Panicked About a Trump Win? Relax, and vote.

Many of my progressive friends are panicking about the possibility of Donald Trump winning the White House. This post lays out why Hillary Clinton is heavily favored to win in November. I begin with an overview of the data and then respond to three questions that were recently posed by my skeptical Grandma Lois.

The Odds are Not in Trump’s Favor

Clinton is favored to win because Trump has disaffected many key voting groups with his racist,  xenophobic, sexist, and abelist comments and actions (see video below).

Trump criticized a Gold Star family in a way that is sure to hurt his standing with some veterans and service members. He even kicked a crying baby out of a rally (see video below), so I’m pretty sure he lost the baby vote.

Trump’s brazen bullying may be red meat to many of his supporters, and this strategy effectively cut through the clutter of a crowded Republican primary field, but it will not serve him well in the general election.

General election voters are 53% female, and Trump has a 70% unfavorable rating with women. The gender gap has been a deciding factor in five of the last six presidential contests, with women selecting the winner every time. Clinton has opened a 24-point gender gap with Trump, the largest in history, and he can’t win the election without more support from the ladies.

The vast majority of people of color in the U.S. are expected to vote for Clinton over Trump in November. Three-quarters of voters of color “strongly dislike” The Donald, and he has a 94% unfavorable rating with Blacks and a 77% unfavorable rating with Latinx. People of color constitute one-in-three voters, a portion of the electorate that could determine the outcome even if the gender gap were not so massive.

Together, the gender gap and the race gap make a Trump presidency very unlikely.

“But Polls Show Them Neck and Neck!”

National polls are not very useful when it comes to presidential elections because this race is not a national contest. It is a state-by-state contest in the Electoral College (see video below). News media organizations use national polls because they are easier to explain than Electoral College maps, and they make elections seem closer than they really are. News organizations make more money when elections seem tight because the coverage is more exciting, so it fits their profit interest to mislead with national polls.

Presidential elections are decided in swing states, a list that typically includes Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Virginia. Trump loses big in the Electoral College according to multiple expert analyses. Nate Silver puts the odds of Hillary Clinton winning at 66%, a number that will fluctuate somewhat between now and November 8th. Also, Trump’s candidacy has put four solidly red states into play this election — Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, and Missouri.

If you’re scratching your head about why so many Republican leaders have defied party bonds and not supported Trump, it’s because they know they don’t have to.

“But Trump Won the Primary!”

Trump’s “method” of winning the primary is precisely what will cost him the general.

Trump elbowed his way to the front of a packed field with a parody performance of masculinity that played upon the fears of Americans who feel they are being culturally left behind. Trump took up the longtime work of Fox News by giving these voters targets to vent their frustrations — “Mexicans,” refugees, women who don’t know their place (a sentiment invoked by a 10-year-old shouting “take the bitch down” at a recent campaign rally.) Some pundits argue that voters are attracted to Trump because they fear being left behind in the new economy, but analysis shows that racial fears are the actual driver of his support.

Trump supporters have significantly higher levels of racial resentment and concern about people from other countries threatening “American values” (a.k.a., xenophobia) than other Republicans and voters of other parties. Trump is the answer to eight years of a Black president with Fox News stoking racial resentment, but he is not the answer for a majority of voters.

It is true that Trump won the primary with a historically high number of votes (13 million) in the most crowded major party field in history. But primary and general election voters are not the same. About 120 million people are expected to vote in this high interest general election, and primary voters are more ideologically extreme than general election voters. For example, Republicans primary voters are more conservative than Republicans who vote in the general election, which means they are not as supportive of Trump’s extreme positions. Also, Trump may lose independent White voters who reject his overt racism.

Trump’s bombastic divide-and-conquer strategy worked to get him the nomination, but it won’t work in a general election because there simply aren’t enough whites with high levels of racial resentment to elect him.

What About Voter Suppression?

People who care about democracy have been rightfully concerned that voter ID laws would suppress enough votes to affect the outcome of the 2016 election. Republican-controlled state legislatures started passing voter ID laws in 2010, and 17 states now have them. Clinton has spoken about voter ID laws: “They’re doing everything they can to stop black people, Latinos, poor people, young people, people with disabilities from voting.” Trump has also spoken about these laws, saying the election will be “rigged” against him if these laws are not in place.

