“The only card she has is the woman’s card,” a dismissive Donald Trump said last week. “And frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote.”
While his comments drew harsh reactions from some quarters, Trump was not dissuaded, and in fact continued his line of gender attack in an appearance this weekend on Fox News.
“The only card she has is the woman card,” Trump told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. “Even women don’t like her. If she were not a woman, she would not even be in this race.”
I have to say, that’s an interesting theory. But I do have a few questions:
If being a woman is such an advantage in politics, if this “woman card” is as powerful as Trump claims, why have we had an unbroken string of 43 men and no women elected to the White House? Is it some bizarre coincidence? Is it testament to the genius and hard work of those 43 men that they each found ways to overcome the terrible handicap of being a man in a world where women hold the dreaded “woman card”?
And if this “woman card” has such power, how is it that the 100-member U.S. Senate has just 20 female members, and that 20 represents the highest total in history? How is it that here in Georgia, where we elect 16 people to represent us in Washington, exactly zero of those two senators and 14 congressmen is a woman? Why is it that none of Georgia’s eight constitutional officers, from governor to labor commissioner, is held by a woman, and that none of the five public service commissioners is female? Add it up, and the 29 top elected posts in the state are all held by men.
That would suggest the existence of a “man card” far more powerful in politics than any “woman card” might be. So it’s interesting to wonder why Trump and many of his followers would perceive the situation so differently, and would think themselves to be the ones at a disadvantage.
As you may recall, though, a similar dynamic played out in 2008 and 2012. The complaint back then was that Barack Obama was deploying the politically powerful “race card” — you know, the same “race card” that had proved so powerful for all the other black presidents who had preceded Obama, giving them unfair advantages over their white competitors.
“If Obama were white, he’d be down by 20,” a frustrated Rush Limbaugh ranted in September 2012. “If Obama was white, this election would be over. If Obama was white, it wouldn’t be a contest.” In short, the poor downtrodden white man just didn’t have a fair chance in a world where the black man held all the cards.
I know I know. It’s nuts. But that’s their world view nonetheless. People who have always enjoyed a position of unspoken superiority often have a hard time recognizing it as such. And as we’re witnessing, when that favored position begins to erode, when racial and gender rules evolve and they’re forced to live in a world more closely approximating equality, they experience such change as loss, and they resent it.