For American Women, Trump Campaign An Exercise In Gallows Humor

How much longer can we find reasons to laugh through the pain?

I can’t recall an election cycle so rife with sardonic chuckles, a coping mechanism for the existentially hilarious pain of 2016. This year is like getting repeatedly popped in the funny bone, rolling on the ground in agony as you giggle manically and uncontrollably.

As the nation limps toward November 8, it’s fair to wonder if we’ll cross the line with diminished mental capacity. The entire country feels like it’s on some kind of psychiatric precipice. Just last night I had a dream about Trump as my stepfather, making promises to provide for my sister and I, then fleeing after putting all of our belongings on the lawn for public consumption.

But about that gallows humor. I was talking with an intelligent colleague about last week’s otherworldly series of Trump campaign meltdowns. Specifically former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s bizarre appearance on yesterday’s edition of Meet the Press. Full of sputters, stutters and rhetorical gutter, Giuliani used the time to continue peddling the argument that Clinton marital woes circa 1998 are somehow relevant to this campaign.

Naturally since Giuliani is on his third marriage and his collaborators on this messaging – Newt Gingrich and Trump himself – are in the same state, the hypocrisy was ripe for the plucking. It was so obvious and incumbent upon anyone calling themselves a journalist to do so that even Chuck Todd had to abandon the fanboy fair and balanced act. He observed to the has been leader of 9/11, “But your past, you have your own infidelities, sir.” To which great Giuliani defensively and illogically replied, “Well everybody does.”

My colleague drove to the heart of the absurdity with this outburst:

“What?? That’s the crutch you’re leaning on? Seriously? Well then by that pretzel logic, Hillary shouldn’t even be slapped on the wrist for tolerating a cheater because everyone is! You get a mistress! You get a mistress! Everyone gets a mistress! Thanks Oprah!”

Yes, pretty much. Misogyny, sexism, double standards and obfuscation – there are a few of Team Trump’s favorite things.

It’s the first Monday in October, the eve of the Vice Presidential debate. Just where do we go from here? Like so many other instances of cognitive dissonance caused by Trump’s presidential run, the sociopolitical environmental feels paradoxically toxic and inspiring for American women. I wrote last week about first debate’s elevation of the mansplaining phenomenon to national dialogue. Very constructive. But to reach these points of thoughtful reflection and education, we have to endure. So. Much. Bullshit.

Trump is being sold to the public as part master showman, part business genius, part change maker. All ingredients currently being exposed as moldy – if ever they were present. A good performer tries not to recycle material in front of his audience, but Trump isn’t that talented so he has to keep dipping from the same bully well. Objectifying and demeaning women by body and slut shaming a most repugnant example of natural efforts (I really don’t think he’s trying) to ingratiate himself with the alienated white male. Donald Trump’s obsession with degrading women not only places Hillary Clinton, however imperfect, on higher moral ground, it gives her the opportunity to discuss the issues important to the American people that her opponent is incapable of engaging.

Amy Davidson of The New Yorker wrote this week:

“There is a need to speak more thoughtfully about the corrosive effect of money in politics and the uneven costs and benefits of free trade, and, indeed, about political dynasties. But Trump’s not doing that. When his bigotry and his speculations about sex aren’t at the center of his speeches, his narcissism is.”

As Trump’s national poll numbers continue to drop after last week’s disastrous parade of misogyny and tax dodging reveals, the impatience becomes tougher to bear. I just want this to be over already and I know I’m not alone. As a woman, as a thinking person, as a citizen of the world’s greatest democracy, I am truly and deeply aggravated, angry and offended that Donald Trump has come this far. One of our top two contenders for highest office is a “pathetic coward who can’t handle the fact that he’s losing to a girl (thank you Elizabeth Warren).”

How much longer can we find reasons to laugh through the pain?

Becky Sarwate is the current President of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association, founded in 1885, as well as Recording Secretary for the National Federation of Press Women. She is a national award-winning journalist, blogger, newsletter editor and theater critic. Becky lives in Chicago with her partner Bob and their menagerie of pets. Keep up with her at
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