Donald Trump’s lewd description of his fondness for beautiful women, expressed privately in the company of other men, has sparked a flood of denunciations among Republicans and Democrats alike. House Speaker Paul Ryan was quick to disinvite Trump from a Wisconsin rally, proclaiming that women should be “revered,” not “objectified.” The Republican National Committee has suspended all mailing efforts supporting the Trump campaign. The list of those who were once #TenuouslyTrump but have now revoked support continues to grow.
No decent person thinks Trump’s decade-old comments are laudable or dignified. Indeed, they are coarse and boorish, more suitable to a frat boy or sailor than to the potential president of the United States. But isn’t the moral outrage a bit misplaced?
The chief offense Trump is being accused of is “objectifying women,” i.e. denying their dignity and humanity. But isn’t abortion the ultimate objectification of a human being? Abortion treats human life as a disposable clump of cells.
Objectifying Women Is Okay If They’re Small
During last week’s vice presidential debate, Hillary Clinton running mate Tim Kaine defended a woman’s “right” to seek an abortion, even a late-stage one. There was nary a peep—no screeching for his removal from the ticket or even calling for his excommunication from the Catholic Church. Apparently, it is far less reprehensible to defend the killing of human life in public than to speak like a boor in private. (One can’t help but wonder if Trump would have gotten off easier for shooting someone on Fifth Avenue.)
The reaction to Trump’s comments stems in part from identity politics, the focus of the Clinton campaign and something the elite Right has largely bought into. Trump, a heterosexual white male, spoke like a (churlish) heterosexual (white) male at the expense of women, and this must spark intense and righteous indignation because women are a permanent—and large—element of the victim class.
We can speak of the life-and-death matter of abortion in dispassionate, polite tones and agree to disagree, but a heterosexual white male can never, ever speak disparagingly (or critically) of a member of the victim class, even in private. Republicans’ glee in joining the Trump takedown shows the wheels are already greased for Clinton’s identity-politics agenda if she gets elected.
Why Isn’t Turnabout Fair Play?
Speaking of things that one is or is not allowed to say, Hillary Clinton has illegally communicated matters of national security on an unclassified, personal email server, and she has defended her husband, whose conduct toward women is far more questionable than Trump’s. Yet no one is seriously saying she shouldn’t be on the ballot, on either the Right or the Left.
Clinton even targeted possibly a quarter of the electorate with her “basket of deplorables” comment before television cameras, yet that was little more than a speed bump for her campaign. In important ways, the standards for tolerable speech seem more forgiving for Clinton than they are for Trump, even when the latter’s comments are made outside of the public eye.
As has often been said, the people in a democracy get the leaders they deserve. We are a coarsened culture with vulgarity in every popular art form and crassness in public discourse. It is not so shocking that our current presidential candidates are rough and unscrupulous, as unfortunate as that is.
Yet we have far greater moral issues facing our citizenry, such as abortion-on-demand. Instead of focusing on real problems, sanctimonious Republicans care more about appearing pious and politically correct. Rather than pushing back against the provocateurs of identity politics, the elite Right is adopting their vernacular. In so doing, they minimize and detract from matters that deserve genuine moral outrage.