As I have previously written, on its face, an ID requirement to vote may seem reasonable, especially for the vast majority of Americans with IDs who use them to fly, purchase cigarettes, etc. But when considered within the broader political context, the anti-democratic intent of such legislation becomes clear.

Voter ID laws disproportionately affect Black Americans, Latino/a voters, U.S. citizens who were born in other countries, elderly people, people with disabilities, transgendered people, and students — all of whom are less likely to have the required ID for different reasons. A 2006 Brennan Center study finds that 25% of Black , 16% percent of Latino/s, and 18% percent of elderly Americans lack the necessary ID. Some on the left have accurately likened these new laws to Jim Crow Era poll taxes because the expense involved in obtaining an ID place a disproportionate burden on many groups that have been historically disenfranchised.

What do all of these groups have in common? With the exception of elderly Americans who have shifted Republican in recent years (although they still comprise the most active voting group for Democrats), the Americans who will be disproportionately affected by voter ID laws all vote overwhelmingly Democratic.

The voter ID movement is based on a bald-faced lie that voter impersonation is an issue. It’s not. As the DNC humorously notes, a person is 39 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to engage in voter impersonation, and 3,600 times more likely to report a UFO.

This voting fraud figure is based on a Bush Administration investigation into the matter that involved only 70 prosecutions nationwide, some of which were honest mistakes.

Voter suppression through voter ID laws will be minimal in the 2016 election because five courts in five states have struck down these laws in recent weeks. In North Dakota, a federal judge wrote that “The undisputed evidence before the Court reveals that voter fraud in North Dakota has been virtually non-existent.” Judges in Texas concluded that their voter ID law was intentionally designed to disenfranchise voters of color.

The jig is up with discriminatory voter ID laws, and while a dozen states still have these restrictions in place, the overall effect on the election is expected to be minor.

As a pundit, I have tried to interrupt the dog whistle politics at Fox News and other outlets for nearly a decade. Most progressive don’t watch Fox or other Right Wing content enough to know about the steady drip of racism, xenophobia, sexism, and misogyny delivered to viewers on a daily basis. Trump’s ascension has exposed the extent of bigotry in the electorate, which makes it easier to address. He has also helped to elect our first female president. (Any other leading Republican candidate likely would probably have beaten her, cause sexism.) Thanks, Trump, for making Grandma Lois so happy come November. 

 

 

2 Conventions, 1 Cup

The party conventions are behind us, and we have 99 days of one of the ugliest presidential election in history to go. This post is a recap of the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland and the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia in terms of viewership, production quality, speakers, themes, truthiness, protests, post-convention bounce, and significance.

Setting aside President George Washington’s admonition of the parties as dangerous in his farewell address, they serve many vital purposes, one of which is to simplify the choice between candidates. The party conventions did just that by highlighting the stark differences between Donald J. Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton. (I understand how Harambe is polling at 5%, but how is any American still undecided about this race?)

Viewership

First, some context. Party conventions have been media infomercials rather than forums to actually select a nominee for the past four decades as a result of primary election rules that ensure nominees are selected prior to the conventions. (The last contested convention was in 1976 when Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan duked it out for the Republican nomination on the floor.) It is no surprise, then, that convention viewership and hours of broadcast time have declined since 1960. Conventions just aren’t very exciting anymore.

The 2016 conventions posted moderate viewership numbers compared to recent elections. On average, more Americans tuned in to watch the DNC (29.2 million over four nights) than the RNC (25.2 million). However, more people tuned in to hear Trump’s speech than Clinton’s speech (34.9 million viewers compared to 33.3 million viewers). Both candidates fell short of the record for the highest ratings set by John McCain (38.9 million) and Barack Obama (38.3 million) in 2008.

