Reader Lisa Burke, a healthcare professional, mother, and grandmother, attended the “Women for Trump” panel discussion at Union Depot on October 10, which featured Karen Pence and Lara Trump (Eric’s wife). She submitted this essay as a way to share what she heard there, since she didn’t see much coverage of it in news vehicles.
I felt compelled to come, to quietly hear and observe these women, with whom I disagree. A “Margaret Mead Moment” — an opportunity to observe another culture up close. I had my notebook with me
Waiting in line I looked up frequently from the book I had brought to shield me from conversations with women who stand on the opposite side of the political spectrum. I was, frankly, afraid of being found out.
Many wore Trump t-shirts of varying styles, some bedazzled with his name. One arrived sporting a black leather Letterman’s jacket emblazoned with GOP on the left breast and across the back, and American flag cowboy boots. But so many looked like women I have seen at the co-op, at anti-war rallies during the Bush years, at the Women’s March.
We were ushered into the Red Cap Room upstairs by way of the steps. The seats in the room quickly filled, and women were forced to stand two to three rows deep at the back of the room and along the sides. The capacity of the room, a sign indicated, was 211. I estimated there were closer to 250. Complaints buzzed around me. This was “poorly planned,”and “ridiculous.” Why hadn’t the organizers arranged to have the gathering downstairs, on the huge concourse?, they asked. Good question.
An older woman sitting next to me from Eagan showed me a card with Alley Waterbury’s name on it, then pointed at the standing, smiling, waving Waterbury across the room.
“I think she’s running for Congress,” the woman said.
“What district?” I asked.
“What do you mean?” she responded. “For the state.”
I repeated my question and the woman was puzzled. “Don’t they all represent the state?” No, I told her. The two Minnesota U.S. Senators, Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar, represent the entire state in the Senate, but Minnesota has eight representatives in the House. I pulled up a congressional map on my phone and explained that the districts are determined by population, so some are bigger than others. Then I showed her the Wikipedia article about Minnesota’s eight congressional districts and who represents each. This woman was rather sweet, but had no idea that Congress is made up of the House and the Senate.
Jennifer Carnahan took the stage and told the crowd that Mr. Trump has been working to empower women, that he lost Minnesota by only 44,000 votes, and that those gathered have an incredible opportunity to fight for the American Dream.
A prayer followed that included the promise to “make better what we can,” and the observation that “the truth is often hidden from us.”
I stood to say the Pledge of Allegiance with these women, because it is my flag, too!
The audience gushed when Kayleigh McEnany, moderator for the event, took the stage. I had never heard of her. She is currently the “National Press Secretary for Donald J Trump for President, Inc.” Wikipedia tells me she is a political commentator and writer, former CNN contributor, former National Spokesperson for the Republican National Committee. “She is on FOX,” I heard the women around me whisper to each other.
Karen Pence told the story, to illustrate Trump’s humanity, of how, during the visit when he was offering Mike Pence the Vice Presidency, “he focused 100 percent” on their daughter, Charlotte, then in her early 20s. Trump wanted to know what was important to her. “He cares about young women,” Pence asserted.
Lara Trump, married to Eric, was born in North Carolina. She, likewise, has found her father-in-law to be a very attentive man. He charged her with winning North Carolina for him in the 2016 election. “I had no experience, no business doing this. He saw something in me,” she said. Lara observed that “it’s not always easy to be a Trump supporter,” but insisted that he has “brought America back to every man, woman, and child” in the country.
“Some of you might be on the fence,” she said, “but he’s empowered women like no other president.” The U.S. is experiencing the lowest unemployment rate among women in 55 years, she added. Trump doubled the child tax credit. He cares about child care, and increasing wages. “You have to vote for Donald Trump,” she said, and the audience cheered.
