Growing ease in official role, but not politics
By DARLENE SUPERVILLE and CATHERINE LUCEY
Monday, March 11
WASHINGTON (AP) — Melania Trump came armed with surefire applause lines when she stepped up to address a largely female audience that had gathered to celebrate other women.
The first lady showcased the record number of women serving in Congress. She said women’s unemployment had hit its lowest level in 65 years, though it has since ticked up slightly. And she highlighted the more than 2 million women who have joined the workforce since November 2016, when her husband was elected president.
“This is something to celebrate,” Mrs. Trump declared at Thursday’s State Department event, where many of her lines easily could have fit into a campaign stump speech.
But as President Donald Trump shows his eagerness for the coming 2020 re-election battle, less clear is Mrs. Trump’s fervor for joining the effort. She largely avoided the campaign trail in 2016, citing her desire to be home for the couple’s young son, Barron, now 12. And spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham predicted that once again, Mrs. Trump “is going to want to be home for her son, no matter his age.”
People in Trump’s political orbit, for their part, are skeptical that one of the most private first ladies in modern history would want to take on a big public role in her husband’s bid to win another four years in office.
Even if Mrs. Trump sticks largely to her official role, though, there’s plenty she can do to try to help her husband make a political connection with women, a voting bloc with whom Trump is particularly vulnerable.
Beyond the State Department appearance, Mrs. Trump showed growing ease with her role in the past week as she also made a three-state swing to promote the three pillars of her “Be Best” children’s initiative and accompanied her husband to Alabama to survey tornado damage.
In Oklahoma, she chatted with second-graders about the burdens of homework and watched older students in a science class measure the density of different colored liquids. In Washington state, she watched as Microsoft Corp. executives demonstrated features to help protect children online. In Las Vegas, she delivered a pointed jab at the news media, prodding the press to spend as much time highlighting the opioid epidemic as it devotes to “idle gossip or trivial stories.”
And in the tornado zone, the stiletto-friendly first lady wore sneakers as she played empathetic backup to her husband. She participated in a briefing, joined the president as he greeted relief workers, engaged with victims with him and on her own, and signed autographs.
Recent first ladies have all taken prominent roles in re-election campaigns. Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton and Barbara Bush all campaigned separately from their husbands at re-election time.
Katherine Jellison, a history professor at Ohio University who studies first ladies, said they can help their husbands politically by reaching out to female audiences and showing up at smaller venues than where the president campaigns.
“Typically, the president and the first lady are the family superstars,” said Jellison, adding that it was hard to find a more reclusive first lady in recent history than Mrs. Trump.
Trump continues to suffer from low approval ratings among women, which could prove challenging as he faces a Democratic primary field with a historic number of female candidates vying to run against him in 2020. In Gallup’s latest tracking poll, Trump had a 36 percent approval rating among women, which is about where it’s held throughout his presidency.
Still, polls broadly show Republican women are overwhelmingly likely to support him — as they do the first lady. Her appeal to other female demographics remains an open question.
In a Quinnipiac University poll conducted in November 2018, about two-thirds of Republican registered voters, or 65 percent, said they had a favorable opinion of Mrs. Trump, while just 3 percent said they viewed her unfavorably. But just 35 percent of registered voters overall said they had a favorable opinion of her, and 20 percent said they had an unfavorable view.
The same survey showed that 63 percent of registered voters said they had a favorable opinion of Mrs. Obama, and 24 percent said they had an unfavorable one. But that may at least be partially due to the fact that Mrs. Trump has kept a much lower profile than her predecessor.
Mrs. Trump limited her role in the 2016 campaign to just a handful of appearances and interviews. Her most memorable moment came during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, when her high-profile speech was quickly overshadowed by accusations that she had stolen passages from a speech given by Mrs. Obama. A speechwriter later took responsibility and apologized.
With her husband out campaigning, Mrs. Trump wanted their son, who was 9 when his dad became a candidate, to have one parent at home at their Trump Tower penthouse in New York. Barron turns 13 later this month, and he will be 14 by the time the re-election effort is in full swing.
