On October 7, the Washington Post released video of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump making lewd remarks. The transcript is jaw-dropping. If it had been a Democratic nominee, the Republicans would have gotten on top of their moral high horse and chastised away.
Some, like House Republican leader Paul Ryan, have denounced Trump’s remarks. Ryan went a small step further and disinvited Trump from a campaign event in Wisconsin where they were scheduled to appear together.
Some months back, in a blatantly hypocritical move, certain evangelical leaders like Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and Liberty University’s Jerry Falwell Jr. endorsed Trump and encouraged evangelical Christians to vote for him. Evangelical theologian Wayne Grudem, who has “taught Christian ethics for 39 years,” went so far as to write that “voting for Trump is a morally good choice” (Update: After this article was written, Grudem walked back those comments yesterday.) One wonders what kind of Christian ethics he has been teaching for 39 years.
Long before Trump’s tape surfaced, Claire Cohen in The Telegraph tracked down some of Trump’s sexist comments from 1990 to 2016. Whether it’s calling women bimbos, gold diggers, or worse, Republicans and evangelical leaders had plenty of evidence showing Trump was unfit for the presidency.
Certainly in his character, morals, and political ideas, he was not in line with the conservative Republican platform. He is a serial adulterer. If a man does not honor his marriage vows, which are sacred, how much less will he honor secular contracts? Even if history shows other adulterous men have held office, Trump’s flaunted unapologetic depravity makes him unfit. In his train has come an overall coarsening and vulgarity of our civic life.
We Cannot Have a Country Without Self-Control
My chagrin is not about idolizing a political party, or trusting too much in religious leaders. (I am a Catholic; I do not even subscribe to the detailed theology of the evangelical men mentioned above.) This is about all conservatives, no matter our different faiths. We’re supposed to be a community with at least some commonality. We are to work together for the good of our society and country. It is part of our duty as citizens who share in like-minded ideas about human, social, and political flourishing to be consistent with the candidates we promote.
This is a unique sting for conservative women. Conservatives don’t usually engage in identity politics. Conservative women don’t ask for special privileges, nor for the most part do they draw attention to themselves as women. Because we believe we should be judged on our merits, rarely will you find a conservative woman playing the woman card.
This is good and right. But this is not an “either/or” condition. We can both believe in the equal dignity and opportunity of and for women, and understand that women may place emphasis on certain issues. Like our Founding Mothers, today’s conservative women play a crucial role in the religious and political formation of their children and the next generation. Conservative women put a high price on moral character because we understand that without it there would be no self-control.
Self-control is the sine qua non of republican government. Why is this something that especially concerns women? Women have been known throughout history as the “keepers of the hearth.” This is not so much about keeping the fire in the hearth going for food and warmth, although it is not less than that. To keep is to preserve, protect, and safeguard. As women, wives, and mothers we keep the hearth today by protecting the family from assailants—be they ideologies or people.
We Stood By Our Men, and They Have Betrayed Us
One of the ways we keep the hearth is by raising God fearing, self-controlled, well-formed citizens. Hence Trump’s personal corruption and its corrupting effect are of a weighty concern for women.
In light of all this, I say that by supporting Trump with his lecherous nature, and coarse attitude toward women, the majority of Republican men, and some evangelical leaders, have abandoned conservative women. This is an ethical failure. Pope John Paul II said in his “General Audiences on the Theology of the Body”: “Christ… assigns the dignity of every woman as a task to every man.”
Although Republican women in office bear this burden along with the men, here I want to address the men. By endorsing a man like Trump, these men have elevated a man who has a history of assaulting women’s dignity.
For years these men have deflected the accusations hurled by progressives that “Republican and conservative men are misogynist, chauvinist pigs.” For years they have claimed they were not anti-woman. For years they touted their pro-life position. For years they claimed it was progressives who were the ones waging war on women. For years they told us they were for women. They said they were the compassionate ones fighting for the good of women, and children.
And we conservative women believed them. Across America we supported Republican men and conservative leaders, not only in the ballot box, but in conversations, articles, blog posts, and all across the public square. We have catechized our children in citizenship, teaching them our nation’s founding principles. We have kept our respective faiths and trained our children to love and serve God. We stood bravely against our dehumanizing culture. We have supported Republican and conservative men through mistakes, weakness, and failures.
When progressives accuse Republicans of being the party that harbors misogynists, rapists, and chauvinist braggarts, conservative women go to bat against these false accusations. We’ve had to put up with taunts that we’ve been brainwashed by the patriarchy. By “elevat[ing] to the first place in the government one of the worst men in the community” (as Alexander Hamilton warned against Aaron Burr) Republican and conservative evangelical leaders have made liars out of themselves.
You Are Failing the Ultimate Test of a Leader
I am no liar, and I will not be dragged into ethical confusion and equivocacy. It’s time for conservative women to rise up and defend the hearth, like Deborah and Jael. The former led men into battle, and the latter drove a tent peg into the temple of the wicked Sisera. In that same general audience, Pope John Paul II also said: “[Christ] assigns also the dignity of every man to every woman.”
Men, remember your dignity and honor. There are scenarios in life where men can honorably disagree. This is not one of them. There is a right and a wrong course of action in this situation. It really is simple. But the idols of your heart have ensnared you. Principled men don’t do this. Principled men are not afraid of a fight, and they’re not afraid to lose, as long as they’re losing honorably. They stand up for women and children. They don’t abandon them to a corrupt, unscrupulous, vile misogynist.
And what of the principles you until so recently have claimed are to govern not only our civic life but our selves? This man’s very life instantiates the antithesis of virtuous and honorable limited-government federalism, instead exemplifying the post-Christian, logical positivist, secular humanist, egomaniacal, authoritarian ubsermenschen we have seen rise to (and fall from) power far from our own nation for at least a century now.
You failed the ultimate test life throws at politicians and religious leaders: You made a choice to protect your power at the cost of the people, at the cost of women, and the future civility of our culture. The religious people mentioned above, and others like them, have undermined their own faith and cheapened their words. Moreover, they have misrepresented the Christian faith before a watching secular world.
I am only one conservative woman, but I pray my conservative sisters wake up to what you have allowed to enter the hearth. There will never be business as usual in Washington DC ever again. Your silence in the face of this shameful man has sealed it. Either un-endorse Trump now or let us never again hear you talk of the dignity of women, marriage, and family values.