McEnany turned back to Pence and asked what issues need to be elevated. The military, Pence answered, including their spouses and children. Military families move on average every 2 to 3 years. The spouse who stays at home, mostly women, don’t get jobs, as employers know they will be transferred. Trump signed an executive order, she said, so they now have protections on the federal level. This administration, she went on, gave $80 billion to veterans, so that they can go to any clinic or healthcare center they want. The Veterans Administration had been ignored by previous administrations. Trump, she said, boldly declared that “we give $150 billion to countries that hate us,” so why not change this? Now vets can go wherever they want to get healthcare. There is a renewed focus on suicide among vets.
Trump, who said she would have 100 rescue dogs if her husband allowed it, added that she is working to create partnerships that match shelter dogs with vets. “Veterans are doing better than they ever have before,” she asserted.
Trump has also excelled when it comes to healthcare, the two women claimed. According to them, prescription prices are at a 40 year low. Obamacare, they said, to hisses and groans throughout the room, did not work, and Trump is making sure he has a plan in place.
“What is it?,” the woman sitting on my other side leaned over and whispered. “I’d like to know the details.”
McEnany asked about women voters who are on the fence. “What would you say to them?” she asked.
Trump had her list ready: $200 million has been dedicated to technical grants for women. Trump cares about the future of women. He cares about your pocketbook. Look at the way he respects Ivanka. And what Ivanka has DONE. She created an $8 billion childcare development fund; got paid family leave into two budgets; has worked tirelessly for women’s global development.
Can we talk about Melania for a moment, McEnany asked. Women jumped to their feet and applauded. Melania, Trump said, is trying to stop the opioid epidemic. She is working with children on the dangers of vaping. She sees a problem and “gets right out there.”
“What has President Trump done for Moms?” she asked. “Where would we be if it had gone the other way?!” More hisses and much applause. Trump added that the country is not ready for the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris.
“Your perspective changes when you are a mom,” Trump added, saying we need to make sure the country “continues to work. We need to fix things for the future. The problem on the southern border! It will be the downfall of the country.”
President Trump is talking about denuclearizing the Korean peninsula, she added, and is evening the playing field regarding trade. “He didn’t kick the can down the road” like his predecessors did, she said. “He’s fixing those problems.”
Not discussed: how climate change is affecting mothers and families. How this Administration has separated children from their mothers and put them into cages. The toxic stress so many in our communities are dealing with. The exploding deficit because of tax cuts. How tariffs are affecting U.S. farmers and manufacturers.
“One year out from now,” Trump said pointedly, “we will be in the most consequential election of our lifetime.”
I agreed, and thought of Will Rogers’ words: “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”
“What they are offering,” Lara Trump went on, “is socialism. They want to open our borders,” she went on, to boos and more hisses. “And abolish ICE.”
McEnany pushed her long blonde hair away from her face, leaned forward and said, with some drama, “This just leaked out — 18 percent of Democrats are for socialism.”
“What women need to know,” Trump picked up the thread, “is that the President runs the country like a business. He is taking back regulations. All that changes with a socialist. It is not the American Way!”
Government will have complete control of every aspect of your life, she threatened. Where your kids go to school. How and where you get your healthcare. Everyone’s money is pooled together in a socialist system, she (inaccurately) claimed, so there is no incentive to show up for work.
“Your wallet will be less full! Or, we can continue the incredible prosperity.” The average family has seen $2,000 in savings every year due to the tax cuts, Trump said.
“They are desperate,” she said. “They are trying to distract. Too bad for them,” she added, to the delight of the crowd, “the American people are smart!”
Trump urged the audience to talk to their friends and family. “57,000 jobs in Minnesota … look at the numbers and the results. He said he would give us more jobs, and he did! He said he would make [the country] safer, and it is.”
Pence spoke up then, saying President Trump did not have to do any of this. That he “has lots of zeroes” — meaning personal wealth.
Lara Trump nodded vigorously. “He is not making any money being president. He does this because he loves this country. He knew he would be our last shot at saving this country.”
“The swamp does not go down without a fight,” Trump said, making a reference to her father-in-law’s many problems today. “That’s how we know he’s winning.”