Trump normalizes 'racist and sexist beliefs' and sees strong women as a threat: analysis

Former President Donald Trump's decision to lead his town hall audience in laughter over E. Jean Carroll's rape allegations was not an accident, wrote Ronald Brownstein for The Atlantic Friday. Rather, it is indicative of how he sees assertive women to be a threat to the MAGA movement.

"The stunning laughter when Trump belittled Carroll underlined how for many Republican voters, skepticism about women’s claims of unfair or improper treatment now intertwines with hostility to other forms of cultural change, including growing racial diversity and demands for equal treatment from the LGBTQ community," wrote Brownstein.

"'We’re in the middle of a backlash to racial and gender progress, in which Trump has normalized the expression of racist and sexist beliefs,' Tresa Undem, a pollster for progressive organizations who specializes in attitudes about gender and race, told me. 'He’s constantly tapping into these beliefs.'"

"Even before Trump became a national figure in 2016, attitudes about cultural and racial change were emerging as the central fault line between the two party coalitions," said the report. "But Trump widened that divide. Research by the Tufts University political scientist Brian Schaffner and his colleagues found the belief that racism is no longer prevalent in American society to be the most powerful predictor of support for Trump in 2016. The study concluded that the second strongest predictor of Trump support was the belief that women complaining about sexism were seeking unfair advantages over men."

According to the report, gender attitudes weren't as strong a predictor of Trump support in 2020 — but it was still a stronger predictor than any other factor except for attitudes on race.

The CNN town hall, which also featured Trump refusing to commit to supporting Ukraine against Russian aggression and asserting he had an absolute right to declassify top secret documents and take them from the National Archives to keep, has driven fierce controversy and criticism of the network for holding the event in the first place.

Network CEO Chris Licht, who has reportedly threatened CNN talent not to speak out against the town hall, has defended the event, claiming that "While we all may have been uncomfortable hearing people clapping" for language denigrating an alleged rape survivor, "that was also an important part of the story" and those people also represent "a large swath of America."