John Kelly Still Has a Job: Why Team Trump Will Never Get Right with Female Voters

“At other moments away from Contemptor, to be honest, the effort of putting my pained – and very female – American perspective out into the world hasn’t always felt worthwhile. I trust my voice and believe that our democracy faces unprecedented peril that requires committed resistance. But as a female writer, sometimes a break from Twitter trolls to come up for air is necessary self-care. One particularly dedicated jeerer, @lightbluecollar, last week blamed me and my work for an 18 month-old case of mother/daughter incest in Oklahoma. I’m no stranger to angry white men on the Internet, but it’s a source of personal exhaustion to engage them with the anger and ignorance on 11 that comes with Making America Great Again.

Anyway, here I am – older, wiser and ready to resume the rhetorical battle for our country, its solvency and soul on this platform. While we’re on the subject of being trolled, let’s talk for a moment about the Trump White House and its continually audacious personal and civic inability to respect women – the interest group that comprises more than half of the American electorate.

The Rob Porter scandal is nearly two weeks old, a veritable eternity for the Trump administration and its ability to generate controversy. Yet the story still occupies front page real estate on The New York Times website. Why? Because of Camp Runamuck’s puzzling, but by now expected impotence in publicly condemning domestic violence, and rooting its practitioners and acolytes out of the West Wing.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

Learning to Listen

America has a hard time listening. We can watch the news and see what’s going on, but there’s a difference between looking and listening, especially when there’s so much noise to filter. Learning to listen requires us to go beyond the words, to hear and appreciate what’s also being communicated in moments of silence.

Over the past week, we’ve seen our listening problems rise to the surface, unfolding via the growing reports of harassment and misconduct by Harvey Weinstein. News coverage prompted numerous celebrities and victims to emerge from the shadows years, or even decades later. What caused the delays? A familiar set of problems – hostile work environments, fear of retaliation, a power imbalance and good old fashioned fear.

Actress Rose McGowan’s Twitter account was suspended after sharing her own abusive experience with Harvey Weinstein. Her initial accusation was shushed out of court for $100,000. The deluge of accusers that have supported McGowan’s account reflects another dark chapter for male accountability in Hollywood. It’s clear that Weinstein’s actions were well-known, and textbook bystander silence was the rule until the accusers generated enough media coverage to make it safe for other powerful men to come out against Weinstein.

Consider this situation in the context of the recent repeal of campus sexual investigation standards promoted by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. The repeal means that the burden of proof shifts even further toward victims, while protecting rapists like Brock Turner.  The result? Offenders are receiving the communication that they can abuse with minimal (if any) repercussions.

In the short and long term, victims are facing ever steeper battles to be heard while waiting for (historically) ineffective campus police/security to take action, under rules which mandate that rape kits and tests be performed within 72 hours of an attack. Additional roadblocks placed in front of people who deserve support.

Remember that the man-child in the Oval Office stands in the company of Weinstein and Turner for his own aggressive and unwelcome behavior towards women. There was outrage a year ago when the infamous Access Hollywood footage came to light, but not enough to derail his campaign. Is that predictive of Weinstein’s fate? Some time in the pop cultural penalty box  before business resumes as usual?

We cannot afford silence any longer. There isn’t space to devalue the traumatizing experiences others. A nation recovering from several natural disasters (with a notable lack of action and coverage in Puerto Rico), a President speaking to hate groups while cancelling necessary healthcare subsidies for lower-income citizens….we need a multitude of loud voices against these atrocities, but we must also learn to listen. The cynically powerful and repressive are muffling voices that should be heard. 

What’s American Anyways?

In the past week, we saw the resurrection and death of another GOP healthcare bill, as well as massive failures across the board for the Trump administration in terms of focus and constructive action.

One obvious example of the discord is yet another social media war launched by the President, with tweets railing against the NFL. The rising political consciousness of athletes has been  assailed since former quarterback Colin Kaepernick  began a peaceful on-field protest a year ago. Some of the loftier discussions involve definitions of what constitutes patriotism. The Trumpbots advocate blind allegiance to tradition, with minimal consideration of different sociopolitical experiences of our country. Others view Kapernick’s kneeling as an expression of First Amendment rights designed to advocate change.

