President Trump on Tuesday cranked up the volume on his white male base’s primal scream to ear-shattering decibels. He worries that this is a “very scary time for young men” in America, who are at risk of being accused of things they didn’t do. He insists, “My whole life I’ve heard you’re innocent until proven guilty, but now you’re guilty until proven innocent. That is a very, very difficult standard.” The president — with more than a dozen accusers claiming he engaged in unwanted sexual conduct — knows a thing or two about victimhood, he’d have you believe.
Just in case anyone doubted what he thought of female accusers, he mocked Christine Blasey Ford at a rally Tuesday night in Mississippi. “I don’t know. I don’t know. What neighborhood was it? I don’t know,” he told the crowd. “Where’s the house? I don’t know. Upstairs? Downstairs? Where was it — I don’t know. But I had one beer, that’s the only thing I remember.” She is no victim in his mind. She’s a punchline.
Trump’s concern for the falsely accused doesn’t extend to either Bill or Hillary Clinton, whom he’d like to “lock up” without further ado. His concern for false accusations did not extend to the Central Park Five, the African American teenagers whom he initially wanted executed — and 14 years after the fact still claimed were guilty despite DNA evidence exonerating them. His concern about the presumption of innocence doesn’t extend to Mexican immigrants (“rapists!”), Muslim immigrants (“terrorists!”), FBI agents (liberal schemers), President Barack Obama (tapped his wires) or really anyone except privileged, rich white men whose lives and politics resemble his own.
Trump’s concern for due process is heartwarming but irrelevant to considerations as to whether someone should, for example, be allowed to stay in a position of power such as the White House staff secretary despite ample, visual evidence of spousal abuse. It’s not relevant to the election of a U.S. senator against whom multiple women detailed sexual predatory behavior. (The Alabama mall that banned Roy Moore didn’t have to meet due process standards, either.) And it’s really not the standard for confirming a Supreme Court justice, either.
We know false accusations of sexual assault are no higher than false accusations of other crimes (2 to 8 percent). The percentage of unreported sex crimes is estimated to be over 60 percent and perhaps as high as 77 percent. Trump is more concerned about the 2 to 8 percent than the reported or unreported cases of rape. Eighty-four percent of sex crime victims are women. It’s a scary time for men, you see.
Until now, Trump has played the grievance game with his mostly white, male base by fanning flames of resentment and fear aimed at nonwhites. He’s dreamed up an illegal immigration tidal wave, blamed crime on non-native-born Americans, claimed we’re losing jobs to foreigners, painted multiethnic cities as war zones and championed the causes of white evangelicals who feel victimized if forced to comply with anti-discrimination laws protecting gays. The notion that whites are systematically discriminated against is unsupported and unsupportable in a country where whites still enjoy advantages over nonwhites in education, wealth, life span and virtually every other metric.
Trump’s new approach — emphasizing the “male” part of the white male victimhood — is equally daft. Whether it is the percentage of women in poverty (13 percent vs. 10 percent for men) or women in CEO jobs (5 percent) for Fortune 500 companies, one need not ascribe every statistical difference to intentional discrimination (although that unarguably exists) to recognize women still trail men according to key economic measures.
Trump himself consistently plays the aggrieved victim (of the media, of the Russia probe, of Democrats, of women accusers). The billionaire president demands our sympathy, and he in turn has sympathy for males accused of sex crimes. When you want to rank problems in this country, any fact-based argument would not put “wrongly accused male sex predators” anywhere near the top, but it sure is near the top of Trump’s list.
Playing victim is a transparent attempt in many instances to avoid responsibility for one’s actions. It often aims to deprive actual victims of sympathy and help. (And by mocking Ford, he victimized her once more while sending a warning to other women that they too will be ridiculed if they come forward.) Playing victim can give one license to engage in discriminatory behavior toward others (e.g., not serving LGBTQ customers, insulting women) and to be cruel as Trump and his hooting, hollering crowd was Tuesday night at Ford’s expense. Strangely, it used to be Republicans who railed against a victim mentality. Now they yearn to be the victim, and hence the recipient of our pity.
Trump and the self-pitying male segment of his base would have us believe their cultural, social, economic and political dominance has been unfairly taken away. Now, there is no disputing that victims of crime, injustice and hardship can be male or female; we should not weaken our protections for criminal victims (despite the opinions of the conservative justices on the Supreme Court). That said, men are not a disadvantaged minority in America. Neither a whiny scion in the White House nor non-college educated men in Rust Belt diners nor a cult-like crowd in Mississippi should snow you into believing otherwise.