Friday was a horrible, no-good, very bad day for the Republican Party.
Members of the GOP—the party of the “welfare queen,” “the slut,” and “the legitimate rape“—spent the weekend being indignant! apoplectic! and falling all over themselves because Donald Trump, the billionaire GOP presidential aspirant, ostensibly insulted Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly on national TV during the first GOP debate in Cleveland last week. It’s debatable whether there was any insult to Kelly. In Mr. Trump’s defense (words I never thought I’d be writing), I don’t think there was. Trump is and was his normal combative self and he no more insulted Kelly than he has countless other people. But the furor that has erupted tells you all you need to know: Trump was invited to the debate despite a long history of making sexist and derogatory insults to women, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and many others. But he’s become persona non grata after alleged insults to Megyn Kelly, suggesting that the GOP is A-OK with denigrating women, as long as they are not white Republican ones.
Indeed, the entire GOP platform is an insult to women. This is the party that has fought vociferously to kill insurance coverage for the contraceptive methods used by 99 percent of all sexually active women in this country. It’s the party that can’t quite understand why sham obstacles limiting access to contraception and abortion are demeaning and insulting on their face, not to mention a threat to the lives, health, and economic status of women everywhere. It’s the party that refuses to pass legislation establishing a living wage—even in its own house—to “protect jobs.” It’s the same GOP that endorses forced pregnancy for all women, whether she had consensual sex or was raped and that would sooner allow a woman to die from pregnancy-related complications than provide her a life-saving abortion (because… life). It’s the same party that has gleefully cut billions of dollars from women’s health, has sought to deny them equal pay for equal work, can’t wrap its mind around the urgent need for child care, and would rather arrest a pregnant woman for addiction than provide her treatment. It’s the party that fetishizes fertilized eggs, embryos, blastocysts, and fetuses to the point they are willing to endanger the public health, but never met a baby from which they would not snatch money for formula, diapers, or health care and never met a single mother they wouldn’t demean (unless she’s a white Republican).
The GOP, however, is crying crocodile tears. The party is not so much up in arms about insulting women as it is finding ways to undermine Trump. The Donald is the party’s own Frankenstein and one it now wishes would go far, far away because Republicans have a presidential race to run and Trump’s popularity is based on the fact that he uses an unfiltered megaphone to say what the GOP really means. Trump apparently never got the memo on “The Code,” the secret words and phrases GOP candidates use to churn up racism, classism, misogyny, and hatred without actually clearly saying the things they are saying, so they have plausible deniability.
Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.
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With The Code, you can call women sluts, but know that all the “good people” get it… you are not talking about them. With The Code, you can denigrate the working poor, but assure the white working poor you are not talking about them. With The Code you can pit people against each other and suggest that immigrants are a danger to the republic, Black people are scary, slavery was not such a bad thing after all, poor people should just suck it up, and women don’t deserve health care, without ever coming out and saying those actual things.
But The Donald does not follow rules. So while pollsters tell GOP candidates they have to find nicer and less direct ways of, for example, telling women they should go to hell in a hand basket, The Donald says these things right out loud, to wild cheering by the Roman Colosseum crowds that apparently vote Republican these days. And the very-serious-real GOP candidates do not like this one bit because the Trump Real-Talk Express exposes them for what they are—anti-woman, anti-poor, fundamentalist religious and corporate shills—and puts them that much further away from installing the Koch Brothers shadow government in the White House.
Here’s how it all started: During the GOP debate in Cleveland, Ohio, Kelly, who, it shall be noted, is white, blond, and Republican, asked Trump about his past public comments toward women.
KELLY: Mr. Trump, one of the things people love about you is you speak your mind and you don’t use a politician’s filter. However, that is not without its downsides, in particular, when it comes to women. You’ve called women you don’t like “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.”
Your Twitter account…
TRUMP: Only Rosie O’Donnell.
KELLY: No, it wasn’t.
Your Twitter account…
TRUMP: Thank you.
KELLY: For the record, it was well beyond Rosie O’Donnell.
TRUMP: Yes, I’m sure it was.
KELLY: Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women’s looks. You once told a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president, and how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton, who was likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the war on women?
TRUMP: I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct.
I’ve been challenged by so many people, and I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either. This country is in big trouble. We don’t win anymore. We lose to China. We lose to Mexico both in trade and at the border. We lose to everybody.
