Marketing Medusa: Trump's Biggest Sale

Wasn’t there a time when the prospect of having Hillary Clinton become the first female president of the United States seemed exciting and momentous, maybe even fun? Whatever happened to that? It’s long gone. Swept up and lost in the whirlwind of anger and violence unleashed by Trump’s campaign against her.

What’s the deal? Trump’s a salesman, good at spin. Of course, some might call it fraud and often have. Trump University, the Trump Foundation, Trump’s repeated and easily disproved lies about his record and skills as a businessman: all of these have been soundly discredited. Trump still insists he’s never failed.

What usually lies below lofty claims like this is very low self-esteem. At least people are finally looking for the actual wizard behind the screen. There’s a growing chorus pointing out Trump might really be just a little man, and one who feels easily diminished in the presence of a successful woman.

Although Trump hasn’t always succeeded in selling his inflated image of himself, the real art of the deal for Trump lies in putting others down. That’s where his talents lie. Trump seems to get a particular high when demeaning others to assert his dominant masculinity.

Pulling that stunt with men sometimes backfires, though. When Trump swiped at one opponent by calling him, “Little Rubio,” little Rubio came back with a snide reference to Trump’s little hands.

That sent Trump into orbit. He boasted on national television, during a political debate, about the size of his genitals and followed up by publicizing his testosterone level.

None of that seems to persuade. Trump’s boasting was immediately countered by a phalanx of statues which sprang up all over the country showing Trump naked with tiny genitals. After Trump launched a full-scale assault against the former Miss Universe, he was featured on the cover of The New Yorker as a plump simpering woman who’d won the contest for Miss Congeniality.

Miss Congeniality indeed. As millions now know, Trump boasted in a video he was “a star” so he could “do anything” to women, including grabbing them “by the pussy.” Everything since suggests this was fully in character.

As Hillary Clinton pointed out, “Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger.” Yes, but that’s just half the story. Trump may put women down to push himself up, but if he can’t do that, Trump acts as if he’s been sexually degraded himself, and even emasculated.

It’s as if men and women are on opposite ends of a seesaw. If one’s up, the other must be down. When Trump can’t put women down they seem to become larger than life in his mind, horrifying figures so monstrous they merit any sort of attack.

Top on Trump’s hit list, of course, is Hillary Clinton. He’s gone after her with both barrels. At the Republican National Convention, sexually demeaning campaign paraphernalia was sold, including a T-shirt which read, “Hillary sucks but not like Monica,” and a pin which showed a boy urinating on the word “Hillary.” The tone certainly sounds like Trump in the video, doesn’t it?

That’s just a small part of Trump’s attack though. What he’s really focused on is demonizing her. During a debate, Trump angrily stalked after Clinton, threatened to lock her up, accused Clinton of having, “tremendous hate in her heart,” and concluded this barrage of craziness by calling Hillary Clinton, “the devil.” Trump actually seemed to mean it.

Of course, demonizing Clinton is just another way of putting her down. It’s a smear job. Degrading women and demonizing them are two sides of the same misogynistic coin. Demonizing Clinton is just Trump’s way of trying to win.

This is where Trump has really shown his talent for branding. He’s branded Clinton as a she-devil, a castrating horror who’s aligned with the forces of darkness.

It almost sounds ridiculous to write that, but plenty of people have bought it. Trump has whipped his fans into a frenzy by capitalizing on their fears: Muslims are terrorists, Mexicans will rape your women, and worst of all, women themselves will rob you of your masculinity.

This last one is the real kicker for Trump fans. As a study by the Public Religion Research Institute shows, fear of emasculation is the distinguishing feature of people who hate Clinton.

In their eyes, Hillary Clinton’s willingness to compete for a job which is usually held by men has exposed her as a monstrous castrating woman who is trying to assume male power.

Trump has poured gasoline on the hearts of those who share his fears and lit the match — but what rises out of the flames is the horrifying visage of Medusa, the mythic phallic woman with snakes writhing around her head.

