As a professional woman watching the debate on Monday night, I witnessed a depressingly familiar scenario. Apparently I wasn’t alone. One of my tweets seemed to resonate widely: “Trump can’t seem to stop interrupting HRC. Which reminds professional women of every single meeting they’ve ever been in.”
According to Vox, Trump interrupted Madam Secretary 25 times in the first 26 minutes of the debate. I’m sure to a certain variety of his supporters this might make him appear strong and forceful. But to most women who have worked in a professional environment, it reminded us of every male co-worker who talked over us even though we were better qualified, had more experience, and had a wealth of creative ideas to offer. It’s the very thing we’ve been fighting against our entire professional lives.
Then there were the male pundits, offering us the usual thoughtful analysis of the important issues. People like former George W. Bush speechwriter David “Axis of Evil” Frum, for instance: “Who told Hillary Clinton to keep smiling like she’s at her granddaughter’s birthday party?”
Hands up if you’re a woman and you’ve been sanctioned by the “Smile Police” on a regular basis? (raises hand) The most egregious instances I experienced were last year, right after my mother died suddenly and unexpectedly, a mere 13 months after we’d lost my father to Alzheimer’s. For some unfathomable reason, I didn’t feel like smiling all the time. Go figure. Yet random men I didn’t know would order me to smile on command, as if my sole purpose in life was to make them happy, no matter how great the pain and loss in my own life. Apparently, women aren’t allowed to have variable facial expressions or inner lives. We either smile too little, or too much.
Yet if one dares to point this out to a certain type of man, it’s too much for them to handle.
This is “reflective” David Frum, after women and more evolved men pointed out that he might have been a bit sexist. Apparently, he never learned the art of a graceful apology. Or maybe he’s just another conservative Republican who thinks that women asking to be treated like sentient beings is just more of that awful “political correctness”?
Let’s not forget Fox News’ Brit Hume, who discussed the two faces of the candidates: “The Trump expression is one we’re all familiar with from the earlier debates,” Hume said. “He looked annoyed, put out, uncomfortable. And she looked, I think, for the most part, she looked composed, smug sometimes, not necessarily attractive.” Yeah, well we all know how important attractiveness is to the men of Fox News above all other considerations, don’t we? The loathsome Roger Ailes got a $40 million dollar golden parachute from Fox shareholders for his emphasis on that.
There are so many more examples one could give of the insulting behavior that transpired on debate night — like the sight of philanderers Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani and serial adulterer Donald Trump vying for kudos because Trump didn’t throw Bill Clinton’s affairs in his wife’s face during a presidential debate. Really? They expected praise for that?
But the day is young and it’s much more interesting to go back and read the RNC Growth Opportunity Book 2013, the post-mortem document produced by the Republican Party after their defeat in the 2012 election. Here’s what the GOP said back then about a few key groups, what they needed to do to win them over, and also how Clinton is polling in those groups now:
If Hispanic Americans hear that the GOP doesn’t want them in the United States, they won’t pay attention to our next sentence. It doesn’t matter what we say about education, jobs or the economy; if Hispanics think that we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies. In essence, Hispanic voters tell us our Party’s position on immigration has become a litmus test, measuring whether we are meeting them with a welcome mat or a closed door. Throughout our discussions with various Hispanic groups, they told us this: Message matters. Too often Republican elected officials spoke about issues important to the Hispanic community using a tone that undermined the GOP brand within Hispanic communities. Repairing that relationship will require both a tone that “welcomes in” as well as substantial time spent in the community demonstrating a commitment to addressing its unique concerns. As one participant in a regional listening session noted, “The key problem is that the Republican Party’s message offends too many people unnecessarily. We win the economic message, which is the most important to voters, but we then lose them when we discuss other issues.
Economist/YouGov: Clinton leads among Hispanics 60-25
McClatchy: Clinton leads among Latinos 74-16
The African American community has a lot in common with the Republican Party, and it is important to share this rich history. More importantly, the Republican Party must be committed to building a lasting relationship within the African American community year-round, based on mutual respect and with a spirit of caring.
