Trump Embraces Blunt Sexism: His Supporters Love the Absurd Idea That Even the Smartest Woman Isn’t as Good as a Man

His constant slams on women works with his ardent backers—but it will destroy him in November.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte/Salon

Emphasis Mine

Donald Trump never met a preposterous statement he wasn’t willing to stand by, and so it is with his apparent belief that women are unfairly advantaged over men in our societyOn Fox News on Sunday, Chris Wallace asked Trump why he would say that Hillary Clinton is a talentless hack who is coasting on the “woman card,” i.e. the unearned privilege he believes women enjoy over men, and Trump defended himself by pulling his P.C.-police-suppress-the-truth card.

“Well, I’m my own strategist and I like that—what I said and it’s true,” Trump said. “I only tell the truth and that’s why people voted for me.”

The audacity of it is stunning, of course. If he hadn’t been born a white man in a wealthy family, Trump would be a used car salesman in Des Moines who spends his weekends on desultory Match. com dates with divorcees who never call him again. Meanwhile, a huge amount of Clinton’s appeal is that she’s a smart and talented woman who has overcome a huge amount of sexist abuse in order to get as far as she has.

But Trump’s bleating about the “woman card” epitomizes the appeal he has to his supporters, even as he manages to alienate everyone else in the country. There’s a certain logic to his argument if you believe, as most conservatives do, that sexism is a thing of the past and that feminists are just making up stories to “play the victim” and earn the sweet, sweet cash they supposedly get from saying sexism still exists.

The problem with the “sexism is over” argument is that women in this country are still not equal. There’s a persistent pay gap. Women are underrepresented in congress and no woman has ever been the president. While women graduate from college at greater rates than menthey are less likely to get plum jobs and promotions.

Looking over the statistics, there’s really only two ways to explain the inequities: Either women are being treated unfairly or women are simply inferior to men. Feminists stand by the first argument, pointing out multiple studies that show that sexist beliefs about women and systematic discrimination holds women back.

Conservatives, however, reject the notion that sexism is still a thingforcing them to argue that women fall behind because they’re simply not as good as men. There are a lot of euphemisms for this argument—they usually say it’s because of women’s “choices” instead of bluntly claiming that women are inferior—but the gist is there: It’s not sexism, it’s that women aren’t good/smart/ambitious enough.

Once you buy into the argument that women’s inequality is due to women’s inferiority, it’s not much of a leap to start assuming that any woman who does go far must be getting some unfair advantage. For Trump and the sexist men who support him, it’s easier to believe that Clinton’s success is due to a feminist conspiracy to promote women over more deserving men than to admit that there are women out there that are smarter and more capable than they are. It’s the same mentality that led Trump and the folks who support him to embrace “birther” theories about Barack Obama. It was easier to believe he was installed by a shadowy cabal than accept the possibility that an African-American man could be a legitimately elected official.

Trump’s simplistic sexism has become déclassé in mainstream conservative circles. Instead, the trend has been to accept some women into leadership positions, as long as they remain firmly in the minority and don’t ever rise to the tippy-top positions reserved for men. This simultaneously props up the argument that conservatives aren’t sexist while maintaining a belief in female inferiority. The gist of things is that while a small handful of exceptional women are good enough to compete with men, most are not. And even those who are smart enough will never be quite as good as the men at the top.

Ted Cruz’s selection of Carly Fiorina as his running mate is a perfect illustration of the delicate dance that conservatives are performing with gender politics. On one hand, he’s trying to show off how non-sexist he supposedly is by picking a woman. On the other hand, he went out of his way to pick someone who isn’t as smart as he is, as evidenced by her long history of professional and political failures. The pick allows him to appear to respect women while reinforcing conservative beliefs that women aren’t quite as capable as men. If anything, by picking someone who isn’t very good, Cruz is subtly reaffirming the belief that women in leadership are incompetents who get a leg up not because of talent but because of “political correctness.”

John McCain did the same thing in 2008 with his selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate. Now there is a hack who only got as far as she did because powerful men wanted to be seen as the kind of people who promote women. She was a bad pick for his campaign, but a good pick for pushing the belief that women aren’t as smart as men and can only really get far because of their supposed female privilege.

Under the circumstances, it’s easy to see why so many voters prefer Trump. He doesn’t play these complicated games of pretending to respect women while rejecting the possibility that women really can be equal to men. His belief systems are far more straightforward: He doesn’t think women are smart and any woman’s success that challenges him will be waved away as a gimme handed to her because of “political correctness.” For those who are sick of pretending to believe things they don’t want to believe, such as in the possibility that women can be smart, the Trump method is far more appealing than the elaborate systems of B.S. that other conservatives have built.

