Actress turned conservative activist Stacey Dash is standing at the front of a small meeting room in the National Press Club in downtown Washington, explaining to a couple of dozen reporters and other activists why she is a Donald Trump fan. “I feel like the leader of the superpower of the free world should be fearless. Should be smart. Should not apologize for anything we do!” proclaimed Dash (whom some of you might recall from the 1995 teen flick Clueless, and probably nothing since). “And he should let the world know that we should not be messed with—that if there is an enemy in this world that is threatening us or our allies that we are going to wipe it off the face of the Earth!”
“The enemy is Islamic fascism,” clarified Dash, her Bronx accent thickening as she got revved up. “He is going to wipe it off the face of the Earth! And I am with him! He’s not going to be bullied by anyone!”
It is difficult to convey the weirdness of the June 9 launch of the new Women Vote Trump super PAC. Watching a tiny, smiley, meticulously coiffed actress, resplendent in a black cocktail dress and kick-ass red heels, fantasize about going medieval on radical Islamists was among the more incongruous moments in the hour-long roll out. But it was hardly the most colorful—or the most illuminating—one.
The overall tone of the event was striking, a blend of defiant pep rally and nurturing support group. The PAC’s trio of founders—Amy Kremer, Kathryn Serkes, and Ann Stone (ex-wife of Trump buddy and unofficial adviser Roger Stone)—are all hard-chargers, active in conservative politics and causes. Kremer is a founding mother of the Tea Party movement (who actually worked for, then resigned from, a different pro-Trump super PAC last month). Serkes, a long-time health-care consultant, bragged about being involved in the litigation that helped tank Hillarycare back in the 1990s. (She has been similarly focused on repealing Obamacare.) And Stone (the chairwoman of Republicans for Choice) claims to have worked in politics since she was 12—with a more recent focus on high-level fundraising. (In addition to spearheading Women Vote Trump, Ann Stone sits on the advisory board of the Committee to Restore America’s Greatness, the pro-Trump super PAC run by her ex, Roger.)
Among the morning’s line up of speakers, there quickly emerged a common, nakedly defensive message: that the main reason so many women aren’t embracing Trump—whose unfavorables among women voters hover around 60 percent—is because they’ve bought into some misguided notion of sisterhood-solidarity with Hillary Clinton. Thus, a key theme for the day became: Women are too strong and savvy to fall for that squishy, liberal identity-politics B.S. As Serkes declared, “I’m not going to be told I need to vote for somebody just because she has the same body parts we do!”
At the same time, there was more than a whiff of old-fashioned girliness and victimhood in the air. (The PAC’s logo includes a sweet pink heart wrapped around the “T” in “Trump.”) People constantly gushed about how Trump wasn’t going to let himself or them or America be “bullied.” Stone borrowed a line from conservative pundit Laura Ingraham: “They say Donald Trump is a bully. But he’s a bully for us. He’s bullying back people who have bullied us for years!” Bully this. Bully that. It was like listening to a group of primary-school guidance counselors.
Of particular concern was the need for Women Vote Trump—which, incidentally, will also be handling the coalition-building effort typically run from inside a presidential campaign—to “make it safe” for women to “come out” about their feelings for the Donald. “Some of our speakers are going to talk about that a little bit more,” Serkes assured the audience in her opening remarks. “Because some of this also involves an act of courage!”
And talk they did. Kremer admitted how scared she was initially to tell anyone about her political orientation. “My heart was going toward Donald Trump, but I didn’t want to say anything to anybody because I was afraid of being reprimanded.” And once she came out? “Of course I have been beaten about. I’m still beaten about to this day. But you know what? It doesn’t matter, because you have to stand strong for what you believe in.”
Dash, currently hawking her new book about the tribulations of being a conservative in Hollywood, spoke repeatedly about the abuse she has taken. After all the speeches, in fact, Serkes kicked off the Q&A by noting that “women across the country are afraid to come out and talk to their friends about” their support for Trump, and she asked Dash to share any advice she might have. For her part, Dash made very clear that she supports Trump because he is a man’s man. Don’t try to “define” Trump by his words—“He’s a New Yorker. He’s street”—but by his family, which is simply “beautiful,” she said. “He’s the head of the household. He’s a real man. And I’m so tired of the way men are behaving these days. I want men to be real men, like him!”
Then there were the event’s headliners, Diamond and Silk: video-bloggers from North Carolina who have become two of Trump’s biggest cheerleaders. (The ladies even started their own group, called WOMEN United for Trump—the WOMEN part of which stands for Women Of Many Ethnicities Nationally.) In introducing the YouTube duo—sisters whose real names are Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson—Serkes called them “at least groupies if not borderline stalkers.” (The ladies actually didn’t look all that pleased about that.)
African American and theatrical, Diamond and Silk have become quite the celebrities at Trump events and rallies. (They will be hitting the road even harder once Women Vote Trump gets the money flowing.) They have a high-energy, high-volume, dizzying patter that makes Trump look low key. Diamond does most of the talking, while Silk spends a lot of time serving as her sister’s amen chorus. It’s a two-woman call-and-response show to rival the most spirited tent revival—only daffier and way more profane. One of their vlog entries, titled “A Message to Mitt and All of the Dumb Sh!% that Comes Out of His Mouth,” is nothing but 25 seconds of Diamond cursing at top volume (partially bleeped out for fans with delicate sensibilities) about what a loser Mitt Romney is and how he needs to “shut the fuck up!”
On Thursday, the ladies were keeping it slightly more civil—though they did send a gentle warning to “these elites of the Grand Old Party” who “don’t want to get behind Donald J. Trump and you want to withdraw your endorsement”: “We will vote your ass out!” Nor did they miss the opportunity to smack down anyone who might have ideas about what candidate they should support based on their gender or skin color. (Both women are former Democrats.) “Close to eight years ago, we were almost trapped into this guilt trip where, ‘Okay, you have to vote for the black man!’” said Diamond. “Well, you’re not gonna do that this here time! Because we don’t have to vote for the woman! We can vote for the businessman, and that’s who we’re gonna vote for!”
And on it flowed, alternating between talk of how smart and competent women are and how great it will be to finally get a real man in the White House to protect them from the mean and scary world.
The moment that perhaps best captured the whole surreal vibe? Toward the end of the hour, an elderly woman stood to ask a question. She was clearly both anxious and irate: “How do women protect themselves who go to a Trump rally, come out the door, and find they’re accosted by paid leftists thugs who are out to harm them? We have seen this on TV!”
Without missing a beat, Dash fired back with a perfect mixture of tough-broad chutzpah and girlish dependency: “If you’re a woman, I suggest that you be with a man who is carrying a Second Amendment right!”