This Monday was Columbus Day, a holiday honouring the massacre of indigenous people in America. We curiously crossed the road to the newly opened Trump Hotel, created by a man who is running his campaign on hate-mongering nativism. Ladies posed with raised middle fingers. ‘Black Lives Matter’ protest graffiti had been wiped off. The White House, also on Pennsylvania Avenue, was within toupee-tossing distance—provided Trump’s fan base continued to see him through orange-tinted lenses.
When Trump announced his run for president in a speech calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” and “criminals”, two celebrated chefs originally hired for this hotel found his racist word salad hard to digest and dropped out, saying it was a toxic ’Chernobyl’ for Hispanic staff and guests. Trump sued them. Law suits are as much a part of Trump’s life as pant-suits are in Hillary’s.
Braggadocio and bigotry (from homophobia to Islamophobia) are as familiar to his brand as the gold ‘TRUMP’ on his failed casinos. His nastiness has extended to disabled reporters. Decorated war heroes. Tearful babies.
Not only has he no green thumbs in business, he has wandering fingers as well. We know he fat-shamed female employees, made sexual advances, rated body parts in public, tried to fire employees (including the lady in the leaked audio) for being pregnant, not being pretty, or rebuffing him. His infidelities were tabloid fodder. Ivana Trump’s accusation under oath of marital rape and hair-pulling was on record. Trump’s book delusionally claimed all women flung themselves at him, in spite of a child rape charge, a sexual harassment suit, and past rumours of alleged coercion at paedophile Epstein’s sex parties with minors. His candid Howard Stern interviews raised red flags—a pageant queen confirmed his boast of walking in backstage when they were naked. Still, Trump loyalists said nothing.
Things finally unravelled with leaked tapes of a 59-year-old Trump crowing of getting away with serial sexual assaults. Horrified Republicans (the party of ‘family values’) withdrew support.
Trump cited Bill Clinton. But he wasn’t the presidential candidate. Hillary was. She couldn’t be held to task for his infidelities. Bringing Bill’s three ‘ladies’ to the second debate, after starting rumours on Hillary’s non-existent infidelities and Miss Universe’s imaginary sex tape, backfired on Trump.
So far Trump had touched girls and remained untouchable. It is sad that his public media circus of fat-shaming and race-baiting Miss America (as Latina “Miss Housekeeping”) didn’t cause scandal—it took a white woman victim to get the Republican elite riled up.
Now they had auditory evidence—not rumour, not contested charges—that he sexually stalked women, grabbed lady parts. “Forcible touching” is a class A misdemeanor here, but his victims were not powerful.
Evolving gender politics and technology has led to this sudden outrage. It’s a reflection of changing times. Women will not stand for pre-’90s terms like ‘puritanical’ or ‘politically correct’, or abuse of power under Trump’s boys-will-be-boys excuse of “locker room banter”.
Influential Trump ally Roger Ailes fostered rape culture for years, but was sacked this summer from a cosy old white boy’s club like Fox, where TV anchors tend to be pretty blondes with short skirts and long legs. This was unthinkable even five years ago. Ditto Cosby, another star who realised 2016 isn’t 1970.
It is strange that Trump is imploding only now, when other unsavoury facts about him (from birthism to lookism, homophobia to Islamophobia) were condoned. It had to get to this low point of graphic confessions by this “short-fingered vulgarian” before Trump supporters reacted. This was the Republicans’ Nirbhaya moment.
It is ironic that the GOP or Fox News, whose own track record of normalising patriarchy is terrible, is now officially appalled. Baby steps. Awareness of endemic sexism among conservatives takes years. But we are better off than before. Clinton’s shenanigans would not pass muster today. Monica Lewinsky was a punchline in the ’90s; now she’s understood as a confused 21-year-old intern within an unfair power dynamic. (Part of the reason Hillary isn’t liked much by US millennials is due to her perceived victim-blaming during the scandal.)
Not all in middle America are shocked. On November 8, the majority has to refuse Trump consent. As Bachchan laboriously explained to an obtuse court in Pink, ‘no’ means a resounding no. At least in today’s world.