The website is unambiguously named: WomenforDonaldTrump.com. Launched in late July, the home page features several smiling 20-somethings holding signs: “I Believe in Trump”; “People for a Stronger America”; “Trump: Make America Great Again.” The tagline – “Principle, Patriotism, Strength and Leadership” – sums up what they believe to be their candidate’s most important attributes.
And there’s more:
As women, Trump reminds us of something we haven’t seen in a long time: strong, Alpha males in politics. Many of those whining about Trump’s rise in popularity … have forgotten what a MAN is. Trump takes the values conservative women hold precious: limited government, equal justice for all, the Constitution, life, secure borders, and most of all PRIDE IN BEING A PRINCIPLED COUNTRY and he refuses to back down … It has been so long since we have seen this kind of strength (perhaps it has been relegated only to Wall Street and the business community as man-cuckholding [sic] feminism sweeps other areas of our national stage) and as women [we] appreciate seeing it again!
Yes, it’s Donald Trump as “Real Man.” In fact, Women for Donald Trump sees their candidate – a straight, 69-year-old, 6-foot-3, white father of five – as the prototype for American masculinity. Perhaps surprisingly, this model of manhood is catching fire.
A September Gallup poll showed Trump’s support among GOP women at 54 percent, a 13-point jump from the previous month. This, despite the derogatory statements Trump hurled at Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, comedian Rosie O’Donnell and candidate Carly Fiorina. The upshot is that Trump can no longer be seen as a fringe candidate; he has rapidly ascended and is a contender in every sense of the word.
“It used to look like nominating Donald Trump would be an unmitigated disaster for the Republicans,” Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling, said in a statement. “But now he’s doing better against Hillary Clinton than a lot of their perceived electable candidates.”
It certainly makes you question the whys and wherefores.
Perusal of the many websites devoted to The Donald – including WomenforDonaldTrump.com, TimeforTrump2016.com and WeBeSisters.com – along with Facebook pages such as Women for Donald Trump, Women for Trump and Donald Trump for President 2016, offers some answers, as does an analysis of interviews with his supporters. What’s clear is this: Although study after study shows that immigrants commit far fewer crimes than US citizens and typically work incredibly hard at backbreaking jobs, Trump aficionados find his “tough on illegals” rhetoric not just important but inspiring.
The stance of Trump’s supporters is firmly grounded in American exceptionalism.
Lori Renick, a 54-year-old New Jersey carpenter who describes herself as a “loud and proud Republican,” told Truthout that she is 100 percent behind Trump. “He listens to what people want and will make America great again,” she wrote in an email. “Some of his major selling points for me are: create jobs, uphold gun rights, support freedom of speech, strengthen our military, secure our borders and deport illegal immigrants, take care of our veterans, end bought government and enforce the Constitution.” What’s more, she says that because he’s a businessman, he has the acumen needed to “turn this country around.”
Like Renick, Carol – a retired Colorado Republican who asked that her surname not be published – finds Trump’s outsider status appealing. “I like that he’s not a career politician,” she said. “He’s not bought and paid for by donors or corporations.” She also likes Trump’s stance on immigration. “We have laws on how to come into this country legally,” she told Truthout. “If you break these laws I don’t think you have the right to be here, and if you break one law I have to wonder what other laws you’ll break.”
That said, Carol does have reservations about the candidate. While she appreciates his willingness to speak his mind, she does not think this gives Trump free rein to be crass or insulting. “Sometimes his remarks – calling Rosie O’Donnell a fat pig and Megyn Kelly a bimbo – step over the line. If you’re going to be in public office you need to word things in a way that is not offensive.”
Others, however, see Trump’s brash takedowns as a selling point. “We’re against conservatism that is intellectually respectable and politically palatable,” the Women for Donald Trump Facebook page announced in mid-August. Slamming progressives as well as an “elitist establishment” of “ruling class conservatives” that includes media commentator George Will and the National Review’s Charlie Cooke – neither of whom have much use for Trump – the people behind the Women for Donald Trump Facebook page champion their man as the right choice for “the millions of American women who are fed up with loser politicians who don’t stand up for freedom or the USA.”
