Can’t blame Donald Trump for ‘Repeal 19th’

Given the trajectory of this campaign cycle it’s easy to imagine Donald Trump pushing to disenfranchise half of America. But the #RepealThe19th hashtag predates his campaign.

News stories surfaced this week linking Twitter hashtag #RepealThe19th to Trump supporters. According to those reports, Trump supporters hatched the plan after viewing projections by FiveThirtyEight pollster Nate Silver of what the election would look like if only one gender voted.

In a male-only world, Silver predicts Trump would receive 350 electoral votes and move into the White House. A companion map, showing only female voters, had Hillary Clinton earning 458, and Trump with just 80.

After the maps were published, some Trump supporters posted the #RepealThe19th hashtag with females saying they’d give up their vote if it meant Trump victory and male posters lamenting women’s suffrage.

Because religious tests at our borders, judicial disqualification based on ethnic heritage and promised imprisonment of political opponents are very real, inflammatory positions taken by Trump during the course of this campaign, perhaps some viewed repeal of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, as plausible. In reality, however, these were isolated cases involving people with no real intent or plan.

Within hours, Clinton supporters and #NeverTrump saw the posts and ran with them, effectively ensuring through their outrage that #RepealThe19th would become a trending topic. Bloggers and traditional news outlets documented the trend, saying it originated with the FiveThirtyEight maps. It didn’t.

I joined Twitter in 2007, and #RepealThe19th has been around at least as long as I have. The first instances I saw were that year after conservative commentator Ann Coulter said “if we took away women’s right to vote, we’d never have to worry about another Democrat president,” calling the scenario “a personal fantasy.”

The hashtag since existed as a bad joke and as commentary on things that women say or do that some men don’t like ­­— for instance, voting overwhelmingly for Clinton. Sometimes it is trotted out as a lament alongside calls to end Title IX.

In 2013, for instance, a Twitter user messaged: “The art of conversation is saying the right thing at the right time, which for women is nothing ever #RepealThe19th”

The whole mess might have disappeared the following day if Trump’s son, Eric, hadn’t sent a fundraising email claiming “momentum is on our side.” The plea included an animated map showing most of the nation — save hedonistic Illinois and its handful of liberal-leaning, coast-hugging cousins — bathed in a swath of red that’s growing darker. It was, of course, a modified version of Silver’s male-only prediction. Cue more outrage.

#RepealThe19th is one more long-standing, ludicrous far-right thing that’s gone mainstream thanks to this campaign cycle. And while you can feel free to blame Trump and his supporters for bringing this and other Alt-Right bizarre thought processes to the forefront, they played only a minor role in elevating it to a trending topic in 2016.

This column by Lynda Waddington originally published in The Gazette on October 15, 2016. Photo credit: Mike Segar/Reuters