A Site for Scholarly Commentary, Debate and Media Resources for the 2016 Election

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Gender, Race & the Republican Party

'Trump continues to fire away'

Durham, NC – Donald Trump remains at the top of Republican polls despite inflammatory comments on gender, race and sexual violence.  He paints himself as an effective businessman who doesn’t waste time on political correctness.  But his comments — and popularity — reflect Conservative attitudes toward women and minorities that spell trouble for the party.

A key turning point in the 2012 election was a series of comments from Republican Congressmen on women and sexual assault.  The most infamous remark came from Missouri’s Todd Akin: “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways of shutting that down.”

Similar comments by other party members cost Republicans two congressional seats that had previously been viewed as easy wins.  Democrats characterized these comments as part of Republicans’ “War on Women” and 2012 saw the biggest discrepancy in voting by gender of any presidential election in the last 60 years.  A significant majority of women voted Democratic and a large majority of white men voted Republican.

Rather than breaking from the conservative rhetoric that got Republicans into trouble in 2012, Trump continues to fire away.  Trump’s put-downs of his male Republican challengers have focused on their personal style, experience and political or business alliances.  But on Carly Fiorina, he said: “Look at that face!  Would anyone vote for that?” On a social media page, his team reposted a comment on Hillary Clinton: “If she can’t satisfy her husband, how can she satisfy America?”  When Fox News personality Megyn Kelly confronted him about some of his comments, he suggested she was irrational as a result of being on her period.

Trump’s comments on race, criminality and sexual violence also spell trouble for the Republican Party.  The previous presidential election saw increased voter turnout by minorities and stronger minority affiliation with the Democratic Party.  On the day he announced his presidential campaign, Trump characterized undocumented Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals.

Appealing to racial bigotry for personal gain is hardly new to the successful businessman.  While trying to protect his gambling interests, he ran ads that warned against new Native American casinos and portrayed the Mohawks as violent criminals.  The Trump Management Corporation has also been sued twice by the Justice Department for housing discrimination against black applicants.  Trump’s portrayal of immigrants and minorities as rapists and criminals is even more appalling given his ex-wife’s testimony during their divorce, when she asserted that Trump had sexually assaulted her.  Trump has denied these allegations.

For the time being, Trump is the leading candidate of a conservative party that continues to push away women and minorities.  The last presidential election showcased the growing electoral power of these groups. The Republican Party will continue to lose presidential elections if they are openly hostile to women and people of color.