“I mean, maybe she did or maybe she didn’t,” Trump said yesterday on Fox News, referring to the dying wishes of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the most revered women of our time. Ginsburg requested that our nation wait until after the November presidential election to appoint her successor.
Trump’s response felt violent to me, an American mom. Does he really think we’ll accept this? I thought, as I watched him say them. I felt like I’d been punched in the throat.
Trump manipulated reality during our mourning of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Instead of paying homage, he robbed her wishes, replacing them with his own. It was the ultimate irony. He tried to smother her right to express her opinion, which was dictated by her granddaughter, Clara Spera, a Harvard grad and lawyer who transcribed her grandmother’s words while a doctor witnessed. He aimed to steal the very thing Ginsburg had spent her life fighting for – a woman’s right to be heard, to express her desires. And he suggested that Ginsburg’s words weren’t hers at all, conspiratorially adding that someone else had probably fictionalized or manipulated them.
Trump has known for months that maternal anxiety is higher than ever in 2020; and he’s been using this fact to manipulate women like me. He knows that fear and isolation influence women to stay in abusive relationships, as I and others know from first-hand experience — so why couldn’t fear be used to keep them in a relationship with a bad politician? He’s been trying to cash in on us, in crisis, during his campaign for re-election.
Trump referred to Ginsburg with feigned allyship, first as “a brilliant woman,” in the same way he has referred to the “beautiful women” and “housewives” he apparently admires. He tries to butter us up, like a friendly pat on the butt, before waving his hands and talking about our “threatened suburbs.”
He thinks he can do what Ginsburg spent her career fighting against – minimizing and stereotyping women as voiceless, meek, afraid, in need of male protectors. He wants to insert people like me into his image of white women, running and hiding from other races, into our homogeneous, crime-free suburbs. But suburban moms aren’t all white, and they aren’t all afraid. Just look at the #IAmASuburbanMom tweets for proof.
Real moms are maintaining jobs, schooling kids, fighting wildfires, pandemics and caring for communities. Real moms aren’t taking throat punches from Trump anymore. He’s flirting with the fact that 54 percent of white women voted for him in 2016. And he’s jealous. He doesn’t understand women. He knows we’ve never loved him; we’re getting ready to leave out the front door.
Last year, the Trump administration quietly removed psychological definitions of domestic abuse from the US Department of Justice’s former list of characteristics of an abuser. His leadership changed the new definition of domestic violence to reflect only a physical act, omitting the manipulative tactics of abuse. He worked to confiscate our support while he tried to wear us down.
Now he knows we’re not only tired after Ginsberg’s death, but after surviving seven months of a global pandemic. He has watched us struggle in a pandemic made especially complex as he downplayed its threat while the virus spread from country, to state, to neighborhoods, to homes, killing families indiscriminately.
Most moms felt bereft as we watched George Floyd cry for his mother while perishing under the knee of a policeman, surrounded by more policemen who weren’t protecting him. And we wept as we heard audio tapes of Kenneth Walker, who called his mother on the phone crying after watching his girlfriend Breonna Taylor gunned down inside her home by police forces. What did Trump do when we peacefully protested violence against our grownup, innocent children? He responded, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Then he rambled about making America great.
We’ve listened, feeling walled-in by lies while teaching kids facts of history, math, English and science, often at home, as some of us held on to jobs. As Covid infection rates climbed, Trump proclaimed that the kids should go back to school, though he didn’t have a cohesive plan for how that would work. Meanwhile, we learned that he would keep his son Barron safely home.
Victimized, we tiptoed around one another, out of the safety of our living spaces, wearing masks, while Trump and his staff gave speeches that declared how great America is these days. They wore mostly no masks, and threw crowded parties in the White House rose garden for us to watch, on our screens.
He took care of himself, not us, and he set terrible examples.
Aside from the events of 2020, we should have known. We’ve listened to Trump talk about, “moving on her like a b***h.” We’ve heard him express that when you’re a star you can, “grab ‘em by the p***y.” And we’ve read about the 25 women who accused him of sexual misconduct (although Trump has denied all their allegations).
To make our situation feel more infuriating, his daughter and wife tried to insert him into our personal motherhood narratives during their speeches at the RNC as, of all things, a savior. A savior for people “like us”.
But We know better. And we know that our reality is objective. We’ve read the book about the wolf in sheep’s clothing and the other one about the wolf in the little red coat. We’ve read these tales aloud again, and again, and again to our children. We know what we should fear in 2020, and that’s four more years of Trump as our president.
We’ve got to leave Trump now, by voting him out of office. And we should honor Ginsburg’s wishes, exactly as she spoke them: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”