Sexual politics and Trumpgate

The balance of power has shifted and Trump is going. Sexual politics has been central to this, Nancy Lindisfarne and Jonathan Neale write. The turning point, the hinge of history, is Michael Cohen’s guilty plea over payments by him and Trump to two sex workers. That is not a sideshow.

When Trump was elected, the left, the feminists, the anti-racists, the liberals, the Democrats were in despair. Then came the women’s march on 21 January 2017, the day after Trump’s inauguration.

Everyone, on all sides, was astonished it was so big. Two things made it big: Trump’s anti-abortion politics and that the president was a pussy grabber (his words). They made it big because a third of Americans have had an abortion, the great majority of Americans love someone who has had an abortion, and every woman has been insulted or groped by a pussy grabber.

Before the march, many Democrats were inclined to follow Obama’s advice and try to work with Trump and influence him over the next year. The march stiffened them. Then, almost immediately, the occupations of the airports to defend Muslim immigrants made the politicians braver. And #metoo has meant a crucial shift in power at work. Pussy grabbers, rapists and abusers are losing their jobs.

Since then we have seen tens of thousands of protests. Between twelve and fifteen million people have protested, many of them several times. In April 2018 alone there were more than 6,000 protests and actions by more than three million people. (See the fascinating website of the Crowd Counting Consortium.)

Striking teachers, mostly women, have fought as workers and for children’s schools. Children who survived murder enabled by the National Rifle Association became heroes as at least a hundred thousand teenagers poured out the gates, led nationally by a lesbian Hispanic student. In more than 300 towns and cities people protested the separation of migrant families on the Mexican border. These are all gender issues. All involve mass, locally organized resistance.

There are deep splits at the top of society too. A broad coalition of the Democratic party, Liberal and African-American politicians, the Pentagon, the CIA, the FBI, and American business interests overseas are bitterly opposed to Trump. But another part of the ruling class see Trump’s racism as the only way they can recruit popular support to pro-business policies.

These factions at the top are at each other’s throats. The combination of elite opposition and mass resistance is bringing Trump down. These are very different social forces, with different agendas and loyalties, and this produces a great deal of spin and confusion.

But notice that Trump’s weakest point is that the mass movement of women gave a sex worker, Stormy Daniels, the courage to stand up to threats to her child from two sexist bullies, Cohen and Trump. It is entirely fitting that the rage of a wronged sex worker should help bring these men down.

Notice too how sexual politics and women’s resistance intertwine with every kind of resistance. Trump is part of a global right wing movement to change politics. Their strategy is to use racism, hatred of Muslims and hatred of migrants to win over enough despairing and angry working class people to racism and to the politics of the rich. Putin is their leading figure, but they include Modi in India, Duterte in Philippines, Brexit in Britain, Orban in Hungary, Netenyahu in Israel, Assad in Syria, La Liga in Italy and many more. They are making real the possibility of a new world of racist horror.

But Trump is proving the weak link in that global movement of racism. He is the weak link in the global alliance of carbon power between Trump and Putin that threatens us all. And he is the weak link in the neoliberal project of the rich around the world.

This weakness was first exposed by the women’s march. The mass movements that followed made it clear that gender issues are race issues, are climate issues, are class issues. Each issue, each movement, resonates with the others, because they all remind us, intimately and personally, how we want to protect each other and the people we love.


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