Production Quality

The Democrats put on a much better show than the Republicans. Both had fancy sets and polished speakers, but the DNC had celebrity power. The convention featured Alicia Keys, Paul Simon, Meryl Streep, Lenny Kravitz, Katy Perry, Demi Lovato, Sarah Silverman, and others. Hollywood stars, including Jane Fonda and Eva Longoria, came together in a video to sing “Fight Song,” which now is in regular rotation on Los Angeles pop stations (see video below).

The RNC featured Scott Baio from Happy Days, soap actor and underwear model Antonio Sabato, Jr., and Willie Robertson from Duck Dynasty. The celebrity gap no doubt accounted for at least part of the ratings advantage for Democrats.

The RNC was also unpredictable and sometimes bizarre, full of unforced errors: Melania’s plagiarism and (awesome but awkward) rickrolling in her speech; questions about plagiarism in Donald Trump, Jr’s speech (which turned out to be his speechwriter cribbing his own previous work); honey badger Ted Cruz’s refusal to endorse Trump in his speech (see video below); and Trump’s gross grab of his daughter Ivanka’s hips on stage.

The Democrats also had their fair share of problems with the damning #DNCLeaks that show a clear DNC preference for Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the primary; the subsequent resignation of party chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz just days before the convention; and a disruptive #BernieorBust contingent inside and outside the convention hall in Philly.

Speakers

Beyond the celebrity gap, the Democrats offered more varied content for viewers. The DNC had twice as many speakers as the RNC (257 compared to 131), mostly because few sitting Republican lawmakers attended their convention. Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush skipped the Republican convention, and only 24 members of Congress spoke at the RNC compared to 73 who spoke at the DNC.

There were also notable differences in the quality of the convention speeches. For me, political speeches are mostly mind-numbingly boring because they employ platitudes, hokey colloquialisms, and fake emotions. I can barely make it through a political speech without a drinking game (I’m referring to coffee, of course). Looking past the serviceable speeches from Trump and Clinton, most of the Republican speeches were pat and predicatable, but many of the Democratic speeches were well above par.

In terms of my top five, Michelle Obama’s speech was simply the best in terms of delivery and emotional impact, while President Obama’s speech later in the week came in a close second for its soaring rhetoric and effective evisceration of the Republican nominee. Donald Trump, Jr.’s speech comes in third for his superb delivery and impressive Clinton takedowns. The speech from Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim soldier killed in Iraq, comes in fourth on my list for his memorable offer to loan Trump his Constitution (a.k.a. Pocket Connie). Joe Biden’s gritty swan song rounds out my top five list. Uncle Joe was in rare form, vacillating between folksy humor and angry passion in a way that kept viewer’s rapt.

Another sharp difference between the RNC and the DNC was the humanization of the candidates. Clinton has been painted as a caricature by the Right and some members of the Left, and Trump has painted himself as a caricature with his bombastic performance of masculinity. The DNC humanized Clinton, but the RNC failed to humanize Trump. Bill Clinton’s rambling address and Chelsea Clinton’s heartfelt but dull speech were full of personal details that gave viewers a sense of life with Hillary. The same cannot be said for the five speeches from Trump family members (Melania, Tiffany, Donald, Jr., Eric, and Ivanka). It felt more like the Trump kids were describing their general manager rather than their father, and each speech felt like a missed opportunity to challenge the critique that Trump has an empathy deficit.

Themes

The themes of the RNC and the DNC could not have been clearer or more divergent. While many issues were covered at both conventions, the prevailing themes were fear (RNC) and love (DNC). I’m pretty sure the Democrats scrambled to amplify their positive content after watching a week of doom and gloom at the RNC, but I had reached my saccharine limit well before Lenny Kravitz belted out “Let Love Rule.” (Side note: I now blast “Let Love Rule” during the hour each day my Rush Limbaugh-loving neighbor, “Mr. Wilson,” waters his tree during the worst drought in a century.) Even Trump barbs felt like toothpicks from goody two shoes Tim Kaine with his boyish grin with his four harmonicas.

 Truthiness

Fact-checking websites would be a powerful tool for holding candidates accountable if more voters actually cared to. According to Politifact, Clinton’s acceptance speech was far more truthful than Trump’s. Only two out of six major claims in Trump’s speech were found to be “mostly true,” while five out of six major claims in Clinton’s speech were “mostly true.”  This is not surprising. During the primary, Clinton was found to be the most honest candidate on the campaign trail and Trump was the least honest. (I witnessed the heads of two diehard Berners actually explode when this finding was published back in May, or maybe I dreamed that part.)