Grisham said that it was too early for campaign scheduling and that the first lady was focused on her family, her duties as first lady and the nearly year-old “Be Best” childhood initiative, which focuses on well-being, cyberbullying and opioid abuse.
Campaigning aside, Mrs. Trump, 48, remains one of her husband’s closest advisers. She’s also independent and protective of her husband and carefully picks the moments when she strikes out politically. Last fall, she told a TV interviewer that she had told the president about staffers they couldn’t trust and that some of those people no longer worked for him as a result.
And in an extraordinary intervention into West Wing operations by a first lady, she engineered the dismissal of deputy national security adviser Mira Ricardel following a disagreement over the use of assets for the first lady’s weeklong trip to Africa last October.
Critics have noted that Mrs. Trump’s husband routinely mocks people on Twitter. But, much like her spouse, she has been dismissive of the media.
As she set out on the “Be Best” tour, Mrs. Trump ignored a reporter’s shouted question about whether she accepted an apology from Michael Cohen, the president’s former longtime personal lawyer. He recently testified to Congress that he regretted lying to the first lady about his role in arranging to buy the silence of porn star Stormy Daniels and one-time Playboy model Karen McDougal, both of whom have said they had sex with Trump before he became president. Trump has denied the relationships.
Mrs. Trump has never commented publicly about the allegations. By ignoring the question, she signaled she wasn’t about to start now.
AP Polling Editor Emily Swanson and Associated Press writers Hannah Fingerhut and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.
Follow Darlene Superville and Catherine Lucey on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap and http://www.twitter.com/catherine_lucey
Stop Making Women Apologize
Women are socialized from a young age to say “sorry” for simply occupying space. This Women’s History Month, I say no more.
By Tracey L. Rogers | March 12, 2019
I was getting on a bus with grocery bags in hand, apologizing profusely to the driver as I scrambled to find my bus pass.
He curiously looked my way; I thought he was judging me as I convincingly portrayed the damsel in distress. To my relief, however, he actually smiled and said, “It’s ok, ma’am. There is no need to apologize.”
I reflected on the driver’s kindness as his words began to sink in: “There is no need to apologize.” He was right. I wasn’t holding anyone up or causing any problems, yet I still felt the need to say, “I’m sorry.”
For many women, offering an apology is second nature. In a country where women have been traditionally cast in the role of “appeaser,” asking forgiveness has been ingrained into our DNA.
It’s something we’re taught at an early age — to be nice and polite as all young girls should be, reinforcing gender norms that began at this country’s inception.
Our culture is one that silences women in order to uphold patriarchy. “I’m sorry” has become a filler in the English language. Whether asking for what we need, or stating our opinion, women often begin with an apology for having the audacity to speak at all.
A study done in 2010 confirmed that women apologize more than men. The research speculated that women were “more concerned with the emotional experiences of others” — no doubt a symptom of our socialization.
In 2014, Pantene put out an ad campaign entitled “Not Sorry,” which highlighted the various ways women issue apologies almost immediately in most settings — at work, at home, even with strangers.
It seems no matter how far we’ve come in the era of #MeToo, women are expected to deflect, give excuse, and provide explanation with just two simple words: “I’m sorry.”
Holding oneself accountable for genuine wrongdoing should be the norm. For women, however, our “wrongdoing” is often simply our attempts to take up space and have a seat at the table.
To remain “collegial,” for example, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was apologetic throughout her entire testimony against the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. She was testifying about a sexual assault against her, yet she was the one apologizing.
More recently, Rep. Rashida Tlaib was cornered into an apology after accusing Rep. Mark Meadows of tokenizing a Black staffer by calling her out to stand next to him, as though this meant Republicans weren’t racist. Tlaib was right, but she was the one expected to apologize.
The role of “appeaser” has always been imposed upon us, especially women of color who navigate a society stacked against both our race and our gender. God help us if we break this unspoken protocol; we’re often punished for it.
Remember Serena Williams in the 2018 U.S. Open?