That, plus it’s always thrilling to misogynists to hear that, simply by virtue of being male, they are better than a woman who was her class valedictorian, an accomplished lawyer, a senator and the secretary of state. But odds are low Trump will get far with the general electorate by suggesting that even the smartest woman somehow pales in comparison to a mediocre man.

Amanda Marcotte is a politics writer for Salon. She’s on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte. 


Trump’s Attack on Cruz’s Wife Proves He’s Too Sexist to Stand a Chance Against Clinton

Trump sneers at Cruz’s wife, showing why he’s not just going to lose female voters, but a lot of male voters, too.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte/Salon

Emphasis Mine

While most of the U.S. political world was focused on the terrorist attacks in Brussels and the primaries in some Western states Tuesday night, Donald Trump—surprise, surprise—was sitting around nursing a grudge. And he decided it needed airing out on Twitter, of course.



There’s been a robust discussion in feminist circles about this ad that is actually a meme and how it’s unfair and slut-shaming. There’s a strong argument to be had supporting this, but you have to give the woman who made it, Liz Mair, some credit for finding and exploiting a real vulnerability when it comes to Trump and female voters, both liberal and conservative.

While it’s true that Melania Trump is smarter than a lot of people realize and isn’t doing anything wrong by taking risqué photos, this ad isn’t really about her. This ad is about Donald Trump, highlighting that he really is a cartoonish stereotype: The wealthy sexist who talks about women like they’re objects for purchase and who is probably not interested in his wife because she speaks five languages and has studied architecture and design. One can politely ignore that fact in public, but there’s simply no way women aren’t taking note of it in private.

(Conversation I heard from two women talking in public recently: “Well, she’s probably smarter than the rest of us. We’re working and she’s probably out on 5th Avenue shopping right now.” “Yeah, but him? Ugh. He can’t really think she wants him for himself.”)

Trump’s reaction to this—to try to drag Ted Cruz into a wife-measuring contest, like they are debating the merits of owning a Ferrari vs. a Toyota Corolla—just confirms the suspicions that this ad is trying to raise.

This is why those who worry that Trump’s over-the-top sexism will somehow help him in a general election match-up against Hillary Clinton are completely misreading these particular tea leaves. Sure, there are a lot of men out there who see things the way Trump does. Those men admire him for his history of categorizing women as either sex objects or wastes of space whose continued existence is a mystery to him.

But those men are not the dominant voting bloc in a general election. In fact, men, as a group, do not make up the majority of voters. Women vote more than men and have since 1980And women hate Trump. Sure, there’s a lot of sexist dislike for Clinton, which explains why her unfavorability ratings are significantly higher with men than women. But Trump’s sexism has an even more profound impact on his popularity with women, as Jon Schwartz at The Intercept explains:

Women dislike Trump with what’s likely a historically unique intensity for a national politician. Trump’s average net favorability among women over the past six weeks is minus 33 percent—far worse than the minus 2 percent net favorability among women for Marco Rubio or the minus 14 percent for Ted Cruz. Likewise, in a poll taken just before the 2012 election, Mitt Romney had a net favorability among women of minus 2 percent.

And this is before the general election even really gets underway and Trump starts pulling his “why is this woman I don’t want to have sex with even talking” act with Hillary Clinton. As Jeet Heer points out at the New Republic, the only time Carly Fiorina was really doing well with Republicans was when Trump was disrespecting her in this way. And that’s with a crowd that has way higher tolerance for overt sexism. The public at large is not going to like it, not one bit. Nor will this hurt Trump with just women, either. Sure, Trump plays well with the Maxim crowd, but he takes the sexist vitriol so far that it repulses a whole bunch of men, both liberal and conservative. The exchange with Cruz was a good example of how the way Trump talks about women is also insulting to men.

screen_shot_2016-03-23_at_4.59.36_pmMost news sources are assuming that Trump was referring to Heidi Cruz’s history of struggling with depression, and if so, then congratulations, Trump. You did the impossible: You made Ted Cruz, by far the creepiest politician on the national stage since Ross Perot, seem like a decent man who cares for and stands by his wife.

That sort of thing doesn’t just impact female voters, but a lot of men, as well. Even some men who might have some sympathy for Trump’s leering sexism are going to draw the line at treating a beloved wife like she’s a defective product who needs to be returned to the factory just because she has some health problems. Most men’s marriages are more like the Cruz marriage than the Trump marriage. They aren’t going to be keen on the idea that Trump would look down on them for that.

Six out of 10 female voters think Trump is an embarrassment, but it’s also true that 4 out of 10 male voters think that. Just wait until the general election, where his sexist antics will get even more attention (as hard as that may be to believe) than they are getting now. This is a man who can’t crack 50% of Republican voters, even in Arizona, where his xenophobic campaign should be going over like gangbusters. On a national stage, against a female opponent whose very existence counters Trump’s reductionist attitudes about women’s worth, Trump is going to look even more like an embarrassment.

