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Too Late

By October 14, 2016 10 Comments

Last Friday, when the Trump video hit the news like a meteorite, my spouse spent the day watching the reaction in the news media and Twitterverse and reporting back to me every hour. By evening, we were floating on waves of Schadenfreude, wickedly enjoying the pile-on. Eventually, standing there in my kitchen placing pepperoni on a pizza, I felt the ground under me shift a little, and I grew thoughtful. Was this… A Moment?

It was just a feeling, an instinct. But I’ve lived more than fifty years now, and I have some tiny sense of historical perspective. Like Scott Hoezee, my earliest political memory is Watergate. I’ve seen a lot of political grunge. I’m plenty cynical. Still, I’ve watched with grim astonishment as Trump has delivered a new shocker every week for months: the Mexican rapist remarks, the keep-out-the-Muslims remarks, torture, Putin, penis-size, mocking a disabled reporter, the Mexican-American judge, the Khan family, founder-of-ISIS—so many more. Plus enough rude comments about women before this past week to make Clinton’s TV and YouTube ads practically write themselves.

This time, though, something felt different. It was the immediate reaction, across the political spectrum. The hastily assembled defection statements from prominent Republicans. The wave of nausea that seemed to hit everyone at once. And rather than dissipating in two days as before, the thunderous reaction this time has, if anything, gained volume.

So was my initial instinct sound? Will that video not only represent the last straw for Trump’s presidential bid (we’ve been wondering what it would take), but also mark a shift in this country’s prevailing cultural attitude about women, from this day onward?

Trump’s boasts about predatory, abusive behavior towards women—along with the increasingly verified reports of his actual behavior over many decades—surprised no one, really. However, that video seemed to jolt women across age, race, and socio-economic divides, jolt them into speaking out in unison chorus: we’ve all experienced this sh**, and we are DONE.

Men with any sense have sung along. And now Michelle Obama is leading the choir with the blazing speech she delivered at a rally on Thursday, packing into nine minutes a determined, heartfelt challenge to achieve a higher standard of mutual respect.

So for those who want to protect the sleezy, self-obsessed boys’ club, free to regard women as “sex dispensers,” well, the word is out too widely now on your abusive privilege. The tide has turned. Too late.

It’s been another species of fascinating to watch reactions to this new chapter in Trump Shock in the evangelical world. We saw some prominent evangelical male leaders protest this week that no one should talk about our mothers and daughters that way. You might have said that earlier, fellas, but thanks and good for you. Even so, you still don’t quiiiiite get it. As both Kristin Kobes duMez and Jim Wallis of Sojourners pointed out in respectful critique of said leaders, mustering a posse to protect your women-folk is still a patriarchal move.

Meanwhile, we saw a firm denouncement of Trump from Christianity Today, and a great piece in Slate by Ruth Graham on evangelical women leaders breaking from the male authorities supposedly in charge of them, denouncing Trump, and bringing their throngs of women followers behind them.

This leaves the very worst of the evangelical patriarchs exposed in all their craven hypocrisy, mumbling “everyone sins” and still standing behind a man whose life represents a mockery of every value they claim to live for. They’ve traded everything for the thin gruel of Trump’s “promises” to throw a Supreme Court appointment or two in their direction. The old patriarchs may believe they still have a hold on the cultural and political influence they once enjoyed, but frankly, gentlemen, too many people see through you now, even your own women-folk. It’s over. Too late.

Now here comes some data.

Perhaps you have seen this stunning infographic from the 538 website, calculating electoral college results by gender. If only women voted, this country would turn blue from top to bottom, with pockets of red only in the deep South and rugged West.


If only men voted, red dominates the nation except in the liberal East and liberal West Coast.


The lesson here is that women have power. Women will determine the outcome of this election. So for those who have responded to Clinton’s candidacy with the hashtag #Repealthe19th, I throw this back at you: too late.

The United States will elect our first woman president this November. Whether or not you are a Hillary fan, that will be a significant historical event. But maybe more is possible. At least this week, I’m putting cynicism aside and hoping that out of this bizarre, disheartening, exhausting season in American political life, something might be gained, even more than a woman in the White House.

Those cracks already unsettling the foundations of patriarchy—I felt them split open wider this week. It’s true that some people are still scrambling hard to hold that old temple together, but you know what? Too late.

