“If every Republican is a misogynist, then no Republican is,” Kirsten Powers wrote in a November 10, 2016 editorial, an editorial that was published shortly after the presidential election. Powers went on to write that, “These same voters have watched as every Republican candidate in recent memory has been accused of “waging a War on Women.” If Democrats are going to claim that Mitt Romney and John McCain hate women (and Democrats did make that claim), then (Democrats) shouldn’t be surprised when (those same) voters ignore them when they say Donald Trump hates women.”
Those of us who watched the McCain campaign, and the Romney campaign, couldn’t believe that this “War on Women” charge stuck. Neither of these campaigns did anything, as far as we were concerned, to insult, denigrate, or belittle women in any way. The charge seemed unfounded, and most of us believed that clear-minded voters would see the charge for what it was eventually. They didn’t of course. The campaign to denigrate those campaigns as anti-woman proved wildly successful.
Part of the 2016 campaign to elect a Democrat president was based on the idea that the Republican candidate for president, Donald J. Trump, hated women, and candidate Trump did say some things during the 2016 campaign that Democrats used to suggest he did. Even the biggest Trump supporter would admit that some of the quotes that Donald Trump said as a citizen, in the years preceding the campaign, would have sunk prior campaigns. If Democrats had been able to avoid the temptation of using this effective charge in 2008 and 2012, when it was unwarranted against the Republican presidential candidates in question, it might have proven to have more impact in 2016. Yet, the campaigns to elect a Democrat to the presidency were so similar in these three presidential campaigns that “Cracker Barrel” Americans might have viewed the 2016 use of the charge as nothing more than another campaign tactic.
To explain the characterization of some Americans as “Cracker Barrel” Americans, Kirsten Powers cites a study done by a Dave Wasserman of The Cook Political Report that points out “that Donald Trump won 76% of counties with a Cracker Barrel but only 22% of counties with a Whole Foods, a 54-point gap. Yet in 1992, when Bill Clinton won the presidency, the gap between those same counties was only 19 points.”
“Cracker Barrel” Americans, we can infer from the language used in the column, are those Americans who live in flyover country. The label suggests that these Americans are either so busy, or so disinterested in the minutiae of politics, that they don’t see the stitches on the fastball that a politician, or political party, is throwing at them. As anyone that has ever tried to hit a fastball can attest, however, even the most mediocre hitter can catch up to a fastball if it is delivered often enough in the exact same manner.
Ms. Powers is not suggesting that the charges made against Trump were unfounded or unduly influenced by the media. Listening to some of her commentary, over the course of the campaign, suggests that she believed the charges made, but in this particular column I believe she is stating that these charges have been made so often, and in some cases unwarranted, that Democrats became a victim of their own success. As stated in the next quote from Ms. Powers, the last eight years have been littered with one accusation after another, regarding the changes that “Cracker Barrel” Americans have been forced to not only accept, but that they have been forbidden to openly oppose.
“It’s not hard to see how accusations against Trump as a racist and misogynist would be met with eye rolls and knowing murmurs of “political correctness” by people who have had their worldview constantly caricatured and demonized by the cultural elites in academia, media and politics.”
Ms. Powers illustrates this by citing a quote from her friend and liberal commentator Sally Kohn, in a debate on free speech:
“If [conservatives on campus] feel like they can no longer speak against positive social change, good.”
“This is a paradigm,” Ms. Powers states. “Where honest disagreement about abortion makes one a woman-hater, holding orthodox religious views on marriage equates to gay-bashing, and refusing to cop to white privilege –even if you are a working class white person struggling economically– defines you as a racist.”
It’s often difficult for any individual, who is a true believer, to welcome opposing views with open arms. We believe that we are right, and we find some comfort in the belief that anyone who disagrees is either woefully uninformed, or they have ulterior motives for believing the way they do, but when The Silencing becomes so ubiquitous, and so effective, the push back can lead to what some may consider shocking effects.
It was a shock to many that anyone, much less a woman, would vote for Donald Trump after he said the things he did, and did the things he did, that some could interpret as similar to statements that led to a number of election losses four years ago. As I wrote, even the proponents of Trump would admit that they thought the 2016 presidential election was over several times, when opposition research unearthed some quotes, and videos, that played into the narrative some in the media were building on Trump, but those same people may have identified with Trump in a manner that suggests that voters had grown tired of being told that honest opposition to the liberal agenda meant that they were awful people in varying ways.
As comedian, and podcaster, Adam Carolla often says on his Podcast:
“This is the best time in America to be a racist. If you are charged with racism, those that hear the charge may yawn now and dismiss it as politically correct nonsense. Even if the person making that charge has actual proof, and the person they are making the charge against is an actual racist, no one takes it as seriously as they once did.”
The ploy of labeling those who have an honest disagreement with some piece of legislation, a proposal, a movement, or an idea with a career ending name of some sort was wildly successful, in the short-term. During the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency, there was this sense that an opponent could not openly oppose the ideas that were being floated about the country without being branded as a racist. There was also this sense that if we complained about that situation, and we stated that we felt intimidated by it, we received a, ‘you know what, good’ type of response, similar to the one Sally Kohn offered Kirsten Powers in a debate on free speech.
Barack Obama successfully used such tactics, openly and subtly, to fundamentally transform this nation. As most Congressmen feared openly opposing his administration, lest they be called a racist. Members of the media were afraid to openly scrutinize the legislation and ideas of the administration, and most open debate among citizens was shut down for fear of causing tension. There was also this sense that there would never be a price to pay for silencing opposition in this manner, until the 2016 Democrats made it clear that they thought such charges were an antidote to ever losing another presidential election, and they found that a surprisingly large swath of the electorate had grown immune to them.
Anyone who knows the story of The Little Boy who Cried Wolf knows that no matter how unfounded a charge is, if it is repeated often enough people will start to believe it. Republicans found this out the hard way in 2008 and 2012. Yet, as the lesson of that story suggests, if those same charges are repeated too often, people will start to ignore them. Democrats found that out the hard way in 2016.