Amanda Marcotte is a politics writer for Salon. She’s on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte. 


Why the Religious Right’s Love for the Donald Makes Total Sense

The religious right was formed to protect segregation, so it’s no surprise they’re drawn to Donald Trump.


Author: Amanda Marcotte/Salon

Emphasis Mine

Donald Trump’s triumphant performance in the Nevada caucus, “a testament to his broad appeal among Republican primary voters” as Salon’s Sean Illing writes,  is causing another round of media handwringing about how the giant orange circus clown can possibly be doing so well. Of special interest is why Trump, who has been married three times and likes to brag about how many sex partners he’s had, is doing so well with evangelical voters, who vote for him at about the same rate as other Republicans.

One theory is that they are generically “angry,”  like all other Republicans, and that makes them willing to overlook his many flaws.

Or perhaps it’s because they are forgiving, as Ralph Reed told Lauren Fox of Talking Points Memo. “Evangelicals have a long history of accepting converts to the pro-life and pro family cause at their word,” Reed argued.

But really, this evangelical fervor for Trump isn’t all that surprising when you consider the history of the religious right in this country, a history which suggests these voters are less motivated by faith than they are motivated by conservative ideology. “Jesus” is just the word they apply to their beliefs to make otherwise repulsive reactionary politics seem moral and righteous. Evangelical voting behavior makes way more sense if you assume the politic views come first and the Bible is just the rationalization for them.

Trump’s campaign motto is “Make America Great Again!”, which ties into his campaign theme of a country that’s lost its way and needs to be returned to some halcyon days of yore. What that means is pleasantly vague enough for pundits to project all sorts of narratives onto it, but I would venture that the simplest interpretation is probably the one resonating with the voters: This used to be the sort of country that would never elect a black man (or a woman) to the White House, and Trump is going to get us back to those days again.

His pitch is convincing because he’s successfully painted the rest of the GOP as people are too cowed by the forces of “political correctness” to say what really needs to be said, which is evident to voters in the other candidates’ relative unwillingness (with an eye towards the general election) to race-bait as blatantly as Trump does.

That this racially provocative narrative appeals to evangelicals shouldn’t be surprising, because this particular narrative has always been the motivating, indeed formative narrative of the religious right. It’s forgotten all too often, but the religious right as we know it formed in the South as a direct reaction to the civil rights movement, and its purpose was to use “Jesus” as a cover story to resist desegregation. In 2014, historian Randall Balmer published a Politico article on this quickly fading but critically important history, where he laid out how much of the infrastructure of the religious right was established by racists who were trying to preserve segregation.

As Balmer explains, after Brown v Board of Education, huge swaths of the South reinstated segregation by creating an elaborate private school system, which were deemed “segregation academies.” Jerry Falwell got his start as a religious right leader founding and defending such schools.

But in 1971, the federal government ruled that private non-profit schools could not maintain a tax-exempt status if they banned black students, and the organized efforts to resist this, by using religion as a justification to resist race-mixing, turned into what we now understand as the modern religious right.

To be clear, the religious right was swift in turning away from overt racism to overt sexism as its defining feature, first by fighting the Equal Rights Amendment that would ban sex discrimination and then waging the war on legal abortion, sex ed, and contraception access. But the disappearance of overt claims that Jesus disapproves of race-mixing shouldn’t be mistaken for a total abandonment of white resentment as an organizing force for the Christian right.

Ronald Reagan gets a lot of credit, for understandable reasons, for helping shape the religious right into a definable and powerful Republican voting bloc. He did this in part by feeding them the anti-feminist rhetoric they wanted to hear, but he also did it by pumping out an endless stream of race-baiting that fed directly into the political style of the religious right, which leans heavily on urban legends and rejects empirical evidence.

Reagan loved to thrill his racist audiences by telling tales of a “welfare queen” who bought a Cadillac off welfare or the “strapping young buck” buying T-bones with food stamps. He argued that the Voting Rights Act was “humiliating to the South” and opposed the Civil Rights Act. He kicked off his 1980 campaign in a town where civil rights workers had famously been murdered, and his speech focused on his support for those resisting desegregation. And he won the religious right’s vote, despite being a former movie star and the first (and so far only) divorced President.

Sounds an awful lot like the current front-runner of the Republican race, a man who enjoys tickling his audience with racially loaded urban legends and bigoted insinuations, and whose past as a decadent tabloid fixture and TV star doesn’t seem to ruffle religious right feathers, so long as he keeps the bigoted rhetoric coming.

And yes, while Trump’s history on reproductive rights suggests he’s not as opposed to them as the other candidates, it’s also true that his misogyny is unquestionable. The sad fact of the matter is that he doesn’t have to be against reproductive rights to prove his disdain for female independence, because contempt for women drips off him.