Trump is marketing Clinton as Medusa. This is not the first time Hillary Clinton has been seen as dangerously phallic, but Trump has certainly made the most of it. He’s plucked an image of a horrifying castrating woman from what Jung called the collective unconscious, blasted that onto a national screen, and promoted this as if it were an accurate picture of Clinton, rather than a reflection of his own terrifying anxieties and those of people entrenched in a similar frame of mind.

Trump and his fans see Clinton as a Medusa-like figure because of their own insecurities, not because of anything she’s done. Like Trump, Clinton is running for President of the United States. Before then she served as Secretary of State, and earlier still as Senator for the State of New York. Clinton is undoubtedly competent and quite accomplished.

But unlike Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton is not trying to demean anybody sexually. She’s not trying to emasculate anyone. Hillary Clinton is just doing her job.

According to myth, just the sight of Medusa is enough to freeze armed men into stone. The prospect of being paralyzed and made impotent by the presence of a powerful woman is certainly horrifying, and might well explain the violence of these attacks — except that these fears arise from fantasy.

Trump and his fans don’t seem to grasp that. Horrifying and almost unbelievable as it seems, Trump has not just invited but actually incited his supporters to shoot Hillary Clinton down, not just once but twice. There are limits to free speech in this country! At what point does Trump’s incendiary behavior meet Oliver Wendell Holmes’ standard for dangerous speech and become the equivalent of falsely yelling fire in a crowded theatre?

Can anyone imagine virulent attacks like this would be tolerated if they were driven by racial or religious hatred? If Obama had been subjected to this when running for president, it would have led to a national outcry — and rightly so.

What many of us find monstrous is not Hillary Clinton, but what’s being done to her. Yet none of this has caused much stir. It’s barely been addressed.

Hillary Clinton was well-liked as Secretary of State. It’s her ambition, her efforts to advance which have exposed her to these attacks.

Although Trump and his crew keep charging Clinton with being bad, nothing seems to stick. Trump tried to brand her as crooked but he’s got his own issues with the truth. The never ending innuendos about emails, Benghazi etc, etc have less to do with content than with smear, the implication that there’s something dark and even evil there.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has been the most clear and civilized when articulating the fundamental charge against Hillary Clinton. In hacked emails, Powell criticized Clinton for “hubris” and “unbridled ambition.”

It’s hard to see how anyone could run for president of the United States without a little of that! Clinton has plenty of experience for the job, and far more than Obama did when he ran. What makes Clinton’s ambition “unbridled” is not her ambition but her gender.

Accusing Hillary Clinton of hubris and unbridled ambition makes it sound like she’s bad. But does it really make sense for us to judge the moral caliber of behavior by the gender of the person engaging in it?

The country has been embroiled in debates about racism and religious intolerance. What about giving some serious thought to what is evidently a widely-accepted double standard for men and women?

The narrative of this election may be shaped by misogyny but what drives the drama here is envy. This is just an old time witch hunt.

As Stacy Schiff pointed out in The Witches: Salem,1692, many of the people who were persecuted, and even hung as witches were chosen for the part because they were envied by those around them — for being smarter, richer, better cooks, or even more successful explorers. They were stand-outs.

Hillary Clinton is a stand-out too. She’s accused of being bad because she’s really too good. She makes others feel bad about themselves. They lift themselves up by putting her down. It’s the same old seesaw.

That’s envy for you. It isn’t pretty. It’s gotten downright horrifying in this election.

We need to pull our eyes away from the flash and hype, the razz mattaz of misogyny, racism and hatred stirred by Trump’s campaign to focus on the question at hand: Which candidate has the experience and character to lead our country through what are evidently very difficult times?

To me the answer is a no-brainer. But whatever conclusion you reach, it is somewhat of a relief to pull back from the inner world of Trump and his fans, with their nightmarish anxieties about women, and reclaim the right to a mind, and judgments of one’s own.

Trump has sold us plenty of tall tales. It’s time to get down to business and consider whether this might be one too. Trump is marketing Clinton as Medusa. There’s no evidence she is.