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Will Trump Continue to Be an Anti-Woman Force?

The former president still has a stronghold on the GOP.

Until Nov. 3, 2020, many Democrats expected a blue wave in congressional House elections, which would make protecting women’s reproductive rights and LGBT rights, slashed by Donald Trump, easier to advance. It didn’t happen.

“Republicans vastly outperformed expectations this election cycle, reports The Hill, “making deep cuts in Democrats’ majority in the lower chamber … as a result, the GOP will be in a good position to gain momentum and retake control of the House in 2022.”

This may remain true even well after the invasion of the Capitol, when rioters egged on by Trump caused mayhem in which five people died, and after Trump was impeached, but not convicted. Ron Brownstein, a senior editor at The Atlantic, reports a major increase in support for the use of force among Republicans. He asks, “Has the extremist wing of the GOP coalition grown too big for the party to confront?”

A recent poll by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) asked Republicans if they agreed with this statement: The traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it. Brownstein observes, “Not only did a majority of GOP voters endorse that statement, but nearly one-third of them also embraced the convoluted QAnon conspiracy theory … alleging that Trump is defending the nation against a global ring of influential child sex traffickers.”

This result was "a really dramatic finding," says Daniel Cox, director of the AEI Survey Center on American Life. "I think any time you have a significant number of the public saying use of force can be justified in our political system, that's pretty scary."

In the long run, according to The Atlantic, “Trump’s eventual departure from the White House is unlikely to excise from Republican circles a desire to strain, or even break, democratic norms if that’s what it takes to hold power. That sentiment could even deepen across the GOP coalition over the next decade, as the country continues to diversify.”

This means the GOP will be thoroughly Trump-ized, and attacks on reproductive and workplace rights for women may continue. Trump’s attempts to reach his followers with constant anti-woman comments will keep on coming. He may keep his base with white male supremacy and misogyny. Those who hoped for a new era of women’s empowerment will probably have to keep waiting.

The Brookings Institute suggests that Trump “could look at the media landscape, see a significant prospective audience and launch new ways to communicate with the world.” Through a possible Trump News Television, the former president could “espouse hate, misinformation, death threats, Qanon conspiracies, and other lies.

“Supporters of violent ideology see Trump as both their leader and their muse. Donald Trump embraces adoration, regardless of the source, and now that he has been stripped of the title ‘commander-in-chief,’ he could find a different army, within the United States, to command and control.”

At the same time, the rise of “Neosexism” re-energizes long-standing gender stereotypes of the type Trump encourages. Researchers from the Universities of Murcia, Spain, Lausanne, Switzerland and Geneva, Switzerland report that today, many people believe that they support gender equality while still clinging to subtle but powerful sexist ideas that keep women firmly defined as The Second Sex. Such people say that discrimination is a thing of the past, or that women can get what they want by being nice and not too strident, that women are taking over the world while men fail, or that women are happy in traditional roles and choose not to compete for good jobs.

Neosexism, the researchers say, often seeps unobserved into cultural norms, and quietly blocks women’s chances for advancement. In 2019, almost 60 percent of American men were likely to believe that obstacles that once made it difficult for women to advance are now largely gone. 46 percent of men—and 30 percent of women—believe the problem of equal pay and gender parity has been “made up to serve a political purpose” and is “not a legitimate issue.” Neo-sexism is a major factor in maintaining gender inequality and male dominance and will be a hallmark of the years ahead.

Research finds that Americans generally believe that the country has made and continues to make steady progress toward gender equality. The real truth is that such progress comes in fits and starts, with much backsliding along the way.

A McKinsey report on women in the workforce highlights the uneven progress toward gender equality globally. “In the aggregate, progress toward equality in work and society has stayed relatively flat in the five years between 2014 and 2019.”

In the U.S., gender equality was “rising especially fast in the 1980s, but much slower since 1990,” reports the National Academy of Science." In sum, there has been dramatic progress in movement toward gender equality, but, in recent decades, change has slowed and, on some indicators, stalled entirely.”

Covid-19 makes the situation much worse. As McKinsey notes, unemployment data indicate that women make up 54 percent of the overall job losses to date. “Women stand to lose both in terms of parity and in terms of economic benefits if nothing is done and the stagnating record of the past five years settles in as the norm—on top of the gender-regressive shock we are seeing as a result of COVID-19.”

If Donald Trump becomes a media power appealing to a huge part of the electorate that feels anger at being “cheated” out of getting their president, he can remain a force to be reckoned with. Joe Walsh, a former Illinois Republican congressman who ran against Trump in the GOP primary in 2016, told The Guardian that he believes Trump will continue to loom large. “Trump got his people out and they’re more devoted to him now than they were before the election. It means that Trump and Trumpism dominate the party, period. This cemented the deal that the Republican party is his.”

A GOP defined by misogyny, racism and populism could be a huge drag on the fight for gender equity. It's possible that Trump, who no longer has the White House and its powerful bully pulpit, will simply start to fade away, like the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland. Perhaps the Maga hats and the confederate flags will no longer fill our television screens, but will quietly go into attics, as American democracy and the rule of law grow stronger.

This scenario, however, is not one we can count on with any degree of confidence.

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