“Tough Guys” Aren’t Comfortable with Tough Women, Like Clinton

This post was originally published at the New York Times.

Brutality is a bonding experience for many Trump supporters, like hazing at fraternities. His rallies, where shouting, shoving and fist fights have become common, are safe spaces for his fans to share prejudices, and attack those who don’t share them, without fear of being shamed.

Trump’s caricatured performance of masculinity soothes fearful Americans who feel they are being culturally left behind.

Trump’s caricatured performance of masculinitysoothes fearful Americans who feel they are being culturally left behind. With tough-guy swagger, he’s encouraged violence and promised to pay supporters’ legal fees if there’s any trouble. “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato,” he said one time, “knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously.”

Trump supporters talk of preserving their way of life, but really mean they are yearning for an era before Black Lives Matter protesters asserted their right to not be killed by police, immigration transformed the country into one that will soon be majority-minority, transgender teens can use the bathroom of their choice and a black man has held the presidency.

But nothing draws more fury than the mention of Hillary Clinton. Crowds yell “Trump That Bitch” and scream vulgarities about her in fevered unison. At a recent rally in Virginia, a very young boy yelled “take that bitch down.” His smiling mother told reporters “I think he has a right to speak what he wants to.”

“Bitch” is a favorite on Trump hats and buttons: “Hang the Bitch” and “Life’s a Bitch: Don’t Vote for One.” Degrading sexuality is also common, with “tramp” and “whore” scribbled on signs and t-shirts.

Misogyny may be more intense in this election, but it is nothing new. Jackson Katznotes that presidential elections have always been competitions about masculinity and which candidate is “man enough.” Meredith Conroy finds that candidates with more masculine traits win elections, and candidates routinely feminize their opponents in order to win.

“When any barrier falls in America for anyone,” Hillary Clinton stated in accepting the Democratic nomination, “it clears the way for everyone.” But that’s not how it works. When less powerful groups gain power, those with longstanding privilege see an erosion of their power over others, and react.

As protesters were being dragged out of a recent rally in New York, Trump declared, “The safest place on Earth is at a Trump rally.” The question is: Safe for whom?



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?)


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.


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.


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.


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.)


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.


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).


Democracy in Action at the 2016 RNC

Becca Cooper (a.k.a. Wreck-It-Beck) and I travelled to Cleveland last week to interview everyday Americans who had gathered outside the Republican National Convention to express their political beliefs.

We spoke with homemakers, engineers, the founder of the Alt Right (think “kinder, gentler” white supremacy), presidential candidate Vermin Supreme, small business owners, large business owners, students, #BlackLivesMatter activists, #BlueLivesMatter supporters, a virulantly anti-Trump dog, and many others who flocked to The Cleve for the festivities.

Here are some voices from across the political spectrum of the most divided electorate in a century.

Thirty Years of Failed Presidential Leadership on Campus Rape

College administrators have known about the campus rape problem for three decades, and they have been mandated to address it for two decades, why has so little been done? The answer is failed presidential leadership.

Karen Barnett first documented the campus rape problem in her 1982 article “Date Rape” in Ms. magazine, and Ms. published another article on the same topic in 1985 featuring Dr. Mary Koss’ three-year study of over 7,000 students at 35 schools. Koss found that 1 in 4 college women faced rape or attempted rape during their time on campus—and not much has changed since then.

Schools have been mandated by law to address campus sexual assault for the past 20 years. The Clery Act of 1990 requires schools to accurately report their rape numbers, but campuses routinely underreport these figures. Schools were first mandated to provide support and accommodations to survivors in 1992 with passage of the Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights, but most schools still fall short. As a graduate student in the late 1990s in a leadership position in residence life, I can attest to the fact that campus administrators at national conferences I attended were well aware of the campus rape problem.

So why has so little been done by college administrators?