What does it mean to be American? The saying goes that actions speak louder than words, and the public and the office of President have been tested to back up their patriotism – with trial by fire, rain and torrential winds. Hurricanes, earthquakes and other disasters have recently devastated states, territories, and communities.

Trump and his America have failed to be inclusive in their support of crisis operations. In the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Texas is slowly on the path to recovery and the Florida Keys are opening up next week for tourism, despite 25 percent of homes being destroyed. News of progress has been muted, eclipsed by other trending topics, including the devastation of non-mainland American territories.

Texas and Florida have electricity and supplies. Puerto Rico does not. It took nearly a whole week for public outcry to turn into a collective roar, demanding that Donald Trump and his administration take action, rather than ignore the increased degradation of daily life for Puerto Ricans.

I’m sure your social media, news feeds and offline conversations have been filled with both NFL news and hurricane updates. But we need more media clarity regarding exactly who is being most negatively affected by the indifference: those whose skin tone is not found on the same color swatch as Mr. Trump (although in fairness, there aren’t many orange people).

It’s no secret that America has a race and “othering” problem. This administration is attacking sexual assault victims, non-christian religions, and pre-emptively filing waivers for the Jones Act in areas that support Trump and house his default residence.  Meanwhile, leadership held off on filing for a ravaged area full of brown people.

It’s time to hold authorities responsible and accountable for their lethal biases. People are dying from inaction and insufficient support. To be American isn’t a complexion, blind obedience to a ritual or speaking Midwestern English. Americanism used to mean welcoming and protecting freedoms, taking care of our citizens in times of crisis. It’s a shame that the occupant of the nation’s highest office needs constant reminders.

Polar Vortextual Mood Swings (January 31, 2014)

“Yesterday, I stood outside waiting for the Chicago Avenue bus. I saw one approaching and my heart leapt. Then the bastard drove right by us, resulting in another 30 minutes of trying to withstand the wind. I just started crying. I am so sick of being cold.”

-Conversational anecdote from personal trainer friend

“Oh my God. More snow. I want to die. Can’t take anymore. Stabby stab.”

-Text message from a buddy who thought this might make for a catchy, if lengthy, Twitter hashtag

“Sometimes I just sit at my post at the reception desk and wistfully stare out the window, trying to summon memories of less dark and miserable days. Lately I am just pretending to be a nice person. So much hate in my heart.”

-Forlorn colleague

“Hey Mother Nature and God… this is a memo to you. WE ARE GOING TO GET ON THAT PLANE TOMORROW MORNING to get to New Orleans for our cruise. I don’t care WHAT you say. We deserve a vacation after the crap you’ve thrown our way these last few weeks. 8″ of snow on Friday night before our trip starts? REALLY? NO. I’m telling you RIGHT NOW. WE WILL GET ON THAT PLANE TOMORROW MORNING. #PolarVortexCanSuckIt”

-Agitated Facebook rant courtesy of my best friend’s partner

“Dear Alaska and Chicago, Illinois:

We need to immediately work out a weather exchange here. Anchorage, Alaska, Colorado wants its weather back. I am going to arrange for Chicago to send you yours. And I’m going to send this s**t to Chicago. Chicago should be fine with that, since the 22° we had today is much warmer than what they had.

Every time I have to break out my ‘Chicago clothes’ a baby kitten cries. True Story.”

-Native Chicagoan who relocated to Colorado several years ago

“Winter 2014 sucks more than anything that has ever sucked before.”

-A poetic Becky Sarwate, channeling “Beavis & Butthead”

These are quotes sampled from a smattering of hardened Midwestern weather survivors. It felt appropriate to publish this roundup on this, the last day of January 2014. A punishing 31 days indeed, the month will forever be remembered as usurper of April as the cruelest. If T.S. Eliot was still alive and forced to wear two pairs of pants every day just to survive the commute to work, I am certain he’d agree.

In aggregating the misery of my acquaintance, I accomplish two goals. The first is to feel slightly less isolated throughout my own increasingly despondent winter experience. The second is to answer critics who have diagnosed Windy City residents with an acute case of Cry Babyitis. We should be used to this, the thinking goes. What more do we expect from January adjacent to one of the Great Lakes?

