On Tuesday, Melania Trump took the lectern in the White House Rose Garden to deliver a keynote address at the Republican National Convention. In a somewhat rare appearance for the first lady, she spoke about her immigrant upbringing and her belief in the American dream. She said we must focus on the future and come together as a nation, and she appealed directly to American mothers.
The first lady's speech was, clearly, an attempt to show a softer, more positive side of her husband and to shore up her husband's support among women, a key voting demographic. It comes on the heels of another incredibly transparent move this month, when President Donald Trump decided to pardon suffragist Susan B. Anthony in a spectacular — albeit predictable — demonstration of misogyny and disrespect.
The first lady’s speech was, clearly, an attempt to shore up her husband’s support among women, a key voting demographic.
Susan B. Anthony was arrested for voting in the 1872 presidential election and convicted by an all-male jury. Anthony refused to pay the court-ordered fine, but the judge wouldn't imprison her for nonpayment, preventing her from taking her case to the Supreme Court. In 2020, the centennial of the 19th Amendment and women's voting rights, Anthony doesn't need a pardon — nor would she likely want one. After all, she committed no real crime.
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"Since taking office," Melania Trump said Monday at an event commemorating the 100th anniversary, "my husband and this administration have taken historic measures to empower and support women in the United States — and around the world." The president himself has repeatedly expressed his "tremendous" respect for women. So have the women in his family, from his wife to his daughter Ivanka to his daughter-in-law, Lara. (Everyone, it seems, except his niece, Mary). But here's the truth: Trump hasn't been a good, or even an OK, president for women, or most Americans. Which is why, we, the moderate Republicans and right-leaning independents, are now in a position to cast the most important vote for women in 100 years and perhaps shape the future of the next 100 years.
Since 1964, women have voted in higher numbers than men. That makes them incredibly powerful. A century after trying to block out female voices, politicians now have to fight for our attention. They have to present their ideas and positions, and when they are up for re-election, they have to stand on their records and listen to our concerns.
The past is the past, and this isn't the time to relitigate the 2016 presidential race. For many voters it was a tough decision. They found themselves faced with an impossible choice between someone they didn't like and someone they didn't like even more. It was the first time in our country's history that the next president of the United States would have the highest unfavorable rating since Gallup started recording the number in 1956, regardless of who won. But when faced with that tough choice, the plurality of white women (47 percent) chose Trump over Hilary Clinton (45 percent).
Now, mere months before Election Day, we need these women to reconsider that choice.
A century after trying to block out female voices, politicians now have to fight for our attention.
For generations, Americans have looked to the president for leadership, strength and courage, for humanity, empathy and hope. But over the past 3½ years, we have seen none of those qualities from Trump.
The list of his misdeeds is too long to tick off one by one. Furthermore, there is no need to regurgitate all of the ugly tweets, reckless foreign policy decisions and attacks on our courts, media and public servants. Instead, let's take a look at just the past six months.
The most important quality of a good leader is the ability to recognize a problem and take responsibility for fixing it. In the case of the coronavirus, Trump did neither. It wasn't until the stock market went into a free fall, leading to the single worst day in its history, that the president began to voice concern. Even as cases and deaths continue to increase, Trump refuses to take responsibility, preferring to abdicate his responsibility to the American public to the governors of each state.
At a time of crisis, our elected officials are expected to put country above party, or at least ahead of their re-elections. Not Donald J. Trump. When Trump is cornered or feels like he is losing, he desperately seeks to change the conversation, as he did when he ordered the Department of Homeland Security to deploy officers and federal agents to Portland, Oregon, in July. He used these dedicated men and women as props to look like a "law and order" president in the hope of appealing to white suburban women. Trump tried this during the 2018 midterm elections, when he ranted about the supposedly dangerous immigrant caravan that was making its way to our southern border.
That strategy didn't work in 2018. (In fact, it had the opposite effect: Democratic women won in record numbers, in many districts, because suburban women voted for them.) And that same strategy shouldn't work now.
Trump's answer to nearly everything is to pour fuel on the fire, creating a more dangerous situation, rather than tamp down the flames. The only thing women hate more than a bully is someone who makes their communities less safe.
Trump has also failed women terribly when looking at the economic effects of COVID-19. This "she-cession," as some are calling it, has inordinately burdened women. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 55 percent of all jobs lost from February to June were held by women. In April, unemployment peaked at 15.5 percent for women and 11.6 percent for men — with women of color hit even harder. Besides being caregivers and educators, women are the primary labor pool for low-paid, underappreciated jobs in sectors like health care and hospitality. Now, many of those jobs are gone.
Many voters took a chance with Trump. While I didn't vote for him, I understood why others did. But he never valued the trust placed in him by so many Americans. He didn't even try. He believed he could fast-talk his way through being the leader of the free world, and we can all see it didn't work.
He has shown the country, particularly women, through his policies and tweets that he doesn't care about us and certainly doesn't respect us.
Trump and Trumpism must be defeated this November. Which is why I have joined the Lincoln Women, a coalition within The Lincoln Project. It doesn't matter whether you supported Donald Trump in 2016. What you do this November will be the most significant vote cast since the votes cast in 1920.
Soon after the ratification of the 19th Amendment, suffragette Maud Younger called it "the dawn of women's political power in America." This isn't the time to let the sun set on the influence of women in American elections. Rather, it is time to make that sure our vote lays to groundwork to protect future generations from the devastation that a second Trump term would surely wreak. That starts with voting Donald J. Trump out of office.