President Trump continually insists, no matter what the tragedy, that he is the biggest victim — not slain Army Sgt. La David Johnson or his family; not Puerto Rico residents; and not his opponent, who was harmed (not helped, as he was) by Russian meddling in the election. The “dishonest media” (the worst!), Barack Obama, Democrats, Republicans, etc. — all have dealt him an unfair hand. He will even deny abused women their victimhood — casting accused abusers (that would include him, right?) as the real victims.
Hogan Gidley, a White House deputy press secretary, said Monday on Fox & Friends that “the president has been out against domestic violence for a long time” and that “the president deplores, thinks that domestic violence is grotesque. He’s said that on multiple occasions and there’s no place for it in this country. There’s no place for it in this White House and the president won’t stand for it.”
Really, Trump has said unequivocally that women should be believed, especially when a slew of them step forward with detailed, credible accounts? Especially when photographic evidence exists? I’ve missed that. No, what he has said is that Rob Porter and Roy Moore denied the allegations, so we have to “take that into account.” He has said all sides need to be heard. He has labeled all his accusers liars.
Jennie Willoughby, an ex-wife of disgraced former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, has had quite enough of Trump’s routine. In response to his Saturday tweet whining that men’s lives are being “shattered” when their abusers step forward (“Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. . . . There is no recovery for someone falsely accused — life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”), Willoughby writes:
The words “mere allegation” and “falsely accused” meant to imply that I am a liar. That Colbie Holderness is a liar. That the work Rob was doing in the White House was of higher value than our mental, emotional or physical wellbeing. That his professional contributions are worth more than the truth. That abuse is something to be questioned and doubted. . . .
I think the issue here is deeper than whether Trump, or General John Kelly, or Sarah Huckabee Sanders, or Senator Orrin Hatch, or Hope Hicks, or whether anyone else believes me or defends Rob. Society as a whole has a fear of addressing our worst secrets. (Just ask any African-American citizen). It’s as if we have a societal blind spot that creates an obstacle to understanding. Society as a whole doesn’t acknowledge the reality of abuse.
She explains: “Ultimately, this is not a political issue. This is a societal issue, and the tone has just been reset by the White House. If the most powerful people in the nation do not believe my story of abuse in the face of overwhelming evidence, then what hope do others have of being heard?” She adds, “In light of the President’s and the White House’s continued dismissal of me and Colbie, I want to assure you my truth has not been diminished. I own my story and now that I have been compelled to share it, I’m not willing to cover it up for anyone. And for any men, women, or children currently in situations of abuse, please know: It is real. You are not crazy. You are not alone. I believe you.”
Trump and his defenders make a grave error in making this a battle between Trump, who a large majority of Americans think is dishonest, and victimized women. His devoted cult may take his side, although judging from my interactions with Republican women loyalists, some are becoming more and more agitated and frustrated that their spinning isn’t working and that they are being placed in the position of defending the indefensible. (Tip: You put yourselves there. Stop doing it.) What Trump is doing is summoning once again an army of women and fighting against a cultural tide, far deeper and wider than a political “issue.”
Trump of all people should understand that nothing can compete with millions of people filled with rage who feel that they’ve been ignored. Feeding white grievance (built on the fundamentally false pretense that whites are treated worse than nonwhites) got him elected. Now, a larger group filled with righteous, justified anger is going to get its day at the polls in November.
Trump is not going to stop this cultural epiphany; he’s going to be dragged under by it. He’s not taking the wind out of the #MeToo movement; he’s its best recruiting tool. If Republicans stick by him, they will be pulled under by a movement that increasingly portrays the GOP as a party enabling abuse. Decisive victories for Democrats in the midterms, ones that set the stage for hearings on the sexual allegations against him (and on his potential financial wrongdoing and obstruction of the Russia investigation), would be a fitting comeuppance for Trump and his enablers.