One-time top surrogate New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is notorious for bullying the press, the public — and the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., it is alleged. His underling Bridget Anne Kelly testified in the Bridgegate scandal trial about Christie’s explosive temper and recalled an instance in which he allegedly threw a water bottle at her.
Thrice-married, notorious adulterer Rudy Giuliani went to the Republican National Convention and led the call to “lock her up.” He has popped up on one Sunday night show after another to smear Trump’s accusers and argue that language used in the “Access Hollywood” tape is standard fare in locker rooms. (Looking horrified, Jake Tapper rebutted that.)
Top policy adviser Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has questioned whether the conduct Trump boasted about is really sexual assault after all. It’s nearly a Todd Akin moment, which is appropriate, since Trump campaign chief Kellyanne Conway worked for Akin as well.
On Tuesday night, Trump confidant Newt Gingrich went on Megyn Kelly’s Fox News show, then proceeded to lose it. He screamed and pointed his finger at her, accusing her of having an obsession with sex:
Trump’s social media director then tweeted, “Megyn Kelly made a total fool out of herself tonight — attacking Donald Trump. Watch what happens to her after this election is over.” (She didn’t make a fool out of herself; and was that a threat or a prediction?)
Let’s not forget that Roger Ailes, forced out of Fox News for multiple alleged, gross acts of sexual harassment, is a pal of Trump and reportedly counseled him on debate prep at one point.
Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s fired campaign manager, was caught on tape manhandling a female reporter. He and Trump denied it; her employer, run by now-campaign CEO Stephen K. Bannon, attempted to smear her.
Might there be a pattern here? White, unhinged men, most well past their prime, acting abusively toward women.
It is remarkable the company Trump keeps and how these men find solace in each other’s company. In their fury and contempt for women, they reveal how uncivilized they are. They occupy space far outside the norms of polite society, one in which women are there to do as the men want and called liars, nasty and devious if they object. Trump and company use power to go after people they perceive as weaker than they are. They assume that women can be taunted, abused and kept quiet.
As Michelle Obama said: “I have to tell you that I listen to all this, and I feel it so personally. And I’m sure that many of you do, too — particularly the women. The shameful comments about our bodies. The disrespect of our ambitions and intellect. The belief that you can do anything you want to a woman? It is cruel. It is frightening.”
Now, within the Republican Party this behavior is not disqualifying. Its presidential nominee has established a new, grotesque standard for how leaders and their team talk and act toward women. He loses neither the party’s support nor the respect of his sycophants (in the right-wing media and elsewhere).
Needless to say, Trump’s share of the women’s vote, especially the college-educated women’s vote, is plummeting. (It almost seems as though the Trump campaign is trying to drive those numbers down to zero.)
The GOP has had a problem with single women voters for years; now married women will likely walk on the party as well. Beyond the election, Republican women will need to decide whether they really want to be Republicans. It’s increasingly hard to imagine independent, professional women — really, any women — remaining in a party that is so rife with abuse and disrespect, so reminiscent of old-boy networks 30 years out of date. It’s not even clear what the party could do to purge itself of the misogyny.
What place is there for women in a party of all white, angry, abusive men, with no one willing to put an end to Trump’s antics? Increasingly, the answer will be: none. Women can leave the shell of the Republican National Committee to the bully boys as their own locker room — and can help lead the center-right party that replaces it.