There’s been a lot of attention paid to the fact that Trump won the Latino vote at the Nevada caucus, but don’t believe the hype. Only 8% of the voters who turned out to the Republican caucus were Hispanic, compared to 19% in the Democratic caucus. Eighty-five percent of Republican voters in Nevada were white, compared to 59% of Democratic voters. If you want to understand Republican voters and why they thrill at Trump’s wink-and-nod race-baiting over the stylings of men named Marco Rubio and Rafael “Ted” Cruz, that might be the simplest answer. Yes, even for the ones who like to talk about how much they love Jesus, who they, after all, invariably portray as a white man.

Amanda Marcotte is a politics writer for Salon. She’s on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte. 





Sarah Palin’s Feel-Bad Politics: The Dark Allure of Right-Wing Nihilism, Self-Pity and Curdled Nostalgia For a Once ‘Great’ America

The American right’s rococo, self-devouring period reached its apex with Sarah Palin’s deranged rant.

Source:  Salon, via AlterNet

Author: Andrew Hehir

Emphasis Mine

“Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?” sang Simon & Garfunkel in February of 1968, a year of innocence and chaos. “Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.” If that line is difficult to parse several generations later — as in, who the hell is Joe DiMaggio? — it confused people back then too. Songwriter Paul Simon was tweaking the nostalgic yearning for a vanished America found among people slightly older than himself, but at least as he explained it 30 years after the fact, the song also shares in that sadness. In a New York Times Op-Ed after DiMaggio’s death in 1999, Simon wrote that in an era of political discord (meaning the Bill Clinton presidency and the Lewinsky scandal), “we grieve for Joe DiMaggio and mourn the loss of his grace and dignity, his fierce sense of privacy, his fidelity to the memory of his wife and the power of his silence.”

That yearning for an imaginary or idealized past is found throughout American culture and American politics. It showed up this week, with Whitmanesque poetic fervor, in the widely celebrated speech delivered by Sarah Palin in Ames, Iowa, where she endorsed Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. (I owe the Whitman reference to my Salon colleague Amanda Marcotte, who may have written the best of all the Palin exegeses thus far.)

(N.B.: her post follows this in

If Palin’s glorious paean to the “right-wingin’, bitter-clingin’, proud clingers of our guns, our God and our religions and our Constitution” was a gift to legions of late-night comedy hosts, it was also an enlistment in a lengthy American rhetorical tradition. “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past,” as the most famous ending in American literature puts it.  (N.B.: “The Great Gasby”)

Quite likely Sarah Palin was assigned to read that book, at some point in her peripatetic college career. If she never got around to it she is not alone, but she received the gist of Nick Carraway’s American epiphany because no American can entirely avoid it. Similarly, it does not seem likely that Palin has any clear idea who Joe DiMaggio was, or why he played an important symbolic role in a folk-rock hit released just before the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. DiMaggio was born in California and played baseball in New York City, two places that from Palin’s point of view seem only marginally American. She might be perplexed to learn that the parents of this supposed American hero were immigrants who spoke little English and were classified as “enemy aliens” — potential terrorists, as we might say today — during World War II. (They were prohibited from traveling more than five miles from home, and Giuseppe DiMaggio’s fishing boat was confiscated by the government.)

All Palin would need to know about Simon & Garfunkel is that another of the duo’s ‘60s hits, “America,” showed up in a Bernie Sanders campaign ad this week. (Which may tell us more than we wanted to know about the Bern’s degree of pop-culture savvy.) It’s not a tribute to right-wingin’, bitter-clingin’ America, not a celebration of the “Reaganesque power that comes from strength.” How dare those hippies, in fact, use that proper noun? It’s not theirs! But the ache and loss expressed in Simon’s “Mrs. Robinson,” and in “America” too, is closely akin to the spirit Palin was trying to conjure in her torrent of psychotronic free association on Wednesday.

Except that it’s all gone sour: The paradoxical longing for what cannot be recaptured, expressed so beautifully by Simon and by Scott Fitzgerald (and before them by Marcel Proust, for that matter) has turned from sadness to bitterness and anger. As Marcotte argues, there is an almost literary artfulness at work within Palin’s apparently unhinged rambling, especially in the way she evades the traditional responsibility of a political speech (that is, to make some sort of argument and offer points to support it) and goes for pure emotion. But the only emotions available, it seems, are those of uncontained negativity: “Anger is turned into hate is turned into more anger, until it spins off, completely unmoored from any considerations like ‘why’ or ‘how.’”

