Trump’s Trophy Wife
Trump is proud of Melania. It helps and it hurts and it helps.
Trump has started a frontal assault on the Clinton marriage. He started with little hints and warnings to Hillary telling her not to accuse him of misogyny. She persisted, and Trump sent out Giuliani to be the attack dog. Then Trump brought it up at the debate by saying he wasn’t going to bring it up.
Now he is flat out making the charge.
“Hillary Clinton was married to the single greatest abuser of women in the history of politics. Hillary was an enabler, and she attacked the women who Bill Clinton mistreated afterward.” Bill Clinton, he said, “brought shame onto the presidency, and Hillary Clinton was there defending him all along.”
Trump carries out this attack with Melania at his side. Trump does not hide Melania: he parades her. She exemplifies his alpha male leadership. She is proof of his strength and vigor. Trump concluded the first debate by attacking Hillary for not having “stamina.”
“She doesn’t have the look. She doesn’t have the stamina. I said she doesn’t have the stamina. I don’t believe she does have the stamina.”
Melania is Trump’s proof: he has stamina and big hands.
And Melania is proof that he wins in marital negotiations. He had prenups. He “traded up” to younger women. And in the competition with Ted Cruz, Trump said he was the winner, in Trump’s tweet contrasting a photo of Melania vs. Heidi Cruz.
Beautiful willing Melania. Heidi, the ugly scold. Which woman would better comfort a powerful man?
I have said that this posturing by Trump is absolutely intentional communication by Trump: primate non verbal dominance displays. Americans would immediately see and understand it if we were watching, as anthropologists who don’t understand the language spoken, some pre-industrial culture’s struggle for tribe leadership. We would see one aspirant for power parading his wealth, his beautiful wife, his big house, and hinting at his big hands. We would see him attempt to sexually humiliate his opponents, calling them weak, little, ugly, and badly married.
One of my readers, a woman in her 60’s reveal’s a woman’s point of view of Trump and this behavior. She says I underestimate the downside of this posturing by Trump:
“Never underestimate the power of the large number of women who can see right through Trump. You are speaking from a man’s point of view. I see and hear woman talking about him. ‘Trading up”’ — which is really ‘trading down.’ All of ‘oldies”’and ‘middles’ and ‘young”’woman do not admire a man who goes out and ‘buys’a new model” to replace last year’s model. Not all of us can be bought and then sold down the river.”
This is the downside for Trump: the opposition of educated women who can better identify with Hillary, the professional woman pioneer. In the Biblical world of King David (or the world of gorillas where the males are twice the size of females) it is a man’s world, and the dominance displays are played out by and for males. Trump’s display wold be an unalloyed success. Trump is doing manly things for men.
But in America women have the vote. They do not identify with Trump; they identify with the vulnerable women. They identify with the divorced wife or with Hillary. Trump isn’t the hero for them. He is the scoundrel.
At least for some of them.
An odd complication is the data that shows that evangelical voters — including evangelical women — are overwhelmingly supporting Trump, not Hillary Clinton. Trump’s actual Christian faith is paper-thin and he is undeniably uninformed and unchurched. His marital history would make him vulnerable to being considered un-godly. What could they see in Trump?
Trump positioned himself as the “Defender of the Faith” in the tribal battle of identity and Hillary has positioned herself as the person open to respecting diversity. She includes Muslims inside the American tapestry. Trump hints at excluding them.
In the battle for votes, evangelical women are indicating that the symbols and markers of the tribe (the primacy of Christianity) are more important than identification with gender. Tribe beats gender.
The data bear this out. Educated and secular white women support Hillary overwhelmingly but less educated and regular churchgoing white women support Trump. Maybe they identify with the woman but male strength is more important.
The Evangelical woman in the adjacent headline wrote: “Women of faith don’t need a saint, but they want someone who will fight for them and their children and defend the honor of the nation.”
She is saying they want a fighter. She says evangelical women are looking for indications of masculine strength and warrior virtues, not Christian ones. This is the value of showing off Melania. She isn’t a symbol of adultery for Trump. She is a symbol of his alpha dominance.
The politics of gender roles are thoroughly tangled in this election. Trump wins white men; Hillary wins white women. But Trump attracts white women who are seeking alpha males and you do that pre-Christian warrior values.
Gorilla females do not attach themselves in a harem to the nicest or most generous male silverback gorilla. They attach themselves to the strongest one. I realize that humans are not gorillas. I understand each species is different and we are a different species. But we are all primates and in the body language of communication and affinity humans respond to certain things. One of these is who looks and feels like a leader who commands respect, fear, and loyalty. Andrea Lafferty — the author of the article — sees something she likes in Donald Trump — something very different from my local reader who told me to consider how the women she knows think of Trump — and that is what I am trying to understand.
The author, a leader in a “pro family” PAC of Catholics, Evangelicals, and Jews, answers Freud’s question on what women really want:
“What do women really want? They want leadership.”