Those looking for evidence that President Donald Trump's misogynistic attitude and tone have effectively penetrated the culture need look no further than Tuesday's conservative leadership conference in Washington,
There Attorney General Jeff Sessions repeated a group of high school students' chant of "lock her up," the Trump campaign's bullying mantra aimed at his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Then Sessions laughed.
As President Trump's legal (and other) problems continue to mount—and with Sessions facing some of his own—it's hard to believe that he or any member of the administration would so vigorously continue to sound a rallying cry that has proven meritless. Clinton, of course, was cleared. And, ironically, it's now Trump's administration and campaign that is under investigation.
But this is not an administration that recognizes irony. Its livelihood depends on selling to the American public something that they can believe justified Clinton's loss and Trump's win. And the fact that a group of conservative high school students started the chant proves the Trump rhetoric has worked. Not only current voters, but also some future ones, have absorbed and adopted the President's malignant habits of bullying, misogyny and lies.
The message? The one who's got the loudest, meanest, deepest voice wins. (And though Trump has more than once tweeted his regret for choosing Sessions, as well as bitterly condemned him for recusing himself from the Russia probe, you can bet he silently approved of the AG's performance yesterday).
Yet, gleefully slamming a vanquished female opponent (the first woman to get a major-party nod to run for president, as it happens)--and relying on misogynic rhetoric in general--isn't the best political move. It's not one Republicans can bank on to carry them through: Women's participation in political causes is now at an all-time high, likely because they're fed up.
A January report from the Brookings Institution found that for the first time in American history, young women are more politically engaged than their male peers. A 2018 Gallup poll also documented a rise in Americans' discontent with women's position in society—37% expressed discontent as compared to 26% in 2008. Messing with women does not seem to be the way forward.
But it's worked for conservatives before, and many men before that, and so they'll likely keep on keeping on until it doesn't. Is it worth being outraged that Sessions would encourage, and laugh along with, impressionable kids? Sending the message that misogyny is acceptable and facts are not?
It is—but it's also not entirely surprising. Trump is not a man, and this is not an administration, that has gotten where it's gotten by being upstanding or recognizing facts. It's one in which gaslighting is just part of the daily plan.
And come November we can show them that we don't have to stand for it.