(UPDATED) Will Misogyny Be On The Mid-Term Ballot Because Of The Porter Scandal?
Another day and another cavalcade of lies spewing from the West Wing about the Rob Porter scandal like so many black eyes.
It turns out Porter was in talks regarding a promotion despite Chief of Staff John Kelly and others knowing that he abused his wives, something the White House has insisted only became known in July. But FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday that information was communicated nearly a year ago after the FBI closed a background investigation on Porter for a security clearance he still doesn’t have, and on two more occasions after that.
And don’t you want to throw up when press secretary Sarah Huckabee “Walkback” Sanders, that pillar of defiant obstructionism, oozes contempt when a reporter asks her where Trump stands and she replies, as she did yet again on Tuesday in falsely claiming that the FBI and White House timelines are identical, that the president supports domestic violence victims but is really concerned about “due process.”
But in dwelling on these latest developments, let alone a timeline that has changed daily — and sometimes several times a day — as administration officials keep tripping over themselves in futilely trying to mascara the black eyes, we risk losing sight of the big picture: The president of the United States, who has consistently sided with Porter, is a misogynist and serial abuser himself, and any Republican supporting him and running for reelection should pay dearly for that. But will they? Will there be a political — let alone social — consequences?
Steve Bannon, of all people, believes so.
Bannon, the alt-right apologist who was Trump’s resident Svengali for the first seven months of his tortured term until being ousted because he had perturbed the right-wing Republican money changers, now says that he’s “sick of being a wet nurse for a 71-year-old” and has a warning for politicians who continue to support Trump and implicitly his woman hating.
“You watch. The time has come,” Bannon told journalist Joshua Green. “Women are gonna take charge of society. And they couldn’t juxtapose a better villain than Trump. He’s the patriarch. This is a definational moment in the culture. It’ll never be the same going forward.”
Bannon is inclined toward grandiose pronouncements and is hardly a feminist. In fact, he was charged with domestic violence and battery in 1996 en route to a messy divorce, but he is on to something.
Trump’s response to the Porter scandal has been similar to the many others during his presidency. He tries to divert attention and lies shamelessly. In this instance, he not only has sided with Porter, but also denigrated Porter’s victims and tweeted his suspicions of the #MeToo movement. Yet this scandal is not about Russian interference or a campaign’s collusion in a presidential election, turning the presidency into a profit center for the Trump family business empire or the ethical lapses and forced resignations of Cabinet members.
The common denominator, of course, is that everyone keeps lying about everything.
Beyond the lying, the Porter scandal is different for another reason, as well: In the era of the incredible, shrinking news cycle, it has dominated headlines for eight days. There has been no effort to own up to the scandal’s real causes as Sanders and others keep writing it off as a communications failure. Then on Wednesday, the scandal grew a new tentacle as one-time Trump ally Trey Gowdy said his House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will investigate why Porter was allowed to work without a full security clearance, an extremely rare instance of congressional oversight of this out-of-control presidency. Maybe the same could be asked about Trump son-outlaw Jared Kushner.
Even Kellyanne Conway, whose tortured defenses of Trump have been a ratings bonanza for late-night comedians, broke with the president on Porter, saying she saw “no reason not to believe” his former wives.
Trump’s seeming immunity to his own sex scandal — some 20 women have come forward over the years, recently including the porn star he allegedly bedded four months after the birth of his son — has limits. While the Porter imbroglio will not hasten the end of his presidency, it will have an impact at the ballot box in November even if he did win 53 percent of the white woman vote in 2016.
Yes, those white women got what they voted for, but at a time when it has never been more obvious that vile men like Trump — or Harvey Weinstein or Bill Cosby or maybe their own bosses — are threats to their dignity, Trump’s message that women should be silent or be disbelieved about the sexual exploitation in their own lives is bound to siphon support from Republican candidates who don’t break with the president on the issue.
It seems unlikely many candidates will have the balls to do so — making them fair game for Democrats — even as the Pussy Grabber in Chief tries to rebuild traditional racial and gender hierarchies in a world he sees as spinning out of control with a chief of staff at his side who not only didn’t think Porter’s history of abuse was a cause for dismissal, but was considering giving him a promotion to a job with an elevated policy role, possibly as his chief deputy.
THERE HAVE BEEN 36 RED-TO-BLUE SWITCHES in state legislative races since the 2016 election. Republicans have flipped four seats in the other direction.
The Democratic wins included Margaret Goode’s victory over a Republican incumbent in the Tampa Bay area of Florida on Tuesday, a 12-point swing from Trump’s winning margin in the district, while historical patterns show the president’s party’s predisposed to have mid-term election difficulties.
Trump’s approval rating is remarkably low for a new president, and Republicans will have their hands full with the entire House of Representatives, a third of the Senate and most governorships at stake. (They really could use some help from those Russians.)
The number of Democratic female House candidates has risen by 146 percent since the 2016 debacle, while the number of Republican female House candidates has increased by 35 percent, according to the Center for American Women in Politics. A total of 351 Democratic women have announced runs for Congress while 99 Republican women have.
Minority women remain overwhelmingly opposed to Trump and were the key to serial sexual predator Roy Moore’s defeat in Mississippi, while nationally college-educated women remain the engines of white resistance to Trump. Only 34 percent of these women voted for him in 2016 and polling prior to the Porter scandal shows that number is declining.
But the most hopeful polling news is this: Trump won at least 56 percent of the vote of white women in the Rustbelt regardless of education, but those voters are cooling on him, notably in the white-collar suburbs of major metropolitan areas in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. There has been an 18 percent decline from 2016 levels in Ohio and 19 percent in Wisconsin, according to Gallup, the primary reason being Trump’s repeated efforts to trash the Affordable Care Act.
The question is how much Republican support is imperiled overall when Evangelical women, who in the sickest of all the sick reasons people who should know better voted for Trump because God had forgiven him for his serial predations?
My cautious response is enough to make a difference — and perhaps even a big difference.