Yet another brilliant column by the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank yesterday, “Standing Up to Election Bullying,” applies the lessons of an anti-bullying website, StopBullying.gov, run by the Department of Health and Human Services, to Donald Trump.
Proposing to substitute the name of Trump to all the site’s references to perpetrators of bullying, he shows how Trump fits the definition to a tee (with his use of threats, rumors, verbal attacks, exclusion and especially name calling, as in ‘stupid,” “fool,” “loser,” “clown”), and also how all his GOP presidential hopeful opponents, as well as the media and the public, have failed so far to respond appropriately.
Milbank writes, “StopBullying.gov helps us to understand why the initial strategy of Jeb Bush and others to ignore Trump’s taunts was a failure: ‘Not saying anything could make it worse for everyone. The candidate who is bullying will think it is OK to keep treating others that way.’”
He also cites cases of “enabling” (Cruz, Fox News’ Roger Ailes and the GOP’s chairman Reince Priebus) and describes the website’s recommendations for dealing with a bully. Because “‘those who bully are encouraged by the attention that they receive from bystanders,’ those who witness bullying can ‘blatantly state that they don’t think bullying is entertaining or funny.’”
Another column yesterday by Olivia Nuzzi of The Daily Beast cites anti-bullying experts who assign a somewhat more specific label on Trump’s behavior. He’s like, in their view “an eighth grade girl!”
Expert Rosalind Wiseman, Nuzzi reports, “knows a child bully when she sees one, having written a series of books on the topic, most famously Queen Bees and Wannabees, about middle-school girls’ viciousness and upon which the movie “Mean Girls” is based. Nuzzi adds, “But Wiseman wasn’t talking to me about some unruly kid who threw rocks at a mathlete or called his frenemy names in a Burn Book. She was talking about a 69-year-old man from Queens who is seeking the Republican nomination for president of the United States. She was talking, of course, about Donald Trump.”
Nuzzi quotes Wiseman again saying, “He’s absolutely operating as an intelligent, manipulative bully who truly does not care about the consequences of his actions. He delights in his own ability to manipulate and to show that nobody can stop him.”
“Wiseman told me that usually, with the eighth-grade girls, there is a moment of reckoning that gets them to reform their behavior. But Trump, due to his wealth and privilege, has never had such a moment, because there have rarely been consequences for the things he says and does. ‘For Trump, all of this is working too well.’”
Advice for other candidates? “The way to beat him for good,” Nuzzi quotes another expert Naomi Drew, “is to counter Trump’s insults with substantive talk over trash talk.” But I disagree with that. It’s not enough.
A deeper concern goes to why so many in our present American culture can’t see through this bullying charade and aren’t repulsed by it.
The disgusting pattern of insults against women and minorities, in particular, are scoffed at admiringly by too many impotent males and slavish females, way more than one or two decades ago, and certainly than in the 1960s, when the nation was beginning to shape up to stand against the injustices associated with sexism and racism.
The disrespect and disdain Trump propounds against women is way beyond the pale. It is not funny or clever, it has no place in front of a live microphone.
It empowers brutes at all levels of our overstressed society to emulate his words and apply it to their actions, which may become violent and deadly when use of such insults fuels seething rage.
You can’t ignore the way that Trump is defecating on our national political discourse. It has to be met with mature and forceful measures to reign him in.
An aggressive campaign to elevate the proper role of women in our culture needs to be re-energized. How better to frustrate all the sexism that Trump embodies than to elect a woman the next president of the U.S.!