Trump Going Full Asshole At The Debate Isn’t Going To Fix His Women Voter Problem
During Tuesday night's Democratic debate, Donald Trump was a complete asshole. That was apparently his oh-so-presidential strategy — to “dominate" Joe Biden, not with a masterful command of facts or policy but by shouting and yelling like a belligerent drunk or someone whose bed Farrah Fawcett sets on fire.
Trump is behind in almost every poll conducted outside his bathroom. Behaving like a spoiled brat is probably not effective outreach. There are few undecided voters in the asshole demographic, because making up your mind early, insisting you're right, and refusing to modify your opinions are all prominent asshole traits.
However, some pundits of the male persuasion thought Trump scored some points during his gross display. He was a rebel who played by his own rules, which he also broke.
Here's what Boston Globe columnist Michael Cohen tweeted on Tuesday night:
You'll notice that people often preface offensive statements with the acknowledgement that “This is going to be an unpopular argument," as if they're sharing with us the “real truth" instead of something really fucking stupid. In fairness to Cohen, he later wrote a blistering piece condemning Trump's actions, but it's interesting that he thought Trump hadn't just set his campaign on fire.
In a quickly deleted tweet, Guardian writer Ross Barkan suggested that people from “working-class backgrounds" and “certain urban neighborhoods" might dig Trump's “debate tactics," which were non-existent. If you set a horse loose in the studio, it might've flustered Biden, but that doesn't make Mr. Ed a forensics champion.
Trump already has the asshole and asshole-adjacent vote locked down, but he needs to expand his appeal beyond the occupants of that "Access Hollywood" bus. With a little help from Russia and James Comey, Trump narrowly won Pennsylvania in 2016. Biden has opened up an almost double-digit lead in the state. He's beating Trump among women 61 to 38 percent. Biden has a 16-point lead among women in Minnesota, and thanks to the 19th Amendment, this means Biden is winning handily. Fox News has Biden up by five points in Ohio, a state Trump carried by eight points in 2016. Biden enjoys a 14-point margin with women. If Biden wins both Pennsylvania and Ohio, our long national nightmare is over.
A consistent theme has emerged: Biden is the one “dominating" Trump, and it's because of his overwhelming support from women. This isn't exclusive to Biden, however. Suburban women flipped big for Democrats in 2018, which helped the party regain the House. Until mid-July, Trump's campaign manager was an asshole who beat his wife, so maybe everyone in Trump's orbit is clueless to the fact that women don't find bullying, abusive assholes appealing. But you'd think professional pundits would grasp what's happened. They were so quick to point out how Barack Obama and later Hillary Clinton had alienated white working-class men by not giving them enough foot massages. Trump is killing the GOP with women and nothing the president did Tuesday improved his standing with this significant portion of the electorate.
Trump's rotten yam brain is stuck in the 1950s and he believes racist dogwhistles about Cory Booker invading the suburbs will help him in the polls. Like most assholes, he refuses to listen to what actual suburban women are saying. He's just gonna keep yelling at them about what he thinks matters.
The incumbent president with record-low approval ratings didn't "dominate" Tuesday night's debate. Instead, he further revealed his abhorrent character to millions of voters. When Trump dismissed the tragic death of one Biden son so he could slander another, moderator Chris Wallace tried to regain control over the proceedings.
WALLACE: Wait a minute. Mr. President, your campaign agreed to both sides would get two minute answers, uninterrupted. Well, your side agreed to it and why don't you observe what your campaign agreed to as a ground rule. Okay, sir?
BIDEN: He never keeps his word.
"Will you shut up, man!" is rightly the more viral and visceral moment, but this is the moment where Biden destroyed Trump. He did it without bluster or the false machismo that masks a damaged psyche.
Women will decide this race, and women have decided that they want a president who is honest and considerate of others, who simply keeps his promises. That's the low bar Trump has set and he still tripped over it. The age of the bully is ending.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."