Op-Ed

Will feminist outrage still burn by 2020?

A crowd moved along Constitution Avenue during the Women’s March on Washington, Jan. 17, 2017, the first full day of Donald Trump’s presidency.
A crowd moved along Constitution Avenue during the Women’s March on Washington, Jan. 17, 2017, the first full day of Donald Trump’s presidency. Associated Press

If you’ve ever been a fan of rock and roll, you know how third-rate bands try to compensate for their weaknesses: take the stage like you own it and crank up the volume.

Get ready for a similar phenomenon on the national stage.

Democrats believe they’ve found a sure hit for the next few election cycles: the #MeToo movement, which has claimed the scalps of celebrities like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby as well as dozens of politicians.

With women flocking to political activism and running for office in record numbers, many Democrats foresee a pink wave swamping Congress this year and cresting with a White House victory two years later.

The driving force behind all the excitement is our harasser-in-chief, Donald Trump. His opponents can be counted on to issue daily reminders of his boorish behavior through Nov. 3, 2020. Like the umpteenth sequel to “Jaws,” this time it’s personal. And against a president who’s never had his head above water in any national poll, that may be enough.

But maybe not.

Suppose Republicans stay lucky and avoid stumbling into a new war or a recession. Suppose peace and prosperity persuade swing voters to overlook character flaws and focus on results.

It’s happened before. In 1996, a buoyant economy carried Bill Clinton past l’affaire Lewinsky and impeachment and into a second term. In similar circumstances, a message that boils down to “How could you?” seems unlikely to start many new fires. The piggishness that failed to stop Trump in 2016 won’t gain any shock value after four years’ wear.

Memory will not be a friend to #MeToo’s political ambitions. Americans already know the GOP is led by an arrogant lecher. They also know that the Democrats’ most recent standard-bearer not only voted for an arrogant lecher, she stayed married to him for over 40 years. The party stayed married to him as well, extolling the 1990s as a golden age in every election since.

Naturally we’ll see a lot of what journalists call “distancing” in coming months. It could quickly resemble a stampede. After decades of speculation about a Clinton marriage of convenience, they’re about to experience a divorce of convenience, initiated by the party they’ve dominated since grunge rock was king.

Despite the hypocritical overtones (or because of them?) feminists will no doubt deliver their case against Trump at the top of their lungs. Yet even after turning the volume knob to stun, they could find that selective indignation wins few new fans.

Michael Smith of Cynthiana is an office worker for a Lexington contractor.

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