The president of the United States has a well-deserved problem with women voters but it may not be for the reasons you’d suspect. It turns out the racism may actually be more distasteful to working class white women than the numerous sexual assault allegations.
Team Trump seems to be aware of the problem. In June, only a month from his most recent sexual assault (and in this case rape) allegation by writer E. Jean Carroll, Donald Trump’s re-election campaign decided it was time to focus on the president’s woman problem, with its inadvertently hilarious “Women for Trump” organization.
Conventional wisdom would dictate that the president might have some issues attracting women voters he wasn’t related to. After all, Carroll’s is not the first, second, third, fourth, or fifth allegation against Trump. It’s the 17th.
But I have long postulated that Trump’s base isn’t bothered by his many sexual assault allegations. Even his daughter, who is usually the one person in Trumpworld to ever dare to express the slightest displeasure about her father’s most horrendous acts, merely replied, “I think it’s a pretty inappropriate question to ask a daughter, if she believes the accusers of her father.”
If the token fake feminist isn’t even a little bothered by her father’s numerous sexual assault accusations, then who is? Turns out Ivanka’s lack of interest is largely the sentiment in the White House, too. The Atlantic’s Elaina Plott interviewed a former White House official who said, “What was she (E. Jean Carroll), like, the 28th or something?” A current White House official told her that “Literally nobody—zero people—have approached me to say that this is an issue.”
One might assume that the Trump campaign feels pretty good about their latest escape from yet another potentially career-killing fiasco. So the re-election campaign decided it was time to collect the women who are “for Trump” and set them to work on the women of Pennsylvania with a 2020 kickoff event at the Valley Forge Casino Resort in King of Prussia, outside Philadelphia. Many of the core members of “Women for Trump” either work for the Trump campaign (Katrina Pierson) or have some kind of vested interest in the Trump family.
But Lara Trump, wife of son Eric, is “the campaign’s Ivanka. She’s the statuesque loyal surrogate who works the trail,” and she’s also the president’s only remaining daughter-in-law since Don Jr traded the mother of his five children in for the rare species known as the Fox News brunette.
Lara is well preserved but not all that old, and she does a kind of faux cable news pundit thing, like a sort of super-Trumpy Ainsley Earhardt without the intellect. At the Pennsylvania event, Lara did manage to continue the family’s “own the libs” theme when she asked the crowd of election night 2016: “Remember everybody crying, over at the Javits Center? The media, like some people, was on TV, literally crying announcing Donald Trump was president? Think about how much more their heads are going to explode in 2020.”
But on Thursday, Democratic pollster and political strategist Stan Greenberg released a set of focus groups he conducted in white working-class neighborhoods, and the results should worry the organizers of Women for Trump. “The white working-class men look like they are approaching the 2016 margins for Trump, but not the women,” said Greenberg in The Atlantic. And Ronald Brownstein wrote that these focus groups “offer fresh evidence that the gender gap over Trump within this bloc is hardening.”
Greenberg is not alone. In January 2019, Democracy Corps found that “49 percent of white working-class women said they would support the Democratic candidate in 2020, while 46 percent said they would support Trump in his reelection bid.”
It turns out that white working-class women do not enjoy the president’s “turn toward more overt racism.” A woman from Clark County, Nevada said of Trump during one of the focus groups, “He totally divides this country, like no one has ever done in history.” Another woman from the focus groups said, “I feel like whenever he starts hating on Democrats, because he does this often, it really does make him sound ignorant.”
It’s hard to know why the racism of a racist president who rose to political prominence on the back of a racist lie, birtherism, is suddenly bothering white working-class women. Perhaps the overtness of his targeting of the Squad is finally a bridge too far. It’s possible that the act of watching the president target women who are just trying to do their jobs is viscerally more upsetting to these women than the many allegations of sexual assault that they did not actually see with their own eyes.
The Squad is also made of young women who were targeted by Trump because of their age, their skin color, and their willingness to speak their minds. Perhaps even more jarring to some of these women, Trump’s attacks on the Squad lead to the mainstream media actually calling Trump out on his racism for the first time—even Fox News’ Chris Wallace said the president was "playing the race card."
Or maybe these focus groups are a blip and white working-class women will be charmed by Lara Trump’s hostility towards democrats and her “drink liberal tears” rhetoric. Or maybe the president’s racism, the thing he’s been using to juice his white working class base, will boomerang on him and alienate white working class women. Wouldn’t it be delicious if the racism was the thing that brought down the racist?