Op-Ed

It’s time for the women in Congress to lead an official rebuke of Trump

Only one other president in American history has been censured by Congress. Women should head up the effort to make it two

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters at the White House on Tuesday, July 17, 2018. Trump said that he had misspoken a day earlier in Helsinki, Finland, when he appeared to take the word of President Vladimir Putin of Russia over the conclusion of his own intelligence agencies on Russian election meddling in 2016. On Tuesday, Trump said he 'accepts' those findings. (Tom Brenner/The New York Times)

As the world is still reeling from President Donald Trump’s stunning, pathetic press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday, there is another equally troubling pattern by the American President that needs to be addressed by American political leaders: his unabashed sexism and ongoing disrespect toward powerful women.

With the Women’s March, the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, and more gathering momentum since Trump took office, women now are in a position to actually do something about his political conduct at home and abroad.

On July 19, 1848, 170 years ago today, women at the Seneca Falls Convention in New York pledged to fight for women’s right to vote. Today, the Congress boasts a record, 84 women in the House of Representatives (not counting five female territorial delegates), making women 19.3 percent of House representatives. And 23 women serve in the United States Senate, which is 23 percent of the world’s most powerful legislative deliberative body. This means that women, who make up 50 percent of the U.S. population, no longer have to talk about being empowered — we are empowered through our elected representatives.

Women now possess legislative and judicial power (three women sit on the U.S. Supreme Court) never before seen in our 242 years as a nation. The women in Congress must unite, beyond political parties and send the world a message that we do not approve of President Trump’s feeble actions abroad with President Putin, nor of his treatment of women leaders in NATO.

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 17, 2017. The president infamously avoiding shaking hands with Merkel during this photo op, though later during the visit he and the chancellor shared a handshake. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

It is time for the 23 women senators to band together with their sisters in the House and come up with a joint resolution or a bill of Censure to condemn President Trump. It is time for women to show that we lead differently than the men who are in power, who contort their statements every day to defend the indefensible actions of the commander in chief.

Since he ran for the presidency in 2015, and took office in January 2017, Trump has been unsurpassed in his hostile, open and vile treatment of and comments about women. The Access Hollywood tape revealed just a month before the election, clearly wasn’t enough to stop Trump from getting elected, but it was enough to help launch a worldwide movement of powerful women who are fed up with men in power disrespecting and dismissing them.

More importantly, in the midst of Trump’s abrogation of his duties as president to protect and defend the American Constitution and people from all enemies, foreign and domestic, he has a secondary weakness: his disdain for women of power, of intellect and of expressing their opinions. Let’s not forget his disrespectful treatment of Hilary Clinton during the 2016 campaign–how he called for her to be locked up, and of course, his infamous “nasty woman” comment during their third debate. He continues to embarrass our great nation with his conduct with women from abroad who are his political equal.

Trump has openly disrespected, questioned, and jostled with women leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkle, whom he initially denied a handshake during her first visit to the White House. Then, last month at the G-7 Summit in Canada, he reportedly pulled some Starburst candy from his pocket, tossed it at her and said, “Don’t say I never gave you anything.”

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May and U.S. President Donald Trump hold a joint news conference at Chequers, the official country residence of the Prime Minister, near Aylesbury, Britain, July 13, 2018. Trump told reporters he apologized to May about comments he made about her in a tabloid interview. (REUTERS/Hannah McKay)

With regard to our oldest and dearest ally, Great Britain, Trump has patronized and attacked, in an interview with The Sun newspaper, British Prime Minister Theresa May. It was so bad, Trump who is famously averse to admitting mistakes, actually said he apologized to May over the comments.

Take it in for a moment: This is the American president. Not only does he appear to prefer dictators and tyrants to allies and NATO partners, he represents American men from a bygone era, in which they could slap, tickle, grope, revile, and diminish women at their whim. His 1950’s mentality doesn’t fit in a 21st century world. But it will continue unless he is held to account by the women who actually have the power and the platform to punish him.

The women of America who have been elected to serve in high office must show the world that we take ethics, morals, civility and patriotism seriously. A censure is very different from impeachment in that the latter is expressly mentioned in the Constitution. The former is not. But with Republicans in control of both chambers, it is unlikely that articles of impeachment would be brought for treason, or other high crimes and misdemeanors this year.

If the Democrats flip the House and Senate in the 2018 midterms, however, impeachment may be an option. But for now, a censure brought to bear by the women of the Congress would be a powerful statement that women are here to stay. That we are not taking it anymore. That we will lead when our male counterparts make excuses and allowances for bad male behavior.

Trump speaks in front of a portrait of former U.S. President Andrew Jackson at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 9, 2017. The president has expressed a deep affinity for Jackson, the only president in U.S. history to be censured by Congress. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Presidential censures are exceedingly uncommon. Only one president in U.S. history has been censured by Congress, according to The Washington Post, and it happened way back in 1834. As it turns out, Trump’s hero Andrew Jackson, the seventh president, was censured by Congress for withholding documents relating to his actions in defunding the Bank of the United States. Given the president’s deep admiration of Jackson, it would be fitting — even poetic — for him to join Jackson as the only other president to boast such a dubious distinction.

So today of all days, the women of America who are the heirs of the Seneca Falls movement must use their power to set America on a different course. Our politics have become base, unkind, and deeply divisive. Censuring President Trump is a good way for women leaders to say: we are not going to take it anymore, and oh, by the way we have the power to do something about it.

Sophia A. Nelson, Esq. is an award-winning author and journalist. She is author of the global best-selling book, The Woman Code: 20 Powerful Keys to Unlock Your Life (2014). Follow her on Twitter here.

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