The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Women see a familiar, ghastly pattern in the Trump White House

President Trump said July 9 that he "was not a fan" of billionaire Jeffrey Epstein and that he hasn't spoken to him for "maybe 15 years." (Video: The Washington Post)

You’ve seen this before. A man associated with President Trump — his former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta — is part of a story in which women or girls were allegedly abused, mistreated and/or sexually molested. There was pictorial evidence Porter abused his spouse. There were multiple, credible accounts of women who claimed Moore abused them as girls. Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault by Christine Blasey Ford (who told witnesses about the allegation years earlier). Acosta’s plea deal for Jeffrey Epstein was widely criticized by those involved in the case and was illegally crafted in secret to avoid allowing witnesses to know and object.

Trump comes out with a variety of excuses to the men: He was “no fan” of Epstein. Acosta’s deplorable plea deal that allowed Epstein to escape justice was a long time ago. Moore denied the claims. Kavanaugh denied the claims.

Trump expresses appreciation for the accused man. Porter and Acosta were doing a great job, you see. Trump calls evidence from female witnesses “fake news” or claims eyewitness testimony (even by multiple witnesses) is not “corroborated” (as if that were a defense anyway). He says the males were treated very unfairly. Trump suggests the great risk is not that men like Kavanaugh (rich, white lawyers) are held accountable for their crimes but that women make false claims (which make up a tiny percentage of cases in sex crimes, no higher than false reports for other crimes). Trump does not expresses horror, concern or sympathy for the women involved.

Republicans go along with this charade for a time. If the stakes are low and the evidence great (e.g. Porter) Trump might even dump the person on his own. If the facts are grotesque, Republicans might not back the president (e.g. Moore’s Senate run), but they would never condemn Trump for supporting a character they consider heinous and unfit. They refuse to make an informed decision of their own, as multiple Senate Republicans have done in saying their judgment on Acosta depends on whether he breached professional ethics. (A court already held his prosecutors broke the law in crafting a secret plea deal.) And they will never, ever criticize Trump as being unduly solicitous of accused predators or cruel to victims.

Children growing up with toxic stress from abuse or neglect are more likely to have lifelong health problems. California's surgeon general says there is hope. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Sarah Hashemi/The Washington Post)

The incident doesn’t have to be exclusively about women. In border detention centers mothers, fathers, sons and daughters are held in dreadful conditions, which the inspector general and eyewitnesses describe in depth (and which border control officials tried to complain about internally). Trump expresses no sympathy for victims. He blames them for coming in the first place. He denies facts (fake news, again) substantiating abuse.

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Suffice it to say, his conduct is not how the vast majority of people view credible accusers and their abusers. And you know who really cannot fathom such thinking? Women. It is not the sole reason that white women have streamed out of the GOP, contributing in large part to Democrats’ 2018 wins, but it is a substantial motivator. (Other reasons include Republicans’ effort to take away health care, Trump’s obstruction of justice and contempt for the rule of law and the over-reliance on hard power — i.e. war — in foreign policy.)

Trump, in a majority of women’s eyes, is an abusive bully who coddles other abusive bullies, refuses to hold male wrongdoers accountable and derides their female victims as nuts, devious or both. It’s one reason the gender gap, already wide, has exploded even further in the Trump era. It’s not simply that women prefer Democrats; it is that they have come to view Trump Republicans as cruel, abusive and inhumane. They are voting their values, and Trump Republicans trample on their values every day.

Republicans officials have enabled Trump every step of the way and mount zero opposition to his renomination. These Republicans, therefore, in the eyes of millions of women, become indistinguishable from Trump. And women will have the last say — at the ballot box. That might be the political death trap that Republicans so richly deserve.