Serena was penalized, fined, and attacked in the media for “inappropriate behavior” after arguing with an umpire during the match (behavior longtime tennis fans considered quite mild when compared to hotheaded male players like John McEnroe).
But more egregious than these male displays, apparently, was that this talented Black woman demanded an apology from the umpire for unfair treatment. (What’s more, Serena’s opponent, Naomi Osaka, apologized herself after the match — “I am so sorry it ended like this,” she said. She couldn’t even celebrate her victory.)
It was a classic example of how women are expected to carry emotional weight. I say no more.
For Women’s History Month, stop making us apologize. We are not here to appease. Our contributions to society prove our equal standing in society. We will no longer apologize for demanding equal liberties — it’s 2019, and we’re not sorry.
Tracey L. Rogers is an entrepreneur and activist living in Northern Virginia. Distributed by OtherWords.org.
The mental health crisis among America’s youth is real – and staggering
March 14, 2019
Author: Jean Twenge, Professor of Psychology, San Diego State University
Disclosure statement: Jean Twenge does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
The first signs of a problem started to emerge around 2014: More young people said they felt overwhelmed and depressed. College counseling centers reported sharp increases in the number of students seeking treatment for mental health issues.
Even as studies were showing increases in symptoms of depression and in suicide among adolescents since 2010, some researchers called the concerns overblown and claimed there simply isn’t enough good data to reach that conclusion.
The idea that there’s an epidemic in anxiety or depression among youth “is simply a myth,” psychiatrist Richard Friedman wrote in The New York Times last year. Others suggested young people were simply more willing to get help when they needed it. Or perhaps counseling centers’ outreach efforts were becoming more effective.
But a new analysis of a large representative survey reinforces what I – and others – have been saying: The epidemic is all too real. In fact, the increase in mental health issues among teens and young adults is nothing short of staggering.
An epidemic of anguish
One of the best ways to find out if mental health issues have increased is to talk to a representative sample of the general population, not just those who seek help. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has done just that.
It surveyed over 600,000 Americans. Recent trends are startling.
From 2009 to 2017, major depression among 20- to 21-year-olds more than doubled, rising from 7 percent to 15 percent. Depression surged 69 percent among 16- to 17-year-olds. Serious psychological distress, which includes feelings of anxiety and hopelessness, jumped 71 percent among 18- to 25-year-olds from 2008 to 2017. Twice as many 22- to 23-year-olds attempted suicide in 2017 compared with 2008, and 55 percent more had suicidal thoughts. The increases were more pronounced among girls and young women. By 2017, one out of five 12- to 17-year-old girls had experienced major depression in the previous year.
Is it possible that young people simply became more willing to admit to mental health problems? My co-authors and I tried to address this possibility by analyzing data on actual suicide rates collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide is a behavior, so changes in suicide rates can’t be caused by more willingness to admit to issues.
Tragically, suicide also jumped during the period. For example, the suicide rate among 18- to 19-year-olds climbed 56 percent from 2008 to 2017. Other behaviors related to depression have also increased, including emergency department admissions for self-harm, such as cutting, as well as hospital admissions for suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.
The large increases in mental health issues in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health appeared almost exclusively among teens and young adults, with less change among Americans ages 26 and over. Even after statistically controlling for the influences of age and year, we found that depression, distress and suicidal thoughts were much higher among those born in the mid- to late-1990s, the generation I call iGen.
The mental health crisis seems to be a generational issue, not something that affects Americans of all ages. And that, more than anything else, might help researchers figure out why it’s happening.
The shift in social life
It’s always difficult to determine the causes behind trends, but some possibilities seem less likely than others.
A troubled economy and job loss, two typical culprits of mental stress, don’t appear to be to blame. That’s because U.S. economic growth was strong and the unemployment rate dropped significantly from 2011 to 2017, when mental health issues were rising the most.
It’s unlikely that academic pressure was the cause, as iGen teens spent less time on homework on average than teens did in the 1990s.
