Nearly two weeks to the day Donald Trump announced that he had contracted a case of coronavirus, he participated in a town hall with Savannah Guthrie in Miami. The event was a hasty solution to a problem Trump himself created, having withdrawn from the second scheduled presidential debate due to his refusal to participate in that activity if it wasn’t going to be in person. His opponent, Joe Biden, did his own town hall Thursday night, which aired on ABC. Not to be outdone, Trump sat down with Guthrie on NBC, going head to head with Biden, making for a chaotic hour of television that neatly highlighted the incumbent’s incompetency.
During the town hall, the president perched on the edge of a stool as if he’d never sat on one before, and faced a battery of relentless questioning from Guthrie, who handled the president with an air of exasperation. As Biden droned answers about policy in a way that was comforting in how boring it was, Trump spewed the same rhetoric he’s been spewing for the past four years—racism and misogyny but with bluster, like a used car salesman trying to sell xenophobia. This tone, which has been Trump’s default since he started campaigning for the presidency in 2016, was just as noxious as it has been for the past four years. But now, all of a sudden, women who previously voted for Trump are taking issue, as if they’ve spent the past four years with their fingers planted firmly in their ears, happy to ignore what their president has been saying until now.
Writing for the New York Times, Michelle Goldberg notes that the very same women that voted Trump into the White House four years ago are now feeling some reservations about doing so now. From the Times:
A well-spoken woman with grown children from central Pennsylvania appeared to have mentally rewritten the history of the last election to justify her vote. She’d opted for Trump, she said, thinking that it would be “refreshing” to have a president with a business background. In her recollection, it was only after he won that he revealed his true character.
“His Twitter, his comments, things that he was recorded saying, his misogyny — I was just, like, horrified and embarrassed,” she said. Looking back, she didn’t think she knew about the “Access Hollywood” tape before she voted: “I certainly hope that I didn’t, because it was a disgusting comment. I would think that had I known that might have given me pause.”
Goldberg is quick to note that the Access Hollywood tapes were basically inescapable in October 2016, but despite this unnamed woman’s revisionist history, the fact remains that Trump’s “tone” is what women are taking issue with now. In Michigan, a 38-year-old ballet studio owner living in a wealthy, conservative suburb of Detroit told Politico, “He’s just so angry all the time. I really believe that he brings out the worst in people, the worst in situations.” It seems that Trump’s anger—his bombast, his spittle-flecked invective—is just as much a part of the message as the actual content of his speeches and tweets. But this anger is, apparently, only resonating with these voters now, even though it has been a part of the narrative for the past four years.
Trump’s default tone is that of a man on the offense, constantly backing away from a messy situation of his own creation with his hands in the air, ready to scream at you before you scream at him. This is what a child does, but it is also the behavior of a man so content to sit in his own narcissism, fed by praise from lackeys who understand that his tone, as abrasive and as jarring as it might be, resonates with his base, who are not the women he needs in order to win. When Trump barks into a microphone, refusing to denounce white supremacy, or rallies his base by telling the Proud Boys to “stand down and stand by,” his tone doesn’t change. But maybe it’s the repetition that has finally changed these women’s minds: Four years of constantly hearing a man yell and scream while the country he was elected to serve crumbles in the face of his own inadequacies will break anyone down, eventually.