Appeals to American Exceptionalism
Further scrutiny of the site reveals that the stance of Trump’s supporters is firmly grounded in American exceptionalism, the idea that the United States was founded with God’s blessing and anointed to serve as the world’s most significant leader.
“We want to make America great again,” Trump’s champions repeat, mantra-like, on each and every one of his many fan sites.
“Donald is as perfect as it gets,” gushes Molly Max. “He’s the one. He’s the man.”
There are parallels between many of the women who support Trump today and those who supported Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
“He is spectacular,” writes Joanne Ginger Vaccarella on a Donald Trump for President 2016 Facebook page. “Job creator, genius, a great negotiator, will fix up our country, get the terrorists, destroy ISIS, and he’s rich to boot so unlike the others, he can pay for his own vacations. Most of all he loves this country and does not need the job.”
“Trustful, Respected, Unconditional, Marvelous, President,” posted Mariana Raportoru. “Talented, Resourceful, Ultimate, Motivated, Prepared.”
Similarly, Deanna Vaughn also used Facebook to laud Trump as “intelligent and good-hearted, strong enough to make America right.”
Not to be outdone, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin calls him “the anti-status-quo politician,” and the only contender with the “guts” for a showdown with those she dubs “the politically correct police.”
But flowery commendations aside, despite an exuberant following – it is worth noting that Trump’s female supporters extend beyond Republicans to include Democrats and Independents as well as unregistered voters who simply like his style – Trump remains unlikely to win the hearts and minds of the majority of US women. In fact, polls consistently find a huge gender gap, with women favoring Democrats or Independents over Republicans. Still, Trump’s popularity needs to be taken seriously and understood.
Why Trump Resonates With Some Women
Gloria Feldt, author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power and the former CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, sees Trump’s popularity as evidence of the ways US culture perpetuates sexism and female subservience. “Some women have culturally learned biases in their heads,” she told Truthout via email. She added:
Bombastic, mean, bullying men who ruthlessly exercise power over others, are a leadership archetype. The Donald Trumps of the world are the epitome of sexism. This is what a lot of women know and are comfortable with and unless they experience some defining moment to shift their consciousness, why would they think differently? The adage, “It’s hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head,” applies.
It’s a sobering assessment.
Sociologist Abby Scher studies and tracks conservative women for Political Research Associates, a Massachusetts-based think tank. Although she agrees with Feldt, she adds that there is also a political dimension to Trump’s burgeoning appeal. Looking back to the 1950s is instructive, she says, because there are parallels between many of the women who support Trump today and those who supported Sen. Joseph McCarthy 60-plus years ago. “During McCarthyism, right-wing women felt as if no one represented them. They saw Joseph McCarthy speaking out against the conspiracies in government that these women thought the New Deal had created,” she explained. “No one else was opposing the New Deal. The anti-New Deal faction of the Republican Party had been edged out. Similarly, today the Republican establishment is not taking immigration on, but Trump is bringing it back as an issue. He provides a simple explanation for what’s wrong in the country and presents himself as a truth speaker from outside the Washington establishment.”
Scher cautions against stereotyping Trump’s supporters since they come from more diverse groups than one might expect. Indeed, his enthusiasts include blue-collar workers, white-collar workers and homemakers of all ages, races and education levels, including the “Stump for Trump Girls” (Rochelle “Silk” Richardson and her sister Lynette “Diamond” Hardaway) – two Black women from North Carolina who are vocal supporters.
Nonetheless, Scher concludes that Trump’s boosters most likely belong to two distinct groups of conservative women. The first, she says, are those who like the idea of having a strong man in charge – the classic alpha male – who they believe will be capable of standing up to Wall Street hedge fund managers, government bureaucrats and international foes. The second group’s members, she adds, are more egalitarian when it comes to gender but are drawn to arguments that blame undocumented immigrants for causing the economic and social mayhem we’re seeing nationwide.
It’s too soon to know if either faction will hold sway, or if The Donald will even remain a contender in the race to become commander in chief. In addition, no one can predict if support among women will flame out or grow. As of now, Women for Trump rallies are being organized and will take place on October 18. Promo posters for locally organized events feature the ubiquitous image of Rosie the Riveter and the words, “We Can Do It: TRUMP 2016.”
Whether they will succeed or sputter remains to be seen.