Although the increase in mental health issues occurred around the same time as the opioid epidemic, that crisis seemed to almost exclusively affect adults older than 25.
But there was one societal shift over the past decade that influenced the lives of today’s teens and young adults more than any other generation: the spread of smartphones and digital media like social media, texting and gaming.
While older people use these technologies as well, younger people adopted them more quickly and completely, and the impact on their social lives was more pronounced. In fact, it has drastically restructured their daily lives.
Compared with their predecessors, teens today spend less time with their friends in person and more time communicating electronically, which study after study has found is associated with mental health issues.
No matter the cause, the rise in mental health issues among teens and young adults deserves attention, not a dismissal as a “myth.” With more young people suffering – including more attempting suicide and more taking their own lives – the mental health crisis among American young people can no longer be ignored.
Racists in Congress fought statehood for Hawaii, but lost that battle 60 years ago
March 18, 2019
Author: Sarah Miller Davenport, Lecturer in 20th Century US History, University of Sheffield
Disclosure statement: Princeton University Press provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Partners: University of Sheffield provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation UK.
Sixty years ago, Dwight Eisenhower signed legislation making Hawaii America’s 50th state. The Hawaii admission act followed a centuries-old tradition in which American territories –acquired through war, conquest and purchase – became fully integrated states of the union.
But Hawaii was not an ordinary United States territory and would be unlike any other American state.
For one, Hawaii was not actually in America, at least not physically. Its islands lay in the Pacific, some 2,000 miles from the U.S. west coast.
And Hawaii would become the first state with a majority of people of Asian descent. Many had been ineligible for U.S. citizenship only a few years earlier, before the end of racial restrictions to naturalization.
These two defining characteristics – of Hawaii’s geography and demography – had led Congress to dismiss earlier bids for statehood before World War II. Hawaii was too far away and too Asian to be joined with the continental United States.
Asian migration conduit
Hawaii was annexed as a U.S. territory in 1898. That was five years after white settlers in the islands overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy to establish an American-led government.
Americans had first arrived as missionaries in 1820, and stayed on to establish sugar and pineapple plantations throughout the islands. A shortage of Hawaiian labor led them to seek workers from Asia – first China and later Japan and the Philippines.
Beginning in the mid-19th century, Hawaii became a major conduit for Asian migration to the American mainland, where anti-Asian racism led to a series of immigration exclusion acts. The first of these was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which eventually led to the near-total restriction of Asian migration in the 1924 Johnson-Reed Act.
Throughout this period, the American settlers who dominated Hawaii’s economy and governance were happy with the territorial status quo. They had carved out a comfortable enclave of wealth and influence, from which they ruled over a racialized working class. Any increased power that statehood might confer on Native Hawaiians and Asians would necessarily undermine white supremacy in the islands.
But the Sugar Act of 1934, which set quotas on Hawaii sugar exports to the continental U.S., changed the calculus of the territory’s white leaders, who now saw the advantage of being a fully equal U.S. state with federal representation. They launched an organized push for statehood.
By 1937, however, the statehood campaign had stalled on the back of a congressional investigation that called into question the loyalty of the islands’ Japanese population, Hawaii’s largest ethnic group.
According to one statehood opponent, the very idea of statehood was “preposterous,” since people of Japanese descent in Hawaii held allegiance to Japan, “which they could not disavow if they would, and would not if they could.”
Not surprisingly, Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor appeared to put statehood even further out of reach. For most of the war, the islands were subject to martial law. There was no mass internment of Hawaii’s Japanese population as in the continental U.S. To do so in Hawaii would have been logistically and economically infeasible given the numbers. But martial law imposed particular burdens on people of Japanese ancestry and severely limited political activity in the islands.
Statehood push stalled by racism
After World War II, statehood advocates in Hawaii regrouped, with a new Hawaii Statehood Commission acting as an official arm of the territorial legislature.
Fears of Japanese disloyalty had faded. Japan was now a U.S. ally and popular stories of the heroism of Japanese-Americans soldiers in Europe papered over the wartime anti-Japanese racism that had justified internment.