Instead of the dignity and silence of Joe DiMaggio, or the stoicism of John Wayne, we get only endless complaining and empty, childish, unfulfillable promises — the boastful bloviation of Trump and the “post-argument” imagistic slam poetry of Palin. The American right has reached a rococo, self-devouring period, almost an ironic period. It has become exactly what it has long accused the left of being, not entirely without justification: a bunch of whiners and perennial victims who never shut up about how much they have suffered at the hands of evil but nebulous enemies.

Much as the contemporary Republican Party claims to venerate Ronald Reagan, this represents a dramatic turnabout from the era of Reagan’s ascension, which was built on invariably sunny and upbeat political rhetoric and dedicated to at least the appearance of inclusivity. (Of course Reagan’s policies, which I hated so much at the time, look almost moderate today as well.) Well, it ain’t morning in America anymore, folks. It’s the dark night of the soul; it’s fear and trembling and sickness unto death. Those GOP candidates who began the 2016 campaign with some semblance of an optimistic message — Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee and about half of the software package that comprises Jeb Bush — have gotten swamped beneath the unrelenting meanness and hostility of Trump and Ted Cruz. I was going to say that the Palin-Trump contingent does not blame Society or the Establishment or Racism for their ills and afflictions, after the fashion of a stereotypical liberal. But in fact they do exactly that, with some minor differences in nomenclature. Of course it’s disgraceful that in the immediate aftermath of her Trump speech Palin tried to spin the news about her son Track’s arrest on domestic violence charges into an attack on President Obama. But we should be aware of the potential hypocrisy in our response: If I were to suggest that Track Palin may have suffered psychological damage in an unnecessary and destructive war, and that we should not withhold our compassion from his family just because his mom is a right-wing icon, many people in the Salon readership would nod respectfully. Sarah’s argument skips over all of that and goes for a literal bogeyman: Track had a difficult homecoming from Iraq because he had a commander-in-chief who wasn’t quite American enough, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

Amid the pathological context of American politics in 2016, it’s not surprising to learn that middle-aged white people are dying at a disproportionate and alarming rate in our country, and largely of preventable causes like lung cancer or heart disease or suicide. They hate so many things, including themselves, that it’s difficult to go on living. Thanks, Obama! The Palin-Trump demographic feels bad about itself and about America pretty much all the time, and its so-called political movement amounts to little more than a celebration of feeling bad, a collective agreement that once upon a time things were great and now they’re irredeemably screwed up.

From the beginning of the Trump campaign, I have suspected that his supporters were not actually dumb enough to believe that he or any other president could really build an impregnable wall along the Mexican border, or bar all Muslims from entering the country. Those are nihilistic fantasies emerging from the depths of the white American Id, a desire to inflict the pain of alcoholism and obesity and hypertension, along with the paradoxical anguish of a sense of entitlement coupled with relentless downward mobility, on as much of the outside world as possible.

On a larger scale, it’s also possible that the right-wing, pseudo-populist rejection of science and reason and logic is less a matter of not believing that industrial development is destroying the planet, or that unfettered capitalism and the gruesome American diet are literally killing us, than of not caring. It’s a dangerous and in many ways heartbreaking dilemma, and in the end I don’t want to be snarky about it. Many people in our country responded to a promise of permanent prosperity in a great land that was loved and envied around the world. Instead, things kept getting worse and their fellow citizens inexplicably elected a Muslim usurper not once but twice, and the only part of the promise that was kept was the cheap 30-pack at the mini-mart and the wings at TGI Fridays. The squirmish with the American Id has been lost; all that’s left is the politics of feeling bad, the nearness of death, the promise that #NoLivesMatter.

Andrew O’Hehir is a senior writer for Salon.



Donald Trump Is No Leader—He’s the Voice of America’s Ugly Underbelly

This is how you understand Trump — he’s more of a reflection of his supporters than he is a leader.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte/Salon

Emphasis Mine

Monday night, Arianna Huffington caved and wrote an open letter, explaining that The Huffington Post would stop covering the Donald Trump campaign in the entertainment section, moving coverage to where it belongs: the politics section.

The move was long overdue. Putting Trump in the entertainment section may have been a funny stunt, but it had some rather disturbing implications about the role of journalism in the political process. It’s one thing for journalistic enterprises to share opinion and data that helps voters make better informed choices, but it’s another thing entirely for journalists to appoint themselves gatekeepers. It’s not just undemocratic, but, as the Trump campaign shows, it doesn’t work.

That’s because The Huffington Post, and many other journalistic outlets, continue to make a category error when it comes to Trump, assuming that the main reason all this is happening is Trump himself. The assumption is that he’s somehow an idiot savant of American politics, the man who cracked the code, broke all the rules and is rallying voters around his cult of personality. That Trump is a fascist pied piper, playing a beguiling racist song on his flute and leading huge numbers of Americans over the cliff.

