When it comes to running for president as a Republican, there is one big requirement: You have to be The Worst.
Donald Trump has already established himself as such in a myriad of disgraceful, impeachable and disgusting ways. So for every Republican lining up to run against him, the race to the bottom has, well, no bottom. There is no level too low, no hate to flagrant, no lie too big.
Take Nikki Haley, for example. Haley, former South Carolina governor and Trump’s Ambassador to the United Nations, appeared at a town hall on CNN, America’s favorite False Equivalence News Network, during which host Jake Tapper asked her to define “woke.” This comes after Trump claimed, in a dig at a certain Florida man, that most people couldn’t define what it means.
Spoiler alert: Haley couldn’t define it, either. But did she stand there with her jaw open and no words coming out? Of course not. She said lots of words. Garbage words, to use a linguistic term.
She started with what she called “the women’s issue of our time,” which is, of course, “biological boys playing in girl sports.”
“My daughter ran track in high school,” Haley said. “I don’t even know how I would have that conversation with her. How are we supposed to get our girls used to the fact that biological boys are in their locker room?”
If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a parent, it’s that I shouldn’t have to have difficult conversations with my child. Instead, I should ban difficult topics, especially those that require any kind of critical thinking or nuance. It’s simply not fair to kids and parents today to have to grapple with a changing society. Kids shouldn’t have to think about issues like gender identity when they should be thinking about issues like how to survive when a “bad man” with an assault rifle bursts into their school and mows down their classmates. Like real Americans.
Also, the way that Haley phrases “get our girls used to the fact that biological boys are in their locker room” implies that this is some kind of widespread thing. That in schools across the United States, trans girls are dominating girls’ sports, destroying the sacred gender boundary that necessitated the passage of Title IX, for fuck’s sake. There is no rampant trans war on girls’ sports. There are, however, some trans kids who want to kick a goddamn soccer ball or swim some laps. And it’s those kids who are besieged with hateful attacks from some of the most powerful people in the country.
Haley then says something unforgivably untrue and incendiary: “And then we wonder why a third of our teenage girls seriously contemplated suicide last year.”
This makes me so angry I want to scream into the void until my body turns inside out and I become the void itself. It’s so wrong on so many levels.
First of all, transgender kids aren’t increasing the number of cis girls who think about suicide. It is an absolutely disgusting correlation to make and there is absolutely no evidence to support it. Haley is simply articulating that she, someone who hates transgender people, thinks that having to play on the same sports team as a trans kid would make a cis kid feel like her life just wasn’t worth living.
Secondly, there is no doubt that teenagers need far more mental health treatment than they are getting. Teens today have spent their entire lives hiding from gunmen in their schools from preschool on up, for one. They also had a big chunk of their childhood disrupted because of Covid. And then there’s the fact that the country they live in went and elected a serial rapist and openly misogynistic garbage person as president — a man who bragged about grabbing women “by the pussy” and still won. A man who the country might even elect again! What is THAT saying to our girls?
“We should be growing strong girls, confident girls,” Haley continued.
But how are we supposed to when people like Haley think that having to compete with a transgender athlete is the biggest threat girls face?
Predictably, the mainstream media that conservatives liken to radical left-wing propaganda responded as if Haley was a shining beacon of rational sensibility. The New York Times compared “her reasoned manner” to the “displays of dominance” by Trump and DeSantis.
But what she said wasn’t reasonable. It was outrageous and a lie. The Republican party has swung so far to the right that it’s nearly impossible to not seem hyperbolic when reporting on the dangerous shit they are saying and doing. And so, the media is apparently not even trying.
And that, folks, is how fascists come to power.
D’Anne Witkowski is a writer living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBTQ+ politics for nearly two decades. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.