Protests

The protests in Philly were much larger than the protests in Cleveland, mostly due to Sanders’ supporters, some of whom clung to a snowball’s chance hope of nominating their man. The minor disruption caused by the #DumpTrump camp on the first day of the RNC paled in comparison to four days of raucous protests both inside and outside the Democratic convention.

Inside the DNC hall, Bernie supporters regularly disrupted the proceedings with chants, and organizers responded by turning off the overhead lights in certain sections to prevent them from being seen by television viewers. Enterprising Bernie supporters responded in turn by donning glow-in-the-dark shirts. And if you were wondering why pro-Clinton chants cropped up in the last two days of the convention, Clinton supporters were instructed to yell chants to drown out chants from Bernie supporters, for example “U.S.A.” in response to “No More War.”

Outside the Democratic convention in Philly, protesters burned flags and breached security fences (see video below).

The only major clash at the RNC took place on day three of the convention when members of the Communist Party set two flags on fire just feet from where I was standing with my colleague, Beck Cooper (a.k.a. Wreck-It-Beck). This incident resulted in 17 arrests (see video below).

The RNC spent $49 million on security and brought over 4,000 police officers from across the country to Cleveland (see video below). Philadelphia spent $43 million on security with staffing from 6,600 local police officers. Overall, 24 protesters were arrested at the RNC. Over 50 protesters were detained and cited at the DNC, but only 11 people were actually arrested because Mayor Jim Kenney decriminalized disorderly conduct, public drunkenness, failure to disperse, and other offences just for the convention.

Bounce

Candidates typically enjoy about a 5% bounce in the polls after their party’s convention. Trump got a 4-point bounce in the polls after the RNC, and Clinton got a 5-point bounce, but many voters continue to be disenchanted with both candidates. Only 43% of Democrats and 40% of Republicans are satisfied with their party’s nominee.

So What?

Party conventions almost never affect the outcome of elections. Parties with the highest convention viewership win the White House only 50% of the time, and post-convention candidate poll bounces are referred to as “sugar highs” because they quickly evaporate. Also, the conventions were held early this year to avoid protracted divisions, to extend the fundraising calendar, and to avoid competing with the Olympics. They will be a distant memory by the time November 8th rolls around.

The Mars-Venus nature of the convention themes mirror deep chasms in an electorate divided by generation, race, gender, and education. One silver lining is that Americans have high interest in this election, which is great for democracy. We captured some of this intensity and passion through interviews with activists across the political spectrum at the RNC (see video below).

 

2012 Election Sexism Watch #10: “Much More Ladylike”

In case you missed it, Missouri senatorial candidate Todd Akin has again raised the ire of those who care about gender justice by stating that his opponent, Senator Claire McCaskill, was “much more ladylike” when she ran in 2006. He went on to say, “I think we have a very clear path to victory, and apparently Claire McCaskill thinks we do, too, because she was very aggressive at the debate, which was quite different than it was when she ran against Jim Talent.” (The Washington Post, and the Associated Press described the debate as more cordial.) In other words, Akin thinks that McCaskill’s unladylike aggressiveness at the debate will cause her to lose the election.

It’s rare to hear such a clear articulation of the double-bind of women’s leadership, where female leaders have to enact masculine traits to be considered “leaderly,” but this is then held against them because they aren’t being “properly ladylike.” I hope that Missouri voters are smarter than this, but maybe Akin is on to something. Several prominent Republicans who shunned Akin in August for his conflation of “forcible rape” with “legitimate rape,” endorsed him the day following his unrepentant “unladylike” statements. But it’s hard to say whether they were responding to this statement or his suggestion the next day that employers should be able to pay women less than men.

The close timing of these two overtly sexist statements begs the questions: Is Todd Akin purposefully exploiting potential sexism in the Missouri electorate to advance his campaign, and are notable Republicans supporting him because this tactic might work? Political journalist Chris Cillizza thinks Akin is a “devastatingly bad candidate” who will cost Republicans the Senate, but a series of polls indicate that he’s not only climbed back into this race, he may have a slight lead.

