Why I'm Not Afraid Of A President Trump

Photo: Eric Gay/AP Photo.
Wendy Davis is the founder of Deeds Not Words and a former Texas state senator. The views expressed here are her own.

As I settled into my Austin apartment with a group of like-minded friends to watch last night's debate, I was watching to see how the candidates would handle questions on national security, the economy, criminal-justice reforms, and more. But having been on the receiving end of unabashed sexism, I was also unconsciously keeping an eye out for mansplaining, too. And there was plenty to watch for in that regard last night.

I watched as Hillary Clinton smiled through Donald Trump’s repeated interruptions — 25 in the first 26 minutes alone, according to Vox. In Trump's interruptions, I saw a favored tactic of bullies. And in Clinton’s smiling response, I saw a familiar survival skill: Here was the smile we women use when faced with the braggadocio of men who believe that what they have to say is so much more important than what we do. But seeing it happen on the presidential debate stage to arguably the most qualified person ever to run for this office triggered a frisson of unease. If sexism were measured on a Richter scale, Trump's comments would have definitely registered.

I watched as Hillary Clinton smiled through Donald Trump’s repeated interruptions — 25 in the first 26 minutes alone.

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My discomfort grew as I watched Trump’s open condescension when he turned to address Clinton with a smug smile. "In all fairness to Secretary Clinton…Is that OK?" he asked her, as if she should be grateful he was using the title she had earned. In acting like he had bestowed it upon her, he not-so-subtly attempted to question the competency through which she had earned it. When she nodded in response, he sneered: "I want you to be very happy; it’s very important to me."

I know a thing or two about men who bully women on the political stage: Three years ago, I stood on the Texas state senate floor for almost 13 hours to filibuster a highly restrictive abortion bill while many of my male colleagues tried every tactic imaginable to sit me back down. To put me back in my place. And, like Clinton, I learned that the best way to manage them is through calm, collected, and continued commitment to our cause. On that day, I was fighting for women’s reproductive freedoms. Last night, I felt like Clinton was fighting for us to be equal participants in the future of America.

Having been on the receiving end of unabashed sexism, I was also unconsciously keeping an eye out for mansplaining, too. And there was plenty to watch for in that regard last night.

I was having less-than-kind fantasies about what I would say to Trump were I there on that stage, but I needn’t have worried, because Clinton did it for me. She did it for herself, and she did it for every woman in America.

Up to that point, Clinton had had many shining moments in the debate. She pressed Trump on his failure to release his tax returns. She held him to account for his “racist birther lie” and a “long record of engaging in racist behavior” that began with a lawsuit for housing discrimination against his father's real estate company. She called him out on his penchant for filing for bankruptcy and stiffing his hard-working contractors. She nailed him on his tendency to play fast and loose with the facts. All the while, Trump gripped his lectern in a sign of clear angst and gulped water from his glass. She stood calm and cool, never once lifting hers to her lips.

But perhaps her finest moment came when moderator Lester Holt questioned Trump about his previous assertion that Clinton lacked a presidential "look." Attempting to sidestep the question, Trump turned to attacking Clinton’s "stamina."

Take heart. There won’t be a President Trump. Not if I and millions of other women in this country have anything to say about it.

Clinton didn't let him have the last word: "As soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a cease-fire, a release of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities in nations around the world, or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina."

She pointed out to the audience that her opponent had "tried to switch from ‘looks’ to ‘stamina.’ But this is a man who has called women pigs, slobs, and dogs." Trump has called pregnancies an “inconvenience to employers,” she added, homing in on his penchant for beauty contests and contestants. She cited his treatment of a contestant whom Trump had called “Miss Piggy,” and also “Miss Housekeeping” because she was Latina (doubly offensive as both a racist and a sexist slur).

Then, with emphasis and emotion, Clinton said: "Donald, she has a name."

“Yes!” I screamed at the television, because Clinton was channeling all of us who have ever been at the receiving end of gender discrimination.

“Her name is Alicia Machado, and she has become a U.S. citizen,” Clinton added, as Trump shot back feebly, “Oh, really?”

“And you can bet,” Clinton continued, now cool as a cucumber, “she’s going to vote this November.”
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"Yes!" I screamed at the television, because Clinton was channeling all of us who have ever been at the receiving end of gender discrimination.

That last line was one of her most powerful of the night, and it won't be forgotten. It's our mantra against the fear that a President Trump, who openly wears his dismissive, sexist attitudes about women on his sleeve, would give permission for others to do the same. Indeed, his candidacy itself has already done that, by bringing into the mainstream once-taboo prejudices about race, gender, sexual identity, and cultural diversity.

But take heart. There won’t be a President Trump. Not if I and millions of other women in this country have anything to say about it.

Because you can bet that we have names, too. We are registered. And we are going to vote this November.


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