“If your husband is willing to elect Trump, he either hates women or just does not care about them/you. Divorce him.” That’s a tweet by feminist writer Jill Filipovic in response to an article in The New York Times that tells the tale of two marriages unhinged by Donald Trump’s candidacy.
In “He Likes Trump. She Doesn’t. Can This Marriage Be Saved?” Sridhar Pappu interviews two couples who have deep disagreements about Trump. The men have considered voting for him, but the women support Hillary Clinton and are intolerant of anyone who favors Trump—including their husbands.
“If you vote for Trump, I will divorce you and move to Canada,” Kerry Maguire told her husband Thomas Stossel. When he “tried to laugh it off,” she doubled down. “I’m serious,” she said.
Never mind that it’s your husband, a man you’ve loved for years. Or a family member, a co-worker, a friend. To women like Maguire, voting for Trump is not an objective, disinterested political decision. It’s not “just politics.” Voting for Trump is identifying as a sexist (and a racist), and no one can tolerate being associated with someone like that. In 2016, you are who you vote for.
Suddenly a Vote Equals Wholesale Endorsement?
This severe stereotyping of a group (Trump voters and supporters) gets to the heart of why there is so much extreme emotionalism over Trump’s candidacy—even to the point of driving a wedge between married couples. This effective labeling of people as sexist and racist has created a social dynamic in this year’s presidential race that we have not seen to this degree in any other political contest, at least not in a very long time.
The “Trump stigma,” as I call it, is why people who are considering voting for him often speak in whispers. It’s why politics are now a big issue even in dating relationships—there is shame attached to Trump voters. It’s why wives are threatening to divorce their husbands. It’s also why Stossel eventually decided he probably won’t vote for Trump because he wants to “salvage his intellectual reputation.” He doesn’t want to be delegitimized by Trump stigma.
How did we get to this point? Why are voters not merely being associated with Trump but actually and essentially being identified with him, sharing the same characteristics of racism and sexism that have been attached to him (justified or not)? Countless other politicians have had a similar or much worse character than Trump, but such stigma and shame have not been attached to their supporters.
Voting for Hillary Should Carry a Stigma, Too
Take Clinton. How odd that these women are so willing to abandon their marriages because of their husbands’ support of Trump, yet they’re willing to support a woman who has lied repeatedly to the American people, even to the point of costing Americans their lives. Habitual lying is a ghastly character trait, and to do it the way Clinton has throughout her political career is the last characteristic we should want in a president.
She has also failed to be a good feminist by attacking women her husband sexually abused. In this, she has proven to be the worst kind of sexist—turning on her own to support a misogynist male simply because it is politically expedient for her.
Clinton has also shown herself to be ill-tempered and even unstable by dismissing the seriousness of Benghazi, throwing up her hands and yelling “At this point, what difference does [four dead Americans] make?” Her behavior in the Benghazi committee hearing and her perpetual lying, even to family members of dead soldiers, shows a malignant narcissism that is well beyond even Trump’s.
Add to this Clinton’s abuse of power in which the State Department she headed doled out favors to her foundation’s big donors. This led to her criminal behavior (despite the FBI director’s unwillingness to recommend that charges be brought against her) regarding putting classified material on her server. Looking at Clinton’s sordid history of political and personal corruption, we have profile of a person who is deeply untrustworthy, selfish, and motivated by money, not the general welfare of American citizens.
Yet little, if any, stigma is attached to those who are voting for her. Some might say Trump is stigmatized because of all the outrageous things he has said. But he’s not the first politician to say crazy, even racist, things and get elected. Shall we go through the list of Joe Bidenisms? Shall we discuss Barack Obama’s relationship with the racist Rev. Jeremiah Wright?
Speaking of Obama, he has said things that are divisive, like “If they bring a knife to a fight, we’ll bring a gun.” If that had been Trump, he would have been excoriated. But all we got for Obama was a yawn from the media.
