Marjorie Dannenfelser is the president of the pro-life organization, the Susan B. Anthony List. She was interviewed this morning by reporter Steve Innskeep on NPR's Morning Edition.
She strongly objected to Trump’s words about assaulting women on the tape that was released last week.
“What we just heard . . . is absolutely outrageous and unacceptable. It is not to be set aside. The assault and offense of women. You know for any woman who has ever been assaulted, this is a trigger moment for them. It brings back a flood of memories that are horrible and that’s no excuse. ”
But then she goes on.
“For any woman who has been assaulted and then ignored, or blamed, they should be upset by Hillary Clinton’s behavior and her treatment of the women that in a serial fashion, went through her husband’s life. She then blamed and destroyed, ridiculed, ignored. When you think about the women on college campuses today who often are having that happen to them, that’s a trigger moment for them.”
Steve Innskeep interjects to say that fact checkers only have evidence that Clinton did publicly attack Jennifer Flowers, but they found no evidence that she had attacked other women who’d had relations with her husband.
Let’s get this straight.
Clinton, a married woman, ‘attacking’ a woman who had an affair with her husband, IS NOT anywhere near a moral equivalent to Trump’s bragging about using his celebrity and power to get away with sexual assaults on non-consenting women.
These are totally different behaviors, with totally different motivations and consequences.
In fact Dannenfelser’s wording - in both cases she talks uses almost the exact same phrasing - raises questions for me about who helped her script this interview.
About Trump: “for any woman who has ever been assaulted, this is a trigger moment for them.”
About Clinton: “For any woman who has been assaulted and then ignored, or blamed . . . When you think about the women on college campuses today who often are having that happen to them, that’s a trigger moment for them.”
That grammatical symmetry is not accidental. These comments were scripted to make them sound like the moral equivalent of each other.
It also helps her rationalize that despite Trump’s behavior - and we have to remember it’s not just this tape but his behavior throughout the campaign and his business career that is being challenged daily - her single issue of ending abortion is important enough to overlook everything else in Trump’s record.
I'd note that our polarized culture - and the media have assisted in exacerbating people's ideological differences - makes it hard for people like Dannenfelser to consider the possibility that working with her 'enemy' might actually help reduce the number of abortions. Planned Parenthood - the icon the anti-abortionists use as the enemy - counsels women on birth control and does a significant job in preventing unwanted pregnancies.
I'd argue that Trump as a candidate has been a role model for increasing the number of, in Dannenfelser's words, "outrageous and unacceptable" behaviors among his followers that will lead to unwanted pregnancies. And as president, Trump's model would probably cause the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions to go up.
Life is complicated. The simple cause and effect relationships that people glom onto, tend to be far more complex. Think about the Three Strikes You're Out legislation that was supposed to cut down on crime, but instead swelled the US prison population, hugely increasing the costs, and ruining the lives of countless people who were no danger to anyone.
The anti-abortion movement has the same perverse consequences. They throttle the most effective anti-abortion organization because 3% of its work involves abortions. And they send the most reactionary, bigoted men to Congress, simply because they say they oppose abortions.
But that is exactly what the larger script writers intended. To get those who think in simple cause-effect relations into voting Republican. Talk about trigger words - the conservative movement has been masterful in creating sound bites to get people angry and voting.
Of course, it plays well with Trump’s hardcore supporters, many of whom, I’m guessing, were not offended by the tape. Clinton’s supporters dismiss it as soon as they hear who Dannenfelser is, perhaps even without even listening to and parsing it out.
And I doubt such arguments work any more with independent voters.