The story of Donald Trump’s misogyny is so old that if it were a person, Donald Trump probably would not date it. The gospel of Trump—that money leads to power leads to women—is the most consistent thing in a career characterized by dramatic fluctuations in both wealth and ideology, and it’s a feature of his presidential campaign, not a bug.
In recent weeks, the Republican presidential nominee’s long tradition of sexism has been particularly noisy, and so ubiquitously covered by an aghast press that it’s easy to recite. Trump interrupted Hillary Clinton 51 times during the first presidential debate in late September, at one point to yell about Rosie O’Donnell. He spent the following days attacking former Miss Universe Alicia Machado’s weight, including a 3 a.m. tweetstorm wherein he advised his millions of followers to check out her (non-existent, actually) sex tape. He gestures goonishly at his wife Melania onstage, as though she were a top-shelf prize he won playing a carnival game. He talks about his daughter as though she were a sexual Fabergé egg. And recently, cast and crew members from The Apprentice, the show responsible for foisting a semi-likable Trump on American TV audiences, have complained that the Professional Success Guy was an exceptional creep on set.
Among polite society, this behavior is piggish. Among Trump’s base, it’s aspirational.
Randal Pinkett, winner of Season 4 of The Apprentice and former employee of the Trump Organization, says there’s likely a reason for Trump’s enduring sexism. “Donald surrounds himself with people who don’t challenge him,” he told The Daily Beast. “He weeds out people who want to challenge Donald or who want to be critical of Donald.” A person who would bristle at Donald’s habit of asking male contestants if they found a woman attractive or if they’d sleep with a particular woman on set, for example, would likely be eliminated.
The pundit class has met every new or resurfaced sexist Trump incident with concerned tsk-tsk-ing. If Trump wants to win the election, the talking heads argue, he must try to be a little less piggish. But according to Pinkett, belief that he is superior to others is knit into the DNA of Trump’s personality. “Donald is born out of a privileged male experience,” he says. “Donald, as a function of his experience and his mindset, believes that men and women aren’t completely equal. ‘As a privileged male, I’m smarter, I’m more powerful, I’m more influential.’”
Donald Trump has made billions and gotten to within a statistical hair of becoming president of the United States by selling himself to people as the ideal pickup artist—boorish, unpolished, and pushy, but ultimately able to use alpha male behavior to win and eventually claim his woman-shaped reward. Why would he change his approach now? At this point in the campaign, it seems as though he believes it has and will help him win.
Sure, Trump’s chances look slim at this point; he’s the less-liked of the two least-liked candidates in the history of presidential politics. The polls say Donald’s in trouble. Since his bizarre debate performance and subsequent public unraveling, his rival Hillary Clinton has enjoyed a several-point swing in her favor in nationwide polls. She’s enjoying nearly across-the-board support from non-white voters, and more support from white women with college degrees than Obama did in 2012.
Donald Trump doesn’t have many demographic allies left, but there’s one group that still loves him: white guys without college degrees. They’re bananas for him. According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted post-debate, white guys are the force keeping Trump’s campaign from collapsing into flaccidity. Being as Donald as possible in the final weeks before the election is a Hail Mary pass designed to get his most ardent fans to the polls.
If Trump is to have any shot on Election Day, he’s got to get white guys without college degrees to show up by keeping them motivated, and he keeps them motivated by keeping them angry over the slights responsible for their condition. The appeal of The Donald is that he’s Just Like Them. He’s so Just Like Them that if it wasn’t for the elites and the blacks and the Mexicans and the over-prepared, Hillary-esque women challenging the rightful order of things, they would occupy their own Trump-like throne in a gilded penthouse. Alpha male boorishness should work for them the way it worked for Donald. They should have it; they deserve it; the world has robbed them. They’re angry that they didn’t live a Trumpy life of romancing and discarding socialites and models, angry that their final prize for simply existing in a world that respected them in the way they deserve wasn’t their very own Melania. That they are, statistically, losers is not their fault; it’s the world’s fault.
Donald Trump is their alternate-reality success avatar. He’s just like them. And look at him! Living the good life!
Trump firing off a bunch of unhinged 3 a.m. tweets to a beauty queen who gained weight is exactly what they would do. Trump bringing up Rosie O’Donnell during a presidential debate is exactly what they would do. Of course they’d brag about their hot daughter, if they had a daughter as hot as Ivanka. If they had their own show like The Apprentice, of course they’d use their status as boss to treat women like garbage. Yes, an Eastern European former model wife is a thing they believe they can win. If they were invited to the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, of course they’d feel they had license to comment on a Swedish model’s breasts and legs until she cried.
This is how Trump’s most devoted supporters believe they should be allowed to behave, and every new incident is a reminder of what PC culture, spearheaded by people just like Hillary Clinton, has stolen from them. Make Pickup Artistry Work Again.
Donald Trump needs his core supporters to believe that he will restore the world to its rightful order, where they can treat women (and everybody else) like shrews to be crushed or trophies to be displayed. Trump’s recent behavior suggests that he believes there are enough people who want to live like him to push him to victory on Nov. 8. At the very least, behaving like he’s teaching a workshop on pickup artistry is getting him what he’s always needed: attention. “Donald respects publicity,” says his former Apprentice winner Randal Pinkett.
Get ready for more tweetstorms.