A Cure for Political Despair.Join the women trying to save America from Trump.

This week, a friend texted me, "I feel a panic that won't stop." I didn't have to ask what she meant; we are, after all, less than three weeks from the midterms. "#MeToo," I replied.

Many women I know — though, of course, not only women — are walking around with a churning knot of terror in their stomachs. The confirmation of the cruel former frat boy Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court brought back the anguish and degradation so many of us felt after the 2016 election. Donald Trump grows more thuggish and mendacious by the day; "gaslighting," a term taken from a play about an abusive husband trying to drive his wife insane, has become a byword of our national life.

Republicans are increasingly explicit about campaigning to preserve male power. Criticizing the #MeToo movement early this month, Trump said it's "a very scary time for young men in America." Republican congressman Andy Barr of Kentucky ran a commercial attacking his opponent, former Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath, for describing herself as a feminist. The Washington Post wrote about how an "outbreak of male resentment" is poised to play a "defining role" in the midterms.

Chances are that running as the party of aggrieved men won't work for Republicans — the statistics website FiveThirtyEight gives Democrats aroughly five-in-six chance of at least taking the House. But those are Russian roulette odds. It is unlikely that Republicans will keep total control of Congress, allowing an increasingly authoritarian Trump to consolidate his power. It is very far from impossible, though.

There is, I find, only one thing that soothes my galloping anxiety, and that is talking to women who are actually doing the work of campaigning. The people who are knocking on doors and organizing rallies tend to be much more cheerful and confident than those who spend too much time on Twitter obsessing over each new poll.

"One of the things I was a little worried about was maybe enthusiasm would wane, maybe people would get numb," Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan's Democratic nominee for governor, told me of the huge outpouring of women's activism that followed Trump's election. "I haven't seen that at all. For 22 months, it's been solid or growing."

The Michigan governor's race, which Whitmer is heavily favored to win, is obviously about much more than gender. One of the things Whitmer is best known for is her promise to "fix the damn roads," and she's made the water crisis in Flint a centerpiece of her campaign. Still, if you want to see how the gender chasm has become a defining feature of our politics, and how women incensed by Trump might transform America on Nov. 6, Michigan is a good place to look.

This year, Democrats in Michigan — which Trump won — are running women for every statewide office: governor, senator, attorney general and secretary of state. A poll last month shows that Michigan women favor Democrats by over 20 percentage points. Campaigning for the Democratic nomination for attorney general, Dana Nessel ran an ad asking, "Who can you trust most not to show you their penis in a professional setting?"

Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan's Democratic gubernatorial nominee, hugging a campaign volunteer. Democrats in Michigan are running women for every statewide office.Credit Libby March for The New York Times

Whitmer doesn't lean in to gender to quite this degree. But she first came to national prominence in 2013 when, as the State Senate minority leader, she gave a wrenching speech imploring her colleagues to reject a bill that would force women to buy special insurance riders if they wanted coverage for abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, things no one plans for. Setting aside her prepared remarks, she revealed that she'd been raped in college. "It's something I've hidden for a long time, but I think you need to see the face of the women that you are impacting by this vote today," she said.

Baring her soul didn't work; the bill passed. In this, she prefigured Christine Blasey Ford, who blew up her life to testify that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school, only to see him confirmed anyway. Whitmer described how "depressing and demoralizing" it was to watch Blasey come forward and subject herself to the world's hostile scrutiny, "and then it not making a difference."

But the demoralization didn't last. On the Sunday after Kavanaugh was confirmed, Whitmer held a packed rally with New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in Birmingham, Mich. "It felt just like I was back at the Women's March," she said. The previous day had been terrible for a lot of women, "but they were showing up, and seeing one another, and saying we've got work to do."

I showed Whitmer my friend's text and asked her if she was really confident that Democrats would make the midterms a turning point. "I am," she said. "I see it every day. I talk to people every day."

Now, part of the job of a good politician is projecting optimism. But again and again over the horrible months of Trump's reign, I've found that spending time with the women who are working their hearts out against him is at least a temporary cure for despair. So if you, too, are scared, or furious, or despondent, find a Democrat close to you and go canvass for her (or him). "It's the best way to feel good about the world and connect with people," Whitmer said.

In his recent book "How Fascism Works," the Yale professor Jason Stanley wrote that patriarchy is "strategically central" to fascist politics, which always seek to cement racial and gender hierarchies. "When women attain positions of political power usually reserved for men — or when Muslims, blacks, Jews, homosexuals, or 'cosmopolitans' profit or even share the public goods of a democracy, such as health care — that is perceived as corruption," he wrote. That sentence encapsulates how Trump, the most corrupt president in American history, sells himself as corruption's opponent.

But it also shows why many women sense an existential threat from Trump that goes far beyond his personal boorishness. A great many American women seem to understand intuitively that Trump's threat to liberal democracy and his threat to gender equality are intertwined. Soon, a majority of women could rise up, repudiate him and at long last create a check on his power. Women — though, of course, not only women — could save this country and themselves. Longing for this to happen, and not being assured it will, is almost physically painful. The only way to feel better is to do something to help.

Michelle Goldberg. NY Times, October 19, 2018


October 20, 2018

Post Script.The Michelle Goldberg op-ed above is a must read - a great article with a message: So if you, too, are scared, or furious, or despondent, find a Democrat close to you and go canvass for her (or him). We can win this and stop Trump and the GOP. It is up to us. #VoteDems #BetheBlueWave #StopTrump ShareThis to help!

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