In addition, Obama’s tyrannical expansion of centralized government is worse than anything Trump has proposed—and Clinton has contributed to that expansion. Yet there is no wailing and gnashing of teeth about the imminent demise of the Democratic Party under his imperial presidency.
This Is Just Language Control to Secure Political Control
The point is that Trump has said many questionable things, but Clinton has done numerous things that are immoral, narcissistic, selfish, ignorant, and even dangerous. Yet there is hardly any stigma, labeling, or seething condemnations on social media that those who vote for her will be stained with her lying image from now to judgment day. There are no cries from the political Left that she is destroying the Democratic Party with her immorality, incompetency, profound character flaws, and embrace of a Marxist agenda that deviates from the party’s historical commitment to individual liberty.
There is certainly no widespread fear that her voters are mindless sheep, Hillaryites, Hillions, or whatever name you want to call her band of merry followers who want to join her in further transforming America. But with Trump we have an army of “Trumpkins” ushering in Armageddon.
That’s because Trump is immoral and unstable, his opponents say. Even worse, he’s a sexist, and a man who votes for him hates women too. This is pure propaganda. Say what you want about Trump, but demonizing voters like this is its own kind of evil. It’s the systematic use of effective social psychological methodology designed to label a group in order to delegitimize them. It reminds me of the quote attributed to Soren Kierkegaard: “Once you label me, you negate me.”
In our society, the Left has effectively shifted our culture’s values away from traditional morals to a specified group of behaviors they deem intolerable above any other. The new commandments are: Thou shalt not be a racist. Thou shalt not be a sexist. Thou shalt not be a homophobe. Anything else is acceptable.
In the past, our society valued truth, honesty, sexual purity, and hard work—to name a few. Now, these don’t matter. The only thing that matters today is that you’re not a sexist or a bigot—however the liberal Left defines those.
These are the great evils of our time, and if you are branded with a scarlet S, R, or H, then you are the worst sort of person. Not only are you considered morally bankrupt, but you are delegitimized so that everything you do and everyone who associates with you is no longer considered a worthy human being. You have been negated and reduced to a word—sexist, racist, or homophobe.
Ironically, the Left is using the same stereotyping and discrimination tactics born of these very evils to malign opposition groups. It’s the dehumanization of racism and sexism that makes them so bad, yet we fail to see how this same dehumanization is now happening in politics under the label of sexism and racism and that it is bleeding over into our personal lives.
Once Racism Includes Everything, It Means Nothing
I’m not saying sexism and bigotry aren’t bad. They are. But the labels have been so effectively used to promote a political agenda by devaluing the opposition that the words don’t really have meaning any more. These words have been so manipulated that I wonder if many people can even recognize a true racist or sexist any longer.
Racism now includes any opposition to liberal policies that many voters see as unfair, unsafe, and even unconstitutional—positions that have nothing to do with white supremacy. Yet despite the truth about people’s motivations, a racist is now someone who opposes illegal immigration or who wants a temporary ban on Muslims coming to the United States. Regardless of Trump’s rhetoric, that’s what a lot of his supporters stand for. They’re not racists, but they have been labeled racists because it’s effective in delegitimizing them. It protects their opponents from having to actually deal with the issues at hand.
On this point, many people look to recent polling that says Trump supporters are more likely to have negative feelings toward all minority groups than other voters. This poll has been used to prove Trump voters are indeed racists, but such an interpretation fails to consider the political context in which these questions about feelings regarding minority groups were posed, and thereby discounting the impact of racial politics on these voters. If you oppose agendas that use racial rhetoric as a bludgeon to push through certain policies like illegal immigration, then this can lead to negative feelings about a group.
Having negative feelings about all minority groups, and not one group in particular, reflects in-group/out-group tensions much more than racism. A poll that shows negative feelings toward minority groups within a political context is not necessarily proof of white supremacy, but it could just as easily—and more likely— be proof that Trump supporters are very frustrated at liberal policies being shoved down America’s collective throat by using the threat of racial stigma against opponents.
