Misogyny. One of the saddest moments for me in the run-up to Tuesday’s election is reading this morning of a joke that John Sununu–a 77-year-old Trump surrogate, former governor of New Hampshire, former chief of staff to George H.W. Bush, and a member of Mensa (!)–delivered to a gathering of New Hampshire Republicans, in which he said (grotesquely) that when Bill Clinton declared he “did not have sex with that woman,” he was talking, not about Monica, but Hillary.
Who cracks a joke like that at a gathering of men and women together–and the women not leave the room? That’s not Hillary hatred, that’s woman hatred. And yet nobody left the room, male or female. If that joke had been made by a manager in a workplace among a gathering of men and women, that manager would (rightly) be removed from a position of responsibility.
Yet this is a Trump surrogate in 2016–and Trump himself almost certainly won’t even be bothered to comment on it, nor will he be asked about it. It’s just one more thing to shrug at, apparently, as if to say, “The voters will decide Tuesday.”
But the Sununu incident really brought to the fore for me exactly how proudly and brazenly misogynistic Republicans have become in this election cycle–literally daring voters to abandon them for their expressions of disrespect, indifference, and hatred toward women–all the while showing themselves to be supremely confident that women won’t.
There’s something deeply, deeply wrong with our country if the women living here do not decisively vote this down at the polls on Tuesday. If Republicans are rewarded with all three branches of the federal government after all that has gone on this year, I don’t understand the country. And yet the most recent New York Times poll has white women splitting their votes 50-50 between Hillary and Trump.
How can this be?
It recalls what Umberto Eco, who grew up in Mussolini’s Italy, wrote in 1995 as one of the characteristics of what he coins Ur-Fascism (base fascism; the fascism that has ebbed and flowed throughout the ages). Eco observes that, in Ur-Fascism, machismo extends not just to “war and heroism,” but to a “will to power” in “sexual matters,” a “disdain for women,” and a playing “with weapons…[as] an ersatz phallic exercise.”
A majority of white American men have made their preference clear as noon that they’re just fine with a revival of this sort of fascist-style machismo in America, and for Trump to be its standard bearer, translating it from culture into politics. But are there really not enough white women in the country to join women of color to block this? Will Hillary really just pull half of the votes of white women this year–and perhaps lose the election because of it?
I would never have believed it a year ago. I’m wondering now.