For a time, it seemed as though the GOP was reaching some semblance of equilibrium as this election season was slouching towards a close, but the death throes of the party have once again become obvious. I’ve written before about the sins of the elites at length, about their consistent abuse of conservative voters. Nevertheless, it’s not as though the average conservative doesn’t share some of the blame as well. We are, after all, ridiculously easy to manipulate—a fact that is shamelessly on display in our reaction to Donald Trump’s first October surprise.
I am not a Trump supporter. Nevertheless, it astounds me that so many conservatives who made peace with the idea of voting for Trump are suddenly pitching a fit and walking the other way over a recorded conversation that should be an utter non-surprise.
What exactly did the audio reveal? That he’s boorish and crude? To say that ship has sailed would be an understatement—it’s being retired from service due to advanced wear and tear. A whole silly war on women video about mean things Trump said was released back during the primaries. How quickly we forget (until we’re given a new chance to virtue-signal.)
Trump Wasn’t Talking About Assault
Despite all the hyperventilating, mere words are what everyone was upset about. Based on the audio that preceded the uproar, we’re not talking about sexual assault here—neither actual nor metaphorical. Trump’s comment about where he can grab women—the one that seems to