These Labels Are Just Buttons to Push to Sidestep Rationality
The same is true for sexism. If you oppose the feminist agenda in any way, you’re a sexist. Against abortion? You’re a sexist. Against equal pay for unequal work, you’re a sexist. Against free birth control? You’re a sexist. And since sexism is the one of the unforgiveable sins, you are labeled, stigmatized, and delegitimized.
So severe is this labeling that we now have women fleeing from their own husbands who are considering voting for Trump. Both men in this article had very rational reasons for voting for Trump, yet their wives reacted emotionally rather than grappling with these reasons. These women are the ones being irrational, but it’s understandable because they’re caught in the wave of out-group stigmatization and social programming that has been slowly undermining our political system for years.
This election is not about ideas. It’s about labels. One reason Trump has been such a lightning rod is that he has used the Left’s tactics against them. He is labeling back. “She’s a liar.” “She’s a crook.” It worked for him in the primary, but it’s not working as well in the general. That’s because he’s now campaigning against experts at social identity labeling and delegitimatizing.
The Left has been fine-tuning this strategy for years. Republicans are novices, and most don’t even realize it’s happening. Even worse, many have unwittingly (or purposely) adopted the same labeling behavior and are regurgitating propagandized messaging in order to delegitimize a candidate they don’t like. This will only undermine them in the future, even if it works during this election cycle against Trump.
Sexual Identity Politics Is Bad for Everyone
As for the marriages threatened by Trump stigma, I have only this to say. If you are willing to leave your marriage because your husband votes for Trump, then you have allowed a lie to rob you of the most important relationship of your life. A man who votes for Trump is not a man who hates women any more than a woman who votes for Clinton necessarily loves willful deception and gross selfishness. To believe that only shows you are a woman guided by groupthink. Your thoughts have been shaped and molded by an in-group bent on delegitimizing others to maintain and gain power.
Whether Trump is an actual sexist or not isn’t even relevant. I don’t believe he thinks women are less valuable than men. His actions in business have proved this. I do believe he is more like a 1960s-1970s man with a shallow view of women that emphasizes physical appearance. He values beauty and uses it to promote his own interests.
This admittedly is a kind of sexism—but, let’s all be honest, a lot of men in politics (not to mention the entertainment industry) are guilty of this kind of sexism. Additionally, I don’t find any sexism in his policies. Being anti-free birth control and anti-abortion is not sexist. That is a labeling lie from the Left.
I also don’t think the men who appreciate Trump’s willingness to push back against a feminist agenda, both in policy and rhetoric, are sexists either. I do think many of them are fed up with feminist browbeating that reduces, negates, and delegitimizes men. This frustration and anger is certainly causing a backlash that can sound anti-woman (and I bet if you polled these men in the context of politics, many would say they have negative feelings toward women).
This backlash could become entrenched, creating a new generation of men who are reactionary sexists. That’s a dangerous possibility. But we’re not there yet—not in a significant way. We do have men wanting legitimacy again because Leftist, statist, feminist activists have purposely labeled them into irrelevance. We see this in politics, pop culture, education, and even in the home.
Politics Ain’t Worth Divorce, Honey
The sooner we realize these group dynamics are very much in play in this election, the quicker we’ll be able to focus on issues and characteristics that truly matter. We’ll also begin to reign in some of the reactionary emotionalism that is creating so much division in this nation, not only in politics, but in our professional, familial, and marital relationships.
No one should say to one’s spouse, “If you vote for [fill in the blank], I’m divorcing you.” That’s putting politics too high on your value list, and it’s allowing groupthink to stigmatize your husband and devalue your marriage. The Trump stigma apparently has the power to negate years of love and marital devotion. That’s pretty serious. But that’s the power of social psychology and the stigmatization of an out-group. It’s also frightening.
I’d like to ask these women and others who think this way: What else are you willing to discard because of fear of stigma? To what depths are you willing to sink to cleanse yourself, your life, and your nation of social identities that have been branded with such shame? Consider where such impulses lead and what evils they can justify. These are probably some of the most important questions all of us should be asking this election cycle.