But the forces of segregation and racism in Congress effectively derailed statehood for more than a decade. It was not until 1959 that a bill finally passed both houses.
The base of opposition to statehood in Congress was Southern Democrats. To them, Hawaii was a dangerous portent of an interracial future.
“Perhaps we should become the United States of the Pacific, and finally should become the United States of the Orient,” said Sen. George Smathers. The Florida lawmaker went on to claim that Hawaii statehood threatened “our high standard of living” and “the purity of our democracy.”
Segregationists also worried that Hawaii statehood would mean an end to Jim Crow, the systematic, legal enshrinement of racist policies in the South. Texas Rep. W.R. Poage suggested that the proposal for Hawaii statehood might result in “two more votes in the Senate” for civil rights.
From rejection to embrace
How, then, do we account for the dramatic shift in Hawaii’s fortunes, from racist exclusion to full legal inclusion in the nation? The answer lies in the intersection of global decolonization, the Cold War and the end of legal segregation in the U.S.
The Cold War, which followed World War II, was in part a struggle between the U.S. and the Soviet Union for the allegiance of the “Third World.”
One tactic the Soviets used in that battle was to call attention to segregation and racism in the U.S. By doing that, the Soviets had identified America’s “Achilles’ heel,” in the words of Dean Acheson, President Harry Truman’s secretary of state.
Hawaii statehood advocates claimed that the new state would convince people in the decolonizing nations of Asia that the U.S. was committed to both racial equality and self-governance.
Mike Masaoka, representing the Japanese American Citizen League, argued that Hawaii’s racial composition was “one of the most potent arguments” for statehood. “To the millions of dark-skinned people” around the world, America’s denial of statehood to Hawaii was proof of the claims of “Communist hatemongers” that the U.S. was racist and anti-democratic.
By the mid-1950s, Hawaii, as America’s western frontier and host to the U.S. Pacific Command, was gaining new strategic and symbolic importance as the Cold War in Asia heated up.
American foreign policy had focused primarily on Europe in the 1940s, but by the next decade it was Asia that most worried the foreign policy establishment. The communist victory in China in 1949, North Korea’s breach of the South Korean border a year later, and the push for decolonization in Southeast Asia combined to draw American attention to the Pacific.
Katsuro Miho, a member of the Hawaii Statehood Commission, warned Congress that Asian nationalist leaders were scrutinizing the statehood debates. According to Miho, Mohammed Roem, the former vice prime minister of Indonesia, had told the Hawaii legislature that Indonesians “were watching to see if the United States will grant statehood to ‘racially tolerant Hawaii.’”
Bridge to Asia
Statehood advocates won the argument by emphasizing Hawaii’s cultural and geographic distance from the rest of the U.S. – the very obstacles to statehood before World War II.
Now, in the context of the Cold War, Hawaii could be America’s “bridge to Asia.”
In urging Congress to vote for statehood in early 1959, Fred Seaton, Eisenhower’s secretary of the interior, celebrated Hawaii’s connection to Asia as useful to American foreign policy.
Hawaii, he said, “is the picture window of the Pacific through which the peoples of the East look into our American front room.” This was vital to “future dealings with the peoples of Asia,” because most of Hawaii’s people were “of oriental or Polynesian racial extraction.”
After statehood, policymakers in Hawaii and on the mainland sought to solidify the new state’s role as bridge to Asia by establishing a series of educational cultural exchange initiatives aimed at fostering “mutual understanding” between Americans and Asians.
Yet the language of connection that gave meaning to Hawaii statehood also served to distort the relationship between Asia and the U.S., particularly as Hawaii became a staging ground for various American military interventions in Vietnam and elsewhere. A bridge can link peoples and cultures, but it can also carry tanks.
Sarah Miller Davenport is the author of: Gateway State: Hawai‘i in American Culture, 1945-1978. Princeton University Press provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Gamy Gimbal: The original people on Hawaii are polynesian? What was their view of US statehood, not that I expect they were asked?