Sexual Objectification, Part 2: The Harm

This is the second part in a series about how girls and women can navigate a culture that treats them like sex objects. (Part 1).

After nearly three decades, the feminist “sex wars” are back.  This fiery debate from the 1980s pitted radical feminists who claimed that female sexual objectification is dehumanizing against feminists concerned about legal and social efforts to control female sexuality.  Over a decade of research now shows that radical feminists were right to be highly concerned.

The end of the “sex wars” gave rise to so-called third wave feminism that generally celebrates women’s sexual objectification as a form of female empowerment.  It also enabled a new era of sexual objectification, characterized by greater exposure to advertising in general, and increased sexual explicitness in advertising, magazines, television shows, movies, video games, music videos, television news, and “reality” television.

Getting back to the “sex wars” and how radical feminists were right, women who grow up in a culture with widespread sexual objectification tend to view themselves as objects of desire for others. This internalized sexual objectification has been linked to problems with mental health (e.g., clinical depression, “habitual body monitoring”), eating disorders, body shame, self-worth and life satisfaction, cognitive functioning, motor functioning, sexual dysfunction, access to leadership, and political efficacy.  Women of all ethnicities internalize objectification, as do men to a far lesser extent.

Beyond the internal effects, sexually objectified women are dehumanized by others and seen as less competent and worthy of empathy by both men and women.  Furthermore, exposure to images of sexually objectified women causes male viewers to be more tolerant of sexual harassment and rape myths.  Add to this the countless hours that most girls/women spend primping and competing with one another to garner heterosexual male attention, and the erasure of middle-aged and elderly women who have little value in a society that places women’s primary value on their sexualized bodies.

Theorists have also contributed to understanding the harm of objectification culture by pointing out the difference between sexy and sexual.  If one thinks of the subject/object dichotomy that dominates thinking in Western culture, subjects act and objects are acted upon.  Subjects are sexual, while objects are sexy.

Pop culture sells women and girls a hurtful lie: that their value lies in how sexy they appear to others, and they learn at a very young age that their sexuality is for others.  At the same time, being sexual, is stigmatized in women but encouraged in men. We learn that men want and women want-to-be-wanted. The yard stick for women’s value (sexiness) automatically puts them in a subordinate societal position, regardless of how well they measure up.  Perfectly sexy women are perfectly subordinate.

The documentary Miss Representation has received considerable mainstream attention, one indicator that many are now recognizing the damaging effects of female sexual objectification.

To sum up, widespread sexual objectification in U.S. popular culture creates a toxic environment for girls and women.  The following posts in this series provide ideas for navigating new objectification culture in personally and politically meaningful ways.

Rush Limbaugh’s 20 Year War on Women

After Rush Limbaugh called Georgetown law school student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” for believing that insurance should cover the cost of birth control, pundits on the right and left quickly pointed out that liberal media figures have also used sexist slurs.

I have perhaps written more than anyone about the use of sexist slurs by prominent men on the left lobbed at Sarah Palin, Laura Ingraham, Hillary Clinton, and Michele Bachmann. But to lump Chris Matthews, Bill Maher, Keith Olbermann, or Ed Schultz in with the likes of Limbaugh downplays the veracity of Limbaugh’s very long and very public hatred of women.

Limbaugh has spent two decades attacking feminists, female political leaders, professional women, women who speak out, and women’s gains more generally. This formula makes his almost exclusively older, white, male audience feel more powerful in a world where changing gender roles have challenged non-meritorious power structures that benefit them.

Bashing Feminists

Limbaugh popularized the term “feminazi,” which aligns feminists – those who believe in the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes, and who started the anti-domestic violence and anti-child sexual abuse movements – with the most notoriously violent regime of the last century. Back in 1992, Limbaugh appeared on the Phil Donohue Show to discuss feminazi trading cards.

Limbaugh has repeatedly said that feminism “was established to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream.” His favorite pastime is to attack the National Organization For Women, and in October of 2010, he called them “a bunch of whores to liberalism.”