A recent survey of college and university presidents from Inside Higher Ed reveals that delusional presidents are the crux of the problem. Of all institutional players, college presidents have the most power to make change—through hiring decisions, policies, and day-to-day leadership. Despite reputable studies showing that 1 in 5 female students face sexual assault, only 1 in 3 college presidents agree with the statement, “sexual assault is prevalent on college campuses,” according to the new report. Furthermore, only 6 percent of college presidents agree that sexual assault is prevalent on their campuses, when plenty of evidence otherwise exists.

Seventy-seven percent say their schools are doing a “good job” addressing the problem, while only 4 percent were willing to admit that their school does not adequately protect students. The truth is that almost no schools expel rapists or take other basic measures to shift rape culture on their campuses due to perverse institutional incentives, such as concerns of being sued by perpetrators or financial and reputational loss from admitting there’s a problem.

We have seen evidence of this delusion thinking from college presidents who publicly deny the problem, take survivors to task for blowing the whistle, play upon rape myths of false reports and downplay the significance of campus rape:

  • At a press conference in October of 2013, University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst said that survivor complaints of the school’s mishandling sexual assault were “astonishingly misguided and demonstrably untrue” before settling with survivors for $1.3 million in 2014. She still denies that UConn ever had a problem.
  • In 2013, Occidental College President Jonathan Veitch scolded survivor activists who “actively sought to embarrass the college” (his words) when they shared concerns about the college’s handling of sexual assault cases with local media. The college settled with 10 survivors for a large sum in 2013, but President Veitch continues to deny that Oxy has ever had a problem, and even hired a team of discredited PR attorneys to write a report blaming survivor activists for problems on campus.
  • In July of 2014, Hobart and Smith William College President Mark D. Gearan sent a campus-wide letter stating saying that he was confident the college had not violated federal law after students filed a Title IX complaint citing egregious mishandling of sexual assault.
  • In August of 2014, University of Oregon President Michael Gottfredson stepped down after allegations surfaced that he allowed three basketball players accused of a gang rape to play during March Madness. President Gottfredson denied that he or the college mishandled the case, stating that local police requested the school not take action.
  • In November of 2014, Lincoln University President Robert R. Jenkins gave a speech at an all-female convocation about how false rape reports ruin men’s lives. He resigned two weeks later after his rape myth comments brought national scrutiny.
  • In November of 2014, Eckerd College President Donald Eastman III blamed survivors for campus rape in a campus-wide email with his suggestion that they drink less and engage in less casual sex.
  • Earlier this month, Grinnell College President Raynard Kington openly challenged survivor claims that the college had mishandled their sexual assault cases with the insinuation that the public would later discover “gaps” in their stories.

College presidents across the country insist that they “take this issue very seriously,” but as the Inside Higher Ed poll and this pantheon of failed presidential leadership show, most college and university presidents simply do not.

My advice to college presidents (not that any of them will actually listen since I’m one of those “rowdy” faculty members who just won’t behave like a “dutiful daughter”) is to:

  1. Admit there’s a problem. If survivor activists are telling you have a problem, then you have a problem. See this activism as a gift, a wake-up call if you will, and gather data on the scope of the problem on your campus through an annual, representative student survey.
  2. Apologize to survivors who have been traumatized on your campus under your watch. Apologize to survivors who have dropped out of or graduated from your institution who were traumatized on your campus.
  3. Make real change by telling the truth about your numbers, establish an affirmative consent policy, institute an expulsion policy for students found responsible for sexual violence, mandate ongoing annual bystander training to shift rape culture, and invest in a dedicated Title IX officer and independent staff to oversee fair, professional adjudication processes. And please spare us the long list of superficial changes that college presidents are so fond of trotting out as evidence of progress when the basic pillars of prevention are not in place.

Maybe we need new presidents who know how to read data. Or maybe we need new presidents who actually respect faculty experts enough to trust their data. We certainly need new presidents who aren’t steeped in rape myths and victim-blaming, who will treat this like a public health crisis instead of a public relations crisis.