But the Trump phenomenon isn’t really about him, as fascinating (and orange) of a character as he is. Trump is better understood not as the creator of a movement, but the expression of a popular will, a cipher through which huge numbers of Americans communicate what looks an awful lot like fascist sympathies. He is a symptom of a larger problem, not the cause of it.

When you’re working under the assumption that Trump is the creator of his own movement, it seems not unreasonable to believe that choking him off from media attention is the key to fixing this problem. While the ignore-him-and-he’ll-go-away arguments have lost some of their salience in recent months, this belief, that journalists have a certain amount of power to destroy him that they are neglecting to use, continues to have a hold in some circles.

After Trump on Monday called for banning Muslims from entering the

U.S., there was a rush of journalists pointing out that he timed his announcement perfectly to drown out reports that that Ted Cruz was beating him in the polls in IowaAndrew Prokop of Vox took it a step further, arguing that the round of bipartisan condemnations “is exactly what Trump wanted” and trotting out polling evidence that shows that Trump benefits from controversy.

It’s true that Trump benefits from controversy — I pointed that out myself right before the San Bernardino shooting happened —but it doesn’t necessarily follow that he is playing us all for fools when the media covers his ugly statements and politicians and pundits condemn them. Another, more likely explanation is that Trump tends to crest when proto-fascist sentiment rises up in the public. He may not be leading followers so much as he is riding a wave.

The events after the Paris attacks suggest the wave theory over the pied piper theory. Trump spiked in the polls after that event, but the polls were all taken in the days before he rolled out his Muslim database idea and before he claimed to see Muslims celebrating the 9/11 attacks in New Jersey.

All of which suggests that it’s less what Trump does that matters to his supporters than what he represents. If you’re feeling in a racist, hysterical mood, then you know Trump has got your back before he even opens his mouth.

Trump’s much-ballyhooed showmanship is just more evidence that, far from leading the troops, he’s just doing their bidding. As an entertainer, he knows the secret to playing to a crowd is finding out what they want and giving it to them. One of the things that sets him apart from the other candidates is his accessibility. Most candidates have a layer of people between themselves and the public so communicating with the candidate requires setting up carefully prearranged meetings. Trump, on the other hand, is a Twitter obsessive who sits there, no doubt personally much of the time, retweeting stuff directly from his followers. He always reading his audience and tweaking his act to meet their standards.

No doubt Trump released his Muslim travel ban plans in order to derail Ted Cruz’s big moment. That doesn’t make him some criminal mastermind, though. Timing newsworthy campaign announcements to undermine your opponent is a standard move, something nearly all politicians try to do and any campaign adviser worth his salt will tell you to do. (Remember how John McCain timed the announcement of Sarah Palin as his running mate the day after Barack Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, a move clearly designed to knock Obama’s triumphant speech out of the headlines?) The timing aspect is only interesting because the campaign announcement itself is obnoxious and bigoted and is guaranteed to cause another round of wondering if Trump is officially a fascist yet.

Trump did what candidates do: Feeling the race tightening up, he increased his outreach to voters by dangling a policy idea in front of them that he thinks they will like. The fact that he thinks this gambit will work is where the story is.

This isn’t a media story. It’s a voter story.  If the only thing Trump needs to rise in the polls is media attention, he could tap dance or honk someone’s boob or get plastic surgery or something. He went this direction because he thinks, almost certainly for a good reason, that the voters who have been playing footsie with Cruz will be excited by this proposal and will go back to supporting Trump. In that sense, he’s like every other politician out there, going where the votes are.

Trump is a big, orangey object that’s fun to look at, but the real story is why there is an actual proto-fascist movement forming in this country. Trump isn’t the beginning of anything. He’s the end result of years of conservatives growing angrier and angrier — and taking pre-Trump steps like forming the Tea Party and pushing ever more radical Republicans into Congress — about the diversification of America. And if he went away tomorrow, that anger would still be there and someone, likely Cruz, would be the next guy in line to start trying to channel it into political victory.

Amanda Marcotte co-writes the blog Pandagon. She is the author of “It’s a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments.”


5 Most Absurd Conspiracy Theories Peddled By Anti-Choice Christians

Why is the anti-choice movement even taken seriously as a political movement by the media?

Source: AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte

Emphasis Mine

(N.B.: perhaps the best examples of the need for abortions might be found in the current Republican Presidential field.)

For the past few years, conservatives have been diligently trying to put a kinder, gentler face on the anti-choice movement. They try to hide that they’re a bunch of ghouls stuck in a titillation-disgust obsession with female sexuality and reproductive function. Instead, they claim to be a bunch of well-meaning church ladies just trying to help those poor young ladies realize that their true calling is motherhood.

