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Opinion | Please Let It Not Be a Woman

Whoever Donald Trump chooses as his running mate, please let it not be a woman.

Perhaps you think it’s beside the point to worry over this.

But before writing off the vice presidency as a distraction, remember, three years ago, his vice president stood between democracy and autocracy, after he noticed at the very last minute there was a Constitution standing in the way of Trump overturning the 2020 election.

There’s also the very real prospect that should a 78-year-old Trump be re-elected, he may not complete his term.

And there’s the reality that the pageant has already begun.

“It’s very clear he’s holding these open auditions like it’s ‘The Apprentice,’” Kurt Bardella, a Democratic strategist, said of Trump to The Guardian. “He will flirt with everyone. He will make them dance. They will all debase themselves and humiliate themselves and jockey for that spot.”

Those already in the lineup include Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, who quickly forfeited his nonstarter of a campaign and followed Trump to New Hampshire. But most of the other top contenders are women.

If you’re about to say, “Well, at least it might be a woman,” my response is, it better not be.

The most obvious problem is the particular women in question. There’s Representative Elise Stefanik of upstate New York (“She’s a killer,” Trump has remarked), who also accompanied Trump to New Hampshire. She was notably one of the first Republicans to endorse Trump’s second bid for re-election and has said she’d be “honored” to serve. There’s his steadfast former press secretary and the current governor of Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who has carefully not denied that she wants the job. Kristi Noem, the second-term governor of South Dakota, who campaigned for Trump in Iowa, went so far as to say she would consider it.

Less likely — but what’s predictable when it comes to Trump? — are wing nut devotees Kari Lake of Arizona and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. Finally, in the Mitt Romney “make them grovel” mold, his primary competitor Nikki Haley, who has flat-out said it’s “off the table.”

All of them MAGA in their politics or MAGA-adjacent — and by that, I mean Haley, a former Trump official and a politician so wobbly she still hasn’t had the guts to unequivocally denounce Trump.

All of them are the kinds of women Trump ostensibly likes, in large part because they play into the demeaning gendered stereotypes Trump basks in, whether it’s the steely, stilettoed vixen or the no-nonsense broad.

Of the first sort, Noem and Lake both look the part, which has always been top of mind to Trump, who told his female staffers to “dress like women.” They’re impeccably groomed in the ready-for-TV mold of Ivanka Trump and Kellyanne Conway.

Of the second type, there’s Mean Girl Marjorie Taylor Greene, a QAnon fantasist whose relationship to the truth rivals that of the election lawyer turned criminal Sidney Powell, and the forceful but unthreatening Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Yes, these are all distasteful stereotypes, but they are ones these women seem more than willing to embrace in the name of their Dark Lord.

It almost doesn’t matter which Trump might pick. Not one would significantly help or harm the man whose campaign is built on a cult of one. Not one would likely be given any significant power.

If Trump chooses a woman, the most certain impact will be in the insidious implied message: If Trump runs with a woman, then Trump has no problem with women, and women should have no problem with him. That not enough women apparently care shouldn’t allow Trump the velveteen cover a female running mate would provide.

This is — never forget — a man whose campaign should have been halted in Round 1 in 2016 after he was caught bragging about molesting women. Even if his pre-presidential record hadn’t fully revealed Trump’s thuggish sexism, the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against him, as well as a judge finding that when a jury found Trump liable for sexually abusing E. Jean Carroll, it essentially said he raped her, have cemented it in.

Trump has said he likes “the concept” of a woman vice president, perhaps a more telling phrase than he intended. Of course, he sees women more as a concept than as a reality, an accessory or a servant to attend to his needs. At a time when women’s rights have been substantively stripped and threatened, this is the last vision of womanhood America needs.

Trump has also said he’ll choose “the best person.” Most likely this will be someone who carries out his will and does not get in his way. He will choose someone who subverts the very essence of what a vice-presidential candidate should be, someone fit to take over the highest office in the land. If he chooses a woman, it will be to cloak one of the most sexist presidencies in modern history.

If Trump shares the ticket with a woman in 2024 you can be sure of one thing: It will be the furthest thing from a step forward for women.

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