The families of presidential candidates are inevitably subjected to scrutiny during the campaign process, but the idea that threatening your opponent’s spouse is a big no-no should really, really go without saying. This week a highly inappropriate Super PAC-funded advertisement led to a new level of Twitter Wars which revealed an uglier side of a political feud that is becoming increasingly bitter and personal. Donald Trump’s comments about Ted Cruz’s wife are leading many to question the front-runner’s ability to win over women at a general election, especially against Hillary Clinton. Cruz pointed to Trump’s comments as part of a larger pattern of both casual and overt sexism (think Carly, Hillary and Megyn) and recent polls show that an overwhelming percentage of women in this country are Not Impressed.
The real problem however lies with the Republican Party itself, which risks alienating half the country by allowing Trump’s misogynistic comments and online abuse to echo on a national stage for the better part of a year with zero repercussions. Most of his comments are offensive to a good number of men and women from both parties, and allowing him to get away with even one incident is tacit permission for him to keep doing what he’s doing. The GOP should be doing more to denounce the front runner’s inappropriate behavior without fear of pushing away his supporters, because any progress made by the GOP in reaching out to women in the last decade is now being slowly but inevitably eroded. And considering that women outnumber men at the ballot box, the consequences could be yuge (think the election, the Supreme Court and potentially Congress).
The GOP struggles to understand how Trump can get away with it things that other candidates can’t (think Jeb, Marco and Ted if he’s not careful) but it’s because he’s not running as a mainstream politician, and thus isn’t judged by those standards. Every time that Trump says something sexist, his followers insist that he’s just being real and honest. And despite his promise to act more presidential “pretty soon”, if Trump goes up against Clinton in the general election you can expect many, many more sexist comments up until voting day. Unfortunately the longer such sexist behavior continues unchecked in politics, the more it will become normalized, eventually driving women away for good – which is exactly the catastrophic effect that many fear will be Trump’s legacy in the Republican Party.
Think Trump’s pattern of sexism is a recent development? Movie for your mood: Suffragette