With Senator Cory Booker‘s announcement today that he plans to run for president, the 2020 Democratic primary field is quickly growing into one of the largest in recent memory. Sure, that may mean that the early debates are bound to be an absolute mess (as so many memes are already pointing out), but it is also means that the presidential field is already far more diverse than anything either political party has seen before. Of the eight major (and we’re using that term loosely right now) candidates who have announced or formed exploratory committees, half of them are women. Indeed, Booker is the male candidate with the widest national profile to announce so far, especially considering he’s the only man in the field who currently holds elected office in the capitol.
The field is sure to only grow from here, but there’s certainly historical significance to so many viable female candidates running from the same party at the same time, to the point they dominate the early makings of the field.
Of course, leave it to the Trump White House to somehow attempt to weaponize that significance in bad faith already.
Presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway made the television-news circuit this morning (or at least the circuit of programs that will still book her), seeming absolutely obsessed with Booker’s newly born candidacy, and was already testing out potential talking points. Among the weirdest: that it’s somehow sexist for Booker to even run.
“I would ask him a couple questions today as he runs from my native New Jersey,” Conway told Trump’s favorite program, Fox & Friends, this morning. “One is, ‘What is wrong with the candidates that are already in there?’”
“What is your objection to Kamala Harris running, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, these others who have already announced, Tulsi Gabbard maybe? If he were a Republican running against them, they immediately would call him a sexist for running against these women in the Democratic field.”
Conway may be the first woman in history to serve as campaign manager for a winning presidential effort, but it was also the winning presidential effort of a man who somehow survived the leak of a tape in which he boasted about sexually assaulting women because he was a celebrity.
So Conway’s definition of “sexism” may be just a little bit off. Back in reality, while there are many reasons to charge Donald Trump with sexist behavior, the fact that he ran against Carly Fiorina in a primary is certainly not one of them. To suggest that a man running for president is sexist is to make a mockery of the idea of sexism in the first place.
Of course, no one seems to be taking Conway’s alternative viewpoints seriously. The point is laughable, but it might reveal just a little bit about how the Trump administration hopes to survive past 2020.
It’s no secret that the Republican Party’s base is far more homogenous than that of the Democratic Party’s, which gives the Republicans a distinct political advantage even as Democrats have the support of more Americans overall. (Not only did Hillary Clinton win the popular vote, but according to 2016 data, 48 percent of Americans are registered as or lean Democrat, compared with 44 percent who are or lean Republican.) Republicans can tailor their message precisely to white voters in rural and suburban areas and succeed, while Democrats are left trying to appeal to all the different corners of their party.
It’s no wonder, then, that even amid his historic unpopularity, Donald Trump and the White House are still obsessed with keeping the base happy. The other side of that plan will assuredly be attempts to try to divide the Democratic base as much as possible.
As sloppy as Conway’s remarks were, accusing a black man who is running for president of hypothetical sexism is almost certainly just a taste of what’s to come from not only the Trump White House, but the MAGA base and assorted trolls (Russian and otherwise) in general. They’ll try to weaponize identity politics and create bitter confusion at every turn. Of course, the fact that none of these people seem to even have a baseline understanding about what actual sexism and racism are seems to be their biggest obstacle.