The Party must also engage with each of its demographic partners and allies individually. Hispanics and Asians are not the only demographic groups emotionally invested in immigration issues. Caribbean, Jamaican, and Haitian immigrants, as well as many other black minority groups, have a vested interest in immigration policy because it affects them and their families.
Economist/YouGov: Clinton leads among African-Americans 86-2
McClatchy: Clinton leads among African-Americans 93-3
Communicating, organizing, and winning the women’s vote should be part of all activities that the RNC undertakes. Women are not a “coalition.” They represent more than half the voting population in the country, and our inability to win their votes is losing us elections.
The RNC should implement training programs for messaging, communications, and recruiting that address the best ways to communicate with women. According to the liberal group Center for American Progress, the No. 2 issue for female voters this election was “a candidate who will fight for them.” Our candidates, spokespeople, and staff need to use language that addresses concerns that are on women’s minds in order to let them know we are fighting for them.
Republicans need to make a better effort at listening to female voters, directing their policy proposals at what they learn from women,and communicating that they understand what a woman who is balancing many responsibilities is going through. Too often, female voters feel like no one listens to them. They feel like they are smart, engaged, and strong decision makers but that their opinions are often ignored. Many female voters feel that Washington, D.C., is a city full of politicians that simply don’t listen and don’t understand what their daily lives are like.
Monmouth: Clinton leads among women 51-38
Economist/YouGov: Clinton leads among women 45-39.
WaPo/ABC: Clinton leads among women 55-36
McClatchy: Clinton leads among women 58-34
On messaging, we must change our tone — especially on certain social issues that are turning off young voters. In every session with young voters, social issues were at the forefront of the discussion; many see them as the civil rights issues of our time. We must be a party that is welcoming and inclusive for all voters.
Monmouth: Among people ages 18-34, Clinton leads 48-28 (Johnson 13, Stein 4).
Economist/YouGov: Among people under age 30, Clinton leads 50-26 (Johnson 13, Stein 4)
WaPo/ABC: Among people ages 18-39, Clinton leads 51-27
McClatchy: Among people ages 18-29, Clinton leads 64-26
Great job, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and the rest of the GOP leadership! You’re really killed it with that GOP rebranding. Killed the party, that is, by doing the exact opposite of what your own post-mortem advised.
You continued pushing a post-factual dream world, aided and abetted by the repugnant Roger Ailes, and now you’re stuck with a candidate who denies the words he spoke moments before. Heck, he tried to deny that he was was sniffling during the debate after the entire country heard him do it on nationwide TV. No, it was apparently a “faulty mic.” Riiiiight.
Perhaps the most telling moment of the debate was this, which came after Trump laughably argued he had a better temperament to be president:
“Hillary is hitting me with tremendous commercials . . . But you want to know the truth? I was going to say something . . . extremely rough to Hillary, to her family, and I said to myself, ‘I can’t do it. I just can’t do it. It’s inappropriate. It’s not nice.’ But she spent hundreds of millions of dollars on negative ads on me, many of which are absolutely untrue. They’re untrue. And they’re misrepresentations. And I will tell you this, Lester: It’s not nice. And I don’t deserve that.”
What kind of ads is Mr. Trump so upset about?
Perhaps the one that quotes Mr. Trump’s own words about women while young girls look at themselves in the mirror?
The definition of being hoisted on one’s own petard. Not only that, Trump was using his customary exaggeration about the amount spent by Secretary Clinton on ads, according to the Wesleyan Media Project:
“Clinton has spent an estimated $91M on advertising since June 8, and only $53 million of that has been negative (pure attack plus contrast). Trump is airing fewer ads and fewer pure attacks than Clinton; however, 89 percent of his advertising involves contrast, which by definition mentions Clinton in a negative light. Trump hasn’t aired a single positive ad in the general election (as of 9/15).”
Women and minorities don’t have to have met Mr. Trump personally to know him. We’ve encountered Trumps all our lives. If the Republican Party wants to reach out to us, maybe they should start listening to their own advice.
Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens. A former securities analyst, she’s now an adjunct in the MFA program at WCSU (and as such is an AAUP member), and enjoys helping young people discover the power of finding their voice as an instructor at the Writopia Lab.
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