Debra Rienstra

I am a writer and literature professor, teaching literature and creative writing at Calvin University, where I have been on the faculty since 1996. Born and bred in the Reformed tradition, I’ve been unable to resist writing four books about theological topics: beware the writer doing theology without a license. My most recent book is Refugia Faith: Seeking Hidden Shelters, Ordinary Wonders, and the Healing of the Earth (Fortress, 2022). Besides the books, I’ve written well over two hundred essays for the RJ blog as well as numerous articles, poems, and reviews in popular and scholarly contexts. I have a B.A. from the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) and a M.A. and Ph.D. from Rutgers. I am married to Rev. Dr. Ron Rienstra, and together we have three grown children. Besides reading and writing, I love classical music, science fiction, fussing in the yard, hiking, and teaching myself useful skills like plant identification and—maybe someday—drywall repair.


  • Diana Walker says:

    We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.
    Prophetic movie line from looonnnnggg ago. Sure does fit this moment in time.

  • Jim Elzinga says:

    I’ve never been a supporter of Trump. He just keeps confirming his unfitness, on every level. I’ve acknowledged that Hilary is the lesser of two evils. Can’t/won’t vote for either. How sad that Hilary will be the standard bearer as the first woman POTUS.

  • Jim says:

    Indeed, it was the “tipping point” in his campaign. Let’s hope that women everywhere vote in November.

  • Dean Koopman says:

    I must confess at the beginning my most heinous sin… I am … wait … a REPUBLCAN.

    As a newcomer to the blog (about a year now) I realize that here, like in America, I am in the distinct minority.

    That said, I want feel excitement and historicity of this moment. But I too can only feel “waves of Schadenfreude”.

    My Schadenfreude is for the end of the pretense that there is an independent, unbiased media, that either party has any redeemable qualities or that anything but naked power drives this country. That the pretense that the country wants a President of reputable character is gone.

    I am proud that America has a black President. I am excited at the prospect of a woman as President of the United States. And yet I vehemently oppose the ideology of the individuals to claim these distinctions. Even when I agree with their aims, their tactics sicken me. Even when I agree with the aims of Republicans, their tactics sicken me.

    But all the high dungeon about Donald Trump makes me wonder. Today in America or on this blog, could Abraham Kuyper survive as the Republican Presidential nominee or would he be smeared as a patriarchal retrograde and reprobate?

    Just asking – but the questions remain.

    Can I vote for Donald Trump – the man?
    Can you vote for Hillary Clinton – the woman?
    Does gender matter, or is it a matter of ideology? They both have baggage, so pick your reprobate.

    This election may be signal the next breakthrough for women in America. It certainly will signal the end of many illusions about the state of our nation and its governance. I pray it will signal a new moral awakening in America.

    But it will not be a victory for any of us.

    Because the defining photo of this election will be on Inauguration day.
    That photo will be of a liar/traitor, having defeated a misogynist, taking the Oath of Office on a Bible held by a rapist.

    To steal from Al Davis, the deceased owner of the Oakland Raiders “Just win, baby!”

    • Debra Rienstra says:

      Dean, thanks for this. The Republic does not benefit from an imploding Republican party. We need two strong parties to sharpen and check each other. Another of my hopes for the aftermath of this horrid election is that people of intelligence and principle like you will find ways to dismantle and remake the Republican party.

      • Dean Koopman says:


        I totally agree that we need two, or more, strong political parties.
        Implosion may be necessary, though I pray not.
        The question to me is what am I willing to do to revive and redeem my party.
        The question for you is not how to revive your party, but how to redeem it.
        That is the not simply the political question, but the question for always and everywhere.

  • Amory Jewett says:

    Thank you for this, Debra Rienstra. Than you, too, Dean Koopman for your insightful comments. (I, too, am a Republican.) To me, redemption seems to be the key to this argument: Redemption of individual Americans, redemption of local and state governments, redemption of the federal government; redemption of both of our political parties; redemption of our beloved country; even redemption of American Christian churches. I believe that, as Christians, we should be praying fervently for this so that our actions will be righteous in the sight of God.

  • Richard Tiggelaar says:

    What is “insightful” and principled and intelligent about calling Hillary Clinton a “traitor”? It wasn’t when I first heard it in the early 1990’sand it still isn’t today.

  • Amry Jewett says:

    Richard Tiggelaar: Sir, I am referring specifically to the need for redemption across the spectrum. The context gives the reader that indication. I am also trying to avoid partisanship as difficult as that is when politics is being discussed.

  • Daniel Meeter says:

    Debra, as usual, you make me laugh and cry.

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