Donald Trump has a particular taste for the degradation of racial, ethnic and religious minorities and women – and God forbid those identities should overlap – as a way a playing out his personal sense of racial, sexist, and patriarchal entitlement. And as he degrades, he plays to those very same entitlements in the base that elected him.
This has manifested itself most recently in a despicable episode in which Trump became embroiled in a controversy – mostly of his own making! – over an unacceptable call he made to a pregnant widow of one of four soldiers killed in a still-murky attack in Niger.
Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, a black woman, knew the fallen soldier and his widow and was in the car when the president called to offer condolences. Wilson seems to have correctly reported what Trump said.
This set Trump off and he issued a stream of lies to defame Wilson. The White House even sent its chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly, out to defend the president. He, too, lied about Wilson.
When asked about Kelly’s lies, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it was “highly inappropriate” to question a four-star general.
Aside from this not being a Third World military junta where a person in a high-profile political job can’t be questioned, this illustrates how Trump’s fetish for military generals also acts as an expression of his racial exclusion and preference for patriarchy. Military generals are a fraternity comprised almost exclusively of white men, according to a government report from 2011. How dare their word be questioned?
But there is no limit to the questioning of women in the Trump universe, no matter how high those women have risen, no matter the merits of their claims, particularly if the women are black or brown or if they have directly challenged Trump.
As Michelle Lyn wrote for Vogue.com last week:
“According to Trump’s sordid he-said-she-said turn of events, however, Wilson isn’t an elected official supporting a constituent and friend, she’s a ‘wacky’ woman. Just like Clinton and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz were ‘nasty’; Mika Brzezinski had a ‘low IQ’; Megyn Kelly has ‘blood coming out of her wherever”; and Jessica Leeds, who accused Trump of assault, ‘would not be 1 / 8his 3 / 8 first choice.’”
“Women who hold truth to Trump’s power are often met with petty insults and cyberbullying (Paging Melania!) – but most of all, Trump and company brand them liars or assail them as absurd.”
One common thread is to reach beyond attacking these women on the merits of their claims to attacking the way they look. And this isn’t simply constrained to Trump himself; it is apparently in the bloodline. Donald Trump Jr. once referred to Congresswoman Maxine Waters as looking “like a stripper.”
Another strategy of dismissal is to portray these women as mere ideological, party-serving puppets, rather than as fierce advocates with their own opinions and power.
Trump tweeted, for example, that Cruz was “told by the Democrats that you must be nasty” to him.
None of this is out of step with what his base wants. Trump is advancing an agenda of white male identity politics and for those in his camp and in his corner, this is the dawn of a blissful new day.
Trump isn’t simply doing this on a personal level; he’s also doing it on the broader policy level.
At the same time that he’s pushing massive tax cuts for the top 1 percent, he is also seriously considering welfare reform. You may not fully comprehend the racial dimensions of this, so allow me to elucidate.
According to a Tax Policy Center report issued late last month about the Republican tax plan, in 2018, “Taxpayers in the top 1 percent (incomes above $730,000), would receive about 50 percent of the total tax benefit,” and by 2027, “about 80 percent of the total benefit would accrue to taxpayers in the top 1 percent.”
And who exactly are the top 1 percent, demographically? Well, a 2011 analysis by The Grio found that they are 96.2 percent white, and a 2012 study found that about eight in 10 were men.
Contrast that with welfare, where the majority of recipients are women. Although many government assistance programs primarily benefit white people, many white people, and Republicans in particular, don’t realize this. A YouGov poll taken in January of 2016 found that a plurality of respondents and an even higher percentage of Republicans wrongly believe that black people are welfare’s largest recipients.
Much of the money is directed at white people, but most of the stigma is directed at black and brown people, and Trump is, like a multitude of Republicans before him, exploiting the misperception.
Donald Trump’s boogeymen are very often boogeywomen, and they are particularly primed for attack if they are black or brown.