case- and men are trying to figure that out now.
At the same time, you have a huge grouping of women who have decided that their tribal affiliations or political beliefs are more valuable to them than any evolving gender power dynamics at play in our society. And they make themselves known at the ballot box and sometimes on the microphone. They put Trump in office in the first place and don’t make the foolish assumption that they won’t turn around and put him right back in there in 2020. And it will be even easier for them to stomach that since there will be a sitting Senator from Alabama who will be known to have sexually engaged teenage girls for years- one of them just 14 years old.
The simple reality is that as long as our country will put our greatest powers and responsibilities in the hands of men like Donald Trump and Roy Moore, it doesn’t make much of a difference if some Hollywood power brokers get voted off of paradise island. We are fooling ourselves if we think otherwise. Hollywood is a world where image is the product and imagination is the material. For all of the ills of Washington D.C., that is where the control levers of our entire nation are manipulated. So having men whose hands have fondled the flesh of 14 year olds on those controls is deeply troubling. And because that is where we are, I believe that #MeToo was very likely #TooLate.
But there is one- and only one- narrow path to redemption for American women (specifically white women) in the age of Donald Trump. #MeToo is not going to get it done. We got a glimpse of it in the Virginia elections last month. In one night Democrats transformed and nearly flipped control of the statehouse from Republicans. And they did it almost entirely on the strength of women candidates- many of them first timers.
So there is clearly hope. Perhaps the momentum of #MeToo can be the fuel that powers young women to run for office and the opportunity to control making the rules we live by and overseeing their implementation and enforcement. Perhaps enough men will be exposed as unfit for leadership in any context and the durable allure of just being a white guy in a tie will finally expire. That has been a long time coming and thanks to having the worst possible male representative in the White House, that hope is all we have left.