Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.
How many times was Hillary Clinton called a bitch over the course of her decades in public life?
I suspect the answer lies somewhere in the range between 500 and 10 million. At one point in the 2016 campaign, I even witnessed a 10-year-old boy chant the vulgarity at a Trump rally in exurban Washington.
Yet, through all those years and all those expletives, we never heard Mrs. Clinton publicly address that word.
Few prominent women have, in any memorable way, even though men have leveled it against women in power since before they ever had any real power at all.
Today, on the august floor of the House of Representatives, the world saw a very different reckoning with that word, power and sexism.
“Representative Yoho called me, and I quote, a fucking bitch,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said from the floor this morning. “These are the words Representative Yoho levied against a congresswoman.”
Two days ago, Representative Ted Yoho, Republican of Florida, made headlines when a reporter overhead him using the vulgar language against Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. Yesterday, he gave an “apology” from the House floor that did not seem to involve any, well, actual apologizing. He denied uttering the vulgarity on Wednesday when he said, “I cannot apologize for my passion or for loving my god, my family and my country.”
Today, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez delivered her response, a searing indictment not only of Mr. Yoho but also of a culture that allows men to use abusive language and supports violence against women.
“I honestly thought I was going to pack it up and go home — it’s just another day,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said, recalling how many times she has been called racist and sexist names by men, from the governor of Florida to drunk patrons in the New York City bar where she once waited tables.
But then, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said, she decided she could not allow her nieces and other girls to see Congress accept this kind of behavior with silence. Watching Mr. Yoho cite his own wife and daughters on the House floor in his speech was the last straw.
“Mr. Yoho mentioned that he has a wife and two daughters. I am two years younger than Mr. Yoho’s youngest daughter. I am someone’s daughter, too,” she said. “Having a daughter does not make a man decent. Having a wife does not make a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man. And when a decent man messes up, as we all are bound to do, he tries his best and does apologize.”
Obviously, Mr. Yoho’s comments signal an outrageous breach of civility. Even Mrs. Clinton was never called that word on the Capitol grounds by a sitting congressman in front of reporters. As several Democrats mentioned on the House floor, race certainly plays a role, too. A way for a white man to try to put a young, Latina congresswoman in her place.
Even so, the fact that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez felt free to shame Mr. Yoho from the House floor signifies a shift in our politics.
In the past, a female politician would have — as Ms. Ocasio-Cortez alluded — shrugged off the insult, warned by advisers that addressing the issue could backfire against her own political reputation. Instead, several of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s colleagues followed her speech with comments of their own from the House floor.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, a sharp political mind, is well aware that there’s a constituency for those remarks, a crucial 2020 voting bloc fueled by the anger of women.
Rage moms, if you will.
It’s quite the evolution in the cliché ways that strategists think about female voters. Over the past three decades, we’ve gone from suburban “soccer moms” to Alaskan “hockey Moms” to anti-gun moms to fed-up, tired and simply out of you-know-what-to-give moms.
Look at the polling numbers. During the Trump administration, the traditional gender gap has become a “canyon.” Even among white working-class women, who supported Mr. Trump in 2016, support has plummeted. In the suburbs, a place not exactly known as a hotbed of political radicalism, majorities of female voters reject Mr. Trump by whopping margins.
Look at the foot soldiers of the Democratic Party. As I frequently hear from candidates and strategists, the people at the helm of organizations, staffing campaign offices and volunteering are overwhelmingly women.
And look at the liberal activists. In Portland, Ore., a “wall of moms,” clad in bike helmets and goggles, faces off against federal agents. Black female activists lead Black Lives Matter protests and steer the exploding racial justice movement.
Clearly, a lot of Democratic and independent women in America are angry. They’re tired of dysfunction in Washington. They’re tired of inaction on the issues that matter most to their daily lives, like school and child care closures. And they’re really tired of Mr. Trump’s chaotic style and lack of empathy.
Starting in a few weeks, these angry women will cast ballots for the presidency. And after years of Mr. Trump letting his supporters use that word against them, it’s their anger that may end up being his undoing.
We want to hear from our readers. Have a question? We’ll try to answer it. Have a comment? We’re all ears. Email us at [email protected].
From Opinion: A republic, if you can keep it
This morning the Opinion section published an essay by Gary Hart, a former Democratic senator from Colorado and a presidential candidate in the 1984 race. Mr. Hart calls for a reconsideration of presidential power in light of President Trump’s insistence that his “authority is total.”
Mr. Hart noted that he and former Vice President Walter Mondale were the last surviving members of the Church Committee that was convened in the 1970s to study the executive branch’s intelligence arms.
“We have recently come to learn of at least a hundred documents authorizing extraordinary presidential powers in the case of a national emergency, virtually dictatorial powers without congressional or judicial checks and balances,” he wrote.
“No matter who occupies the office, the American people have a right to know what extraordinary powers presidents believe they have. It is time for a new select committee to study these powers and their potential for abuse, and advise Congress on the ways in which it might, at a minimum, establish stringent oversight.”
Mr. Hart continued: “Among the questions to be addressed: Where did these secret powers come from? Where are they kept? Who has access to them? What qualifies as a national emergency sufficient to suspend virtually all constitutional protection? And critically, why must these powers be secret?”
He concludes by asserting that “regardless of party or candidate preference, we can all agree there is no justification for a president to have dictatorial powers.”
— Talmon Joseph Smith
“We’ll have a very nice something,” said Mr. Trump, announcing tonight that he had decided to cancel the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville, Fla. “We’ll figure it out.”
Thanks for reading. On Politics is your guide to the political news cycle, delivering clarity from the chaos.
On Politics is also available as a newsletter. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox.
Is there anything you think we’re missing? Anything you want to see more of? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at [email protected].