But a few weeks ago, the mask got ripped off when a radical anti-choice group going by the name Center for Medical Progress released a bunch of misleadingly edited videos accusing Planned Parenthood of selling fetal body parts in some kind of black market profiteering scheme. The accusations got a momentary blip of incredulous media coverage before the debunking started. To summarize: the people in the videos are actually talking about donating fetal tissue to research (something even Republicans have supported in the  past). The people behind the stunt are the same kind of loony right-wing nuts who love trading in bizarre conspiracy theories.

The real question here is why the anti-choice movement is taken seriously at all as a political movement by the media. The movement has a long history of pushing breathless and implausible urban legends that are more at home on some conspiracy theory website than in grown-up politics. Reproductive health care sits at an intersection of human sexuality and medicine, and anti-choicers really love wallowing in the ghastly and the sensational, even if neither has any relationship to reality.

(N.B.: the ‘pro-life’ movement has Never been about life: it is about sex.)

Here are some of the more ridiculous and gross examples.

1. ‘The Silent Scream’

The Silent Scream is a bit of religious right propaganda about abortion created in 1984. Simply looking at the video cover, with its horror movie font and pixelated image of a screaming face, should give you an idea of what level of ridiculousness we’re dealing with. The movie, which claims that a 12-week-old fetus “screams” when it is aborted, is so over the top it reads like camp to all but its intended audience of naïve conservative Christians. The Silent Screamhas the appeal of a snuff movie,” said a 1985 review in the New Republic, which also noted its “inappropriate horror B-movie title roll.”

2. ‘Hooking Kids On Sex’

The Center for Medical Progress is far from the first group making lurid accusations that Planned Parenthood engages in sinister behavior for profit. In 2013, the American Life League (ALL) put out a breathless video titled Hooking Kids On Sex.

“Just as the goal of a drug dealer is to make drug addicts,” the narrator explains, “Planned Parenthood’s goal is to make sex addicts.” The video calls masturbation a “gateway drug” and argues that the purpose of tricking teens into thinking they like sex is to get them to buy up more contraception, which ALL believes is designed to fail, so the young people then have to get even more expensive abortions. Ka-CHING! The flaw in this brilliant conspiracy theory, just like the new one about fetal tissue selling, is that Planned Parenthood is a non-profit, making the profit part of the equation nonsensical. 

3. Phony video accusing Planned Parenthood of child sex trafficking.

In 2011, the group Live Action (of which the Center for Medical Progress is a spin-off) made a splash in anti-choice circles with a video purporting to prove that Planned Parenthood engages in child sex trafficking. The video claimed to show undercover investigators posing as pimps who admit to trafficking minors.

The fact that the Planned Parenthood employees continued talking to the phony pimps was held out as evidence of collusion and a cover-up. It was neither. The employees did talk to the self-reported criminals, but then immediately alerted the FBI to the alleged sex trafficking. It also soon became evident that few, if any, of the “colluding” employees actually believed the ruse. But anti-choicers disregarded the obvious conclusion, because they prefer to believe whatever crazy nonsense they can about Planned Parenthood.

4. Abortion ‘reversal’ scam.  

This gambit is one of the loonier anti-choice contrivances to come around in recent years. Yes, they are telling women abortions can be reversed. The weirdness started with an anti-choice doctor named George Delgado, who claimed he could “reverse” medication abortions with shots of progesterone he said would save the embryo before the medications expelled it.

It’s not possible, of course, and Delgado’s “evidence” that there is any demand for this supposed procedure is iffy, to say the least. This is just more anti-choice theatrics. In reality, 95% of women say their abortion was the right choice for them.  

5. The pill kills.

Artificial progesterone is the hero of these mythical tales of “abortion reversal,” but when the same hormone is used (effectively, I might add) to prevent pregnancy, it becomes the demon that does nothing but bring terror and misery. Progesterone is used in birth control pills to suppress ovulation, so women can have sex without getting pregnant. Anti-choice activists oppose this, and so have created a dizzying number of lurid horror stories of all the bad things that will happen if women take the pill.

The American Life League has an annual event, tagged to the anniversary of the legalization of contraception by the Supreme Court, called The Pill Kills. Every year, they highlight some other supposed victim of this killer pill. The pill kills marriage! The pill kills babies! (Anti-choicers claim progesterone “kills” embryos. Yes, the same drug Delgado injects in women to “save” embryos.) The pill kills the environment! (Unlike those harmless fossil fuels.)  The pill kills women! (They neglect to mention the stroke risk for frequent pregnancy is much higher.)  

The conspiracy theories and theatrics of the anti-choice movement are ridiculous, of course. Yet they serve a serious purpose. The melodrama and lurid claims are meant to distract the public from a serious discussion about important public health issues, like contraception access and safe abortion care. All the blood and orgies talk forces pro-choicers to waste their time debunking right-wing urban legends, instead of focusing the discussion on less exciting but more realistic topics like how empowering women to choose when and if they give birth improves women’s educational and employment opportunities. Important stuff, but boring compared to screeching right-wing nonsense about black market fetal parts and Planned Parenthood pimp orgies. Which is, of course, the point.



