Long before he went and turned himself into the Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump was the punchline of many jokes about his appearance and gold-ceiling lifestyle. You can make the argument that a person who chooses that particular shade of carrot tanning spray and who willingly sports an intensely dramatic copper comb-over is just asking for ridicule. Democrats can accept that logic and keep referring to him as a Cheeto, Oompa Loompa, raccoon eyes and so forth. It’s an easy trap to fall into — I just did.
But if we decide we’re going to knock Trump for his looks, then we’ll have to agree that it’s also OK to judge Hillary Clinton by her appearance. To make silly assumptions about her based on her pantsuits, helmet hair, whatever wrinkles and fine lines she should have been wise enough to blast off her face with 40 cc’s of Botox. And then, heaven forbid, if Clinton does choose to undergo a cosmetic procedure, you’ll have to be fine with every right-wing media outlet focusing on her “frozen face” and all the imaginary characteristics they ascribe to her based on what must be her hyper-feminine sense of vanity. Can you hear the talking heads now? You can make a woman president, but you can’t rid a female president of her instinctual preoccupation with her looks.
As a woman, Clinton is never going to win that idiotic battle. The best thing Democrats can do to ensure she needn’t focus her fighting prowess on superficial nonsense? Stop focusing on the superficial details about Trump that add up to nothing in the end.
When we poke fun at Trump’s skin and hair but cry out from our corner about how Clinton is only being judged for her looks because she’s a woman and no man ever has to deal with this kind of outdated attitude, we are being hypocrites. Perhaps, as women, we have such a deep understanding of how wrong it is to be valued for the way we make men feel — and a major part of that involves how our beauty makes them feel — that we assume men can’t be hurt by the same treatment.
I’m not suggesting Trump is running home in tears because someone called him an orange. But paying close attention to how we discuss him is more about keeping ourselves honest and free from hypocrisy and bringing credibility to the Democratic Party’s values than it is about sparing his feelings (even though, seriously, it isn’t nice to talk crap about anyone, even if that person says jerky things about other people).
When first lady Michelle Obama stood at the podium on the first night of the Democratic National Convention and gave the speech to end all speeches — one that reminds us that this election is about our children’s future as much as it is about any one political candidate — she also gave us a life mantra: “When they go low, we go high.”
Interpret that phrase however you deem fit, in whatever way you need it in your life right now. When applying it to this election, though, it’s difficult not to consider all the ways Trump has taken the low road — his insults, fear tactics and the way he speaks to and about women, for starters.
Taking the high road means making a choice to keep all dialogue about him hyper-focused on his rhetoric, the views he takes on important issues and any way he exposes himself as the louder but far less experienced public servant. Stop adding to the noise with insults and rants about meaningless observations that won’t keep a man from being elected president in November. We simply don’t have that kind of time or energy to waste.