In 2010, Limbaugh defended his decision to judge the Miss American Pageant, claiming that he loves women and is a huge supporter of the women’s movement, “especially when walking behind it.”

Bashing Female Political Leaders

Limbaugh regularly attacks Hillary Clinton in sexist ways, referring to her “testicle lockbox,” calling her a “lyin ass bitch,” questioning whether Americans want an older female president, and saying she “reminds men of the worst characteristics of women they’ve encountered over their life: totally controlling, not soft and cuddly.”  Limbaugh also referred to 13-year-old Chelsea Clinton as a “dog.”

Limbaugh often makes derisive comments about Michelle Obama’s weight and said the presidential limo “weights eight tons” without the First Lady in it.  In October of 2011, Limbaugh said that “there are plenty of lard-ass women in politics” who “get a pass on every aspect of their appearance.” But they don’t get a pass from Limbaugh who makes his living insulting the physical appearance of women in power.

In this segment, Limbaugh rants against Supreme Court justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, claiming that they’re unqualified and essentially stupid.

Bashing Professional Women

In Limbaugh’s teenage fantasy world, female journalists are “info babes” and “anchorettes.” He even suggested that many women would be “flattered to be hired as eye candy.” Limbaugh believes the media, politics, and unions are under the constant threat of “chickification” from which “nothing good can come.”

Bashing Women who Speak Out

In line with the Fluke fiasco, Limbaugh seems particularly keen on attacking women who speak out. In 2011, he joked that the women who accused Herman Cain of sexual harassment appeared together because “they want to synchronize their menstrual periods.”

Just last week, when race car driver Danica Patrick told a reporter that the government should make decisions concerning contraception coverage, Limbaugh used an ad hominem attack to berate her: “What do you expect from a woman driver?”

Bashing Women’s Progress

Limbaugh is highly critical of the gains women have made in American society in recent decades. In 2009, he stated that “everybody knows it was the vacuum cleaner that liberated women more than the pill.” In his defense, Limbaugh may have said this because he doesn’t understand how the pill works.

In Limbaugh’s mind, women live longer lives because they have it easier than men. In 2006, Limbaugh compared his cat to women: “Once I feed her, guess what? She’s off until the next time she gets hungry. And she doesn’t have to do anything for it, which is why I say this cat has taught me more about women than anything in my whole life.”

In Limbaugh’s world, women are conniving bimbos. He told Sandra Fluke, “If we are going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex…we want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”

For Rush Limbaugh, then, women in positions of power or those who speak out on behalf of themselves or other women are to be ridiculed and derided. Despite this, or perhaps because of this, he was identified as the most trusted news personality in the nation in a 2008 Zogby poll.

Given his 20 year war on women, it’s not at all shocking that Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke these sexist slurs. What is shocking is that the American public has finally taken notice.

2012 Election Sexism Watch #9: Bachmann Pours Away Presidential Bid

How did we miss this one? Representative Michele Bachmann performed the comically gendered role of pouring water for all of the (male) Republican candidates and the (male) host at the start of the Republican Family Forum debate in Iowa this past November.

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Some of the candidates seemed uncomfortable at this puzzling behavior, and the host joked, “I want to begin by thanking Representative Bachmann for taking care of the water for today’s event.” It’s possible that Bachmann only intended to pour water for the person sitting next to her, but was put on the spot when the host assumed she would pour water for everyone.

This event was hosted by CitizenLink, the political action arm of the uber-conservative Christian organization, Focus on the Family. CitizenLink describes itself as a “family advocacy organization that inspires men and women to live out biblical citizenship that transforms culture.” They promote traditional families as the “building block of society,” so it’s possible that Bachmann was strategically catering to an audience that is less supportive of women in “unconventional” roles.

Whether intentional or unintentional, Bachmann’s actions highlight the contradiction between traditional gender roles and conceptions of leadership.  And the lack of media focus on this incident illustrates how unremarkable it is for a woman to be in a service role in the company of men.  If Governor Rick Perry had gone around the table and dutifully poured water for all of the Republican primary contenders, it would have made the front page.