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Trump’s Behavior Demands Public’s Contempt

Misogyny, calls for violence show a fetish for brute force

Trump supporters are confident he'll have enough delegates to clinch the nomination outright. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
Trump supporters are confident he'll have enough delegates to clinch the nomination outright. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

The list of women mistreated by Donald Trump is long and growing: Megyn Kelly, Carly Fiorina, Michelle Fields, Heidi Cruz and the women whose mugs were cavalierly splashed across the pages of the National Enquirer as part of a “report” suggesting Sen. Ted Cruz had engaged with them romantically.  

They’ve been targeted for scorn, harassment and, in one case, a physical confrontation serious enough to warrant a battery charge.  

None of them deserve this. While they may not want or need anyone to stand up for them, people of good conscience should all stand with them. If we don’t, Trump will be coming after the rest of us next—targeting us for our gender, our sexual orientation, our skin color, our ancestry, our national origin, our religion, our political ideology or just because he doesn’t like the way we look.  

I’m no longer interested in divining whether he is personally bigoted. If he rises to power on the strength of voters who are, he will certainly cater to them once he has that power. If he wins by mistreating women, he will continue to mistreat them from the Oval Office.  

And Trump’s conduct toward women is but one crystal-clear manifestation of a campaign built on the intimidation of political opponents, particularly those who have little power.  

In some cases, Trump is the primary perpetrator: His Twitter and television harassment of Kelly included a vile reference to her menstrual cycle, he mocked Fiorina’s looks and re-Tweeted an unflattering image of Heidi Cruz.  

It’s not clear who pushed the National Enquirer story, but Trump fanned the flames. These women, one of whom I consider a friend, have been subjected to inhuman treatment in the public square, and the Trump and his thugs bear responsibility for that.  

Trump even used a vulgar term for female anatomy to describe Cruz, a move intended to belittle the senator, because in Trump’s mind women are less than men.  

Cruz must want to punch Trump in the mouth—repeatedly. Few would blame him if he did. Some would cheer. Thankfully—and I can’t believe I’m saying this—Cruz is too decent and respectful of our political process to resort to violence. That’s the refuge of Trump and his thugs, who favor the physical intimidation of political opponents—men and women. Maybe that’s because Trump can’t win a political debate on its merits, but I think he just has a fetish for brute force.  

Trump’s taste for intimidation and misogyny melded in his campaign’s  reaction to Fields, who was a reporter for Breitbart News before she ran smack into the Trump Thugs. First, Trump Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski grabbed her and yanked her away from Trump after an event earlier this month in Florida. When Field complained publicly and circulated a photo of her bruised arm, Lewandowski Tweeted that she was “delusional.”  

It was the opening strike in a concerted campaign by Trump and his team to lie about the incident, gaslight Fields, undermine her with her employer and portray her as crazy — the granddaddy of misogynistic memes.  

Finally, on Tuesday, someone drew a line. It was the police in Jupiter, Fla., who charged Lewandowski with misdemeanor battery. How did Trump react? With an atta-boy for Lewandowski.  

I don’t know whether Lewandowski will be found guilty of the minor crime with which he has been charged. But altercations are becoming a pattern for him. CNN has video of him grabbing a protester at another rally. He’s as much a physical enforcer as he is a political aide, and that seems perfectly in line with the temperament of a boss who encourages supporters to punch protesters and talks about rioting at the national convention if he’s not declared the GOP’s nominee.  

For the first time in my memory, law enforcement has to be more concerned about protecting the public from a candidate than protecting a candidate from the public.  

There was a time when Trump’s loutish behavior—his misogyny, his bigotry and his calls for violence—was beneath the contempt of civilized society. That time has passed. Not only is his behavior worthy of our contempt, it demands our contempt.  

Fortunately, there’s a ballot box for that. And, if he rolls into the Cleveland convention just short of the delegates he needs, there’s a rules committee for it.  

Roll Call columnist Jonathan Allen is co-author of the New York Times-bestselling Clinton biography “HRC,” has covered Congress, the White House and elections over the past 15 years. Follow him at @jonallendc.

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