And frankly, what I say, and oftentimes it’s fun, it’s kidding. We have a good time. What I say is what I say. And honestly Megyn, if you don’t like it, I’m sorry. I’ve been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be, based on the way you have treated me. But I wouldn’t do that.
But you know what, we—we need strength, we need energy, we need quickness and we need brain in this country to turn it around. That, I can tell you right now.
Though you can not be faulted for thinking so, dear reader, this exchange was not the cause of the explosion of pearl-clutching concern about The Donald’s “feelings toward women.” No. That came after Trump gave an interview to CNN, in which, when asked about sparring with Kelly during the debate, Trump responded by saying that Kelly’s questions were “ridiculous” and “off-base.”
“You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes,” Trump told CNN’s Don Lemon on Friday night. “Blood coming out of her wherever.”
Someone suggested Trump was referring to menstruation, and this threw the collective GOP field onto a fainting couch. For example, conservative blogger and Fox News commentator Erick Erickson disinvited Trump from a RedState event this past weekend. Erickson is known for his regular denigration of women, most recently calling them “female animals,” and hurling insults at Michelle Obama, among many others. But this has never stopped Fox News from employing him. Black first ladies can be insulted. White Republican women are off-limits.
Jeb Bush responded to Trump by crying “Do we want to win? Do we want to insult 53 percent of all voters? What Donald Trump said is wrong. That is not how you win elections. Worse yet, that is not how you bring people together to solve problems.” Bush, however, has spent much of the past month insulting women. Like the little boy who says “me too! me too!”, Bush has been rushing to prove that as governor of Florida he de-funded Planned Parenthood before anyone else thought about it! He further promised that as president he would push to end federal funding. Nothing says “I don’t want to insult women” like denying three million hardworking women a year access to basic primary preventive care.
Like in the rest of the GOP field, there is no amount of denigrating women that is not worth it if you can pander to fundamentalist Christian voters. So Bush also told a group of fundamentalists that he wasn’t sure “we needed to be spending half a billion a year on women’s health care.” I mean, what are a few thousand more deaths of women per year from pregnancy complications, breast, uterine, or cervical cancer, or other causes, when you are trying really, really, really, really hard to prove you are “pro-lifier” than thou?
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was too busy reassuring America he would rather let women die from complications of pregnancy than provide an abortion to really get into the substance of Trump’s comments. Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), who thinks women can’t control their libido and therefore don’t deserve access to reproductive health care, said he would “stand for Megyn Kelly” (because, you know, she’s white, blond, Republican). (And yes, we can confidently say according to public records that she is a registered Republican.)
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said about Trump that “attacking veterans, Hispanics and women demonstrates a serious lack of character and basic decency, and his comments distract from the serious issues facing our country.” I almost split my sides laughing at this pathological hypocrisy until I realized that Perry is probably mad about the attention Trump is getting for the very things for which Perry’s administration is so famous…. attacking veterans, Hispanics, and women. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, he of the draconian cuts in wages, assault on voting rights, reduced health spending, attacks on education, and denial of the right to protest, and he who boasts about how many women he’s cut off from reproductive health care, declared, “There is no excuse” for Trump’s behavior.
This reaction leads me to believe that the GOP suffers from a deep form of collective personality disorder. It is worth noting, for example, that no one at Fox News, which hosted this clown show, was disturbed enough by Trump’s prior comments about women to deny him a place on the podium last week. It was only after his non-insult to Kelly that he got kicked out of the party, so to speak. Sexist and denigrating comments? No problem. Just hands off the white Republican ones.
No one in the GOP or the media has disinvited, or even questioned, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and other GOP candidates for the rampant slut-shaming of women and risks to women’s lives inherent in their comments and proposed policies. No one in the GOP or Fox has ever been moved to act at the prospect of arresting pregnant women for illness and drug addiction, for insulting Black women, Latinas, Native American women, young women, and Democratic women. I don’t remember Rick Perry being disinvited from anything for leaving hundreds of thousands of women in his state without primary health care. And if unnecessarily endangering women’s lives is not insulting, what is?
No one in the GOP seems to really understand that the entire GOP platform is an insult to the intelligence, rights, and dignity of women. Full stop.
The panic that has resulted from Trump’s comments is a direct result of the fact the GOP debate proved to be its own unedited reality show resulting in a massive collision of GOP misogyny, madonna/whore complexes, and profound hypocrisy. The message is loud and clear: Insult women all you want, but hands off the white GOP women.
Memo to Mr. Bush: We got the message and we were already beyond insulted. We’re pretty smart that way.