It’s 2011 — Why Is God Still Involved In American Politics?

The Mormon-bashing directed at Mitt Romney should concern everyone for what it reveals about the undue influence of religion in American elections. There’s a reason the Founding Fathers wrote a national constitution that forbade religious tests for office and required the separation of church and state. It’s not just protection against the escalating religious bigotry we’re seeing lately, but also because religion should have no place in politics in the first place.

From AlterNet, By Amanda Marcotte

N.B.: Separation of Church and State is more important than ever!

“As an atheist and a liberal, it’s been tempting for me to simply laugh at Republicans fighting each other over the issue of whether or not Mitt Romney, a Mormon, gets to consider himself a Christian. From the non-believer point of view, it’s like watching a bunch of grown adults work themselves into a frenzy over the differences between leprechauns and fairies. But watching the debate unfold, I’ve become concerned about what it means to make someone’s religious beliefs such a big campaign issue, because it’s indicative of a larger eroding of the separation of church and state, which concerns not just atheists but all people who understand the importance of maintaining a secular government.

Robert Jeffress, an influential pastor who is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, went on “Focal Point” with Bryan Fischer and declared that one shouldn’t support Mitt Romney for president because Romney, a Mormon, isn’t a real Christian. This created a media dustup that was silly even by the usual standards of ever-sillier mainstream media campaign coverage. John King of CNN interviewed Jeffress, focusing strictly on the question of who Jeffress believes deserves to be called a Christian, and how firmly he believes that only people he calls Christians should hold public office. Candy Crowley of CNN dogged both Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann on the question of whether or not they believe Romney is a Christian, and then she got irate with the candidates when they refused to answer the question, claiming that it’s irrelevant.

These interviews are remarkable for what the CNN anchors didn’t discuss, which was the most important question of all: the separation of church and state. Even though our nation has a tradition of pastors staying out of partisan politics — in fact, it is illegal for ministers to endorse candidates from the pulpit — it seemingly never occurred to King to challenge Jeffress for overstepping his bounds by telling people that God wants an evangelical Christian who is a Republican for president. By making the story about whether or not Mormons are Christians, CNN left the viewer with the impression that only Christians deserve to hold public office, and that the only thing left to debate is whether or not someone “counts” as a Christian, making him or her eligible for office.

We’re a long way from the days when John Kennedy assured the public that he respected the separation of church and state and would keep his faith separate from his policy-making decisions. Now, even mainstream reporters take it as a given that politicians will let religion govern their actions, and the only thing left to debate on theology is how many angels any single politician believes dance on the head of a pin. Things that used to be considered beyond the pale in politics, such as religious intolerance or ministers blatantly claiming they know who God supports in an election, have become normalized to the point where someone like Mitt Romney, who is odious in most respects but has never really made much of a fuss over his faith, is seeing religious tests becoming a major issue in his campaign.

(N.B. “… but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”  Article VI, US Constitution)

The ramifications for this shift affect more than conservative Mormons trying to win as Republicans. By not challenging the assertion that only Christians should hold office, mainstream journalists encourage bigotry against all religious minorities, including atheists. Atheists already face discrimination when it comes to running for public officeA number of states ban atheists from holding public office, even though the U.S. Constitution explicitly forbids religious tests for office. Of course, it’s difficult for an atheist to win enough votes to get office, so this conflict hasn’t been tested much, although one atheist city council member found himself under fire by religious bigots who wanted to use North Carolina’s ban on atheists holding office to push him out for not swearing his oath of office on the Bible.

There’s a reason the Founding Fathers wrote a national constitution that forbade religious tests for office and required the separation of church and state. It’s not just protection against the escalating religious bigotry we’re seeing lately, but also because religion should have no place in politics in the first place. Neither atheists nor believers benefit when leaders are guided more by religious dogma than by rationality. Angels and demons might be a fine thing to worry about when you’re in church on Sunday, but when you’re trying to govern real people in the real world, it’s far better to rely on evidence and empirical facts, interpreted through reason and not through the guesswork of faith. This is why Kennedy defended himself against questions about his faith by saying, “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote.”

People like Robert Jeffress, when they propose religious tests for office–even ones held privately by voters–should face more challenges than reporters simply asking if they consider Mormons “real” Christians. They should be confronted with Kennedy’s words and asked directly why they disagree with our former president about the separation of church and state. They should be asked why they believe only a certain breed of Christians should hold office, and asked why they think it’s appropriate to demand that politicians put religious dogma before evidence-based and rational approaches to policy. Anything less than that is aiding the religious right in its mission to remake our secular democracy into a theocracy. It shouldn’t be tolerated.”

Emphasis Mine