Perhaps just a small, teeny tiny respite from the cycle of white out blizzard conditions followed by Arctic deep freeze. In years past, winter could be counted upon to furnish the occasional 30 or 40-degree day which made daily life navigable, even if the sun remained stubbornly hidden. This is expected and infinitely preferable to the trick of blazing sunshine that requires industrial strength shades, a cruel irony contradicting the soul deadening chore of trudging through multiple feet of snow-turned-block ice.

But I believe the current variable that is really dragging down morale is the calendar. Tomorrow is just February 1. We have so much farther to go before there’s any real hope of hospitable climate change. Let us not forget that we received nearly an inch of snowfall in mid-April 2013. With a number of meteorologists predicting “Polar Vortex: Part 3” during the early days of February, it’s not a stretch to wonder if a hat trick of tragic weather (predictably on the heels of what’s expected to be another 10” of accumulated snow through the weekend) might not just be enough to turn us all into Jack Nicholson from The Shining.

Romney’s Latest Scandal: Twittergate? (July 24, 2012)

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During the 2008 Presidential race, then-candidate Obama showed his competitors how to leverage the Internet and a variety of social media platforms to reinvigorate the notion of a grassroots campaign for the 21st Century. It was largely upon the shoulders of individuals who reposted and retweeted his messages that the POTUS was carried to victory – by small donors who contributed their last $100, those who believed that the nation could ill-afford another four years of Republican top-down cynicism disguised as patriotism, morally and fiscally bankrupting the nation. Don’t like continued tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy during a time of war? Then the terrorists win!

It is a savvy marketing template that ensuing candidates from both parties have sought to emulate, with varying levels of success. Former Maverick John McCain captured the public imagination however momentarily with his selection of social media darling Sarah Palin as his running mate, unfortunately learning the hard way that stupidity is no more appealing in the digital age, but we can never take that moment of cultural zeitgeist away from the Republican ticket. All credit goes to the Obama team for forcing all walks of political dinosaur into accepting new media as part of the deal. It does not matter if one appreciates the value of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and the like. They are modern campaign tools that one must utilize in order to compete. We can never turn back the clock.

And as social media strategy becomes synonymous with campaign activity, reports of potential misuse become a common feature of the news cycle. For example, this morning Yahoo News ran a story via Mashable: “Mitt Romney Sees Sudden Unexplained Spike in Twitter Followers.” At first glance this appears to be an unlikely tale of crashing bore Romney enjoying unexpected appeal in the Twitterverse. Could it be that dull messaging is somehow inverted when permitted only 140 characters?

Ah but no. To delve deeper into writer Alex Fitzpatrick’s story is to uncover a common feature of new Republicanism: if you can’t engender love the old-fashioned way through sound policy and dynamic personality, just go out and buy it. After Romney’s Twitter feed gained a plethora of new followers over the weekend – 23,926 on Friday, 93,054 on Saturday and 25,432 on Sunday – Zach Green of 140elect.com, a blog which monitors Twitter trends relative to the presidential election, couldn’t help but notice per the Mashable piece that, “analysis indicates that Romney hasn’t seen a noticeable uptick in other metrics, such as mentions, which would suggest Romney was getting these followers organically.”

In other words, there are no more people interacting with he of the slick hair on Twitter than before. Well then, what’s the dilly yo? Do we really believe that nearly 150,000 individuals suddenly couldn’t resist the bon mots of the Romneybot on a weekend when campaign activity was suspended? Sometimes the easiest answer is the right one. For whatever reason, the campaign bought the followers, in a wrongheaded, simplistic attempt to make Mittens appear beloved. As the Mashable piece highlights:

“Zac Moffatt, the Romney campaign’s digital director, has denied buying Twitter followers. Moffatt has in the past stressed that his strategy revolves around targeted engagement and not simply accumulating massive numbers of new followers. Buying fake followers doesn’t mesh well with that approach (plus, follower totals mean very little for politicians if real voters aren’t interacting with the message being sent).”

So the Romney campaign has flip-flopped on a previously stated position? The hell you say! Now granted this is not the type of scandal for which a Congressional investigation must be called. It is merely another example of how very out of touch Team Romney is with reality. Did they think no one would notice this latest shell game? Hide your tax returns! Change your tune on health care reform! Buy some Twitter followers! But all the money in the world can’t make you a real, relatable homo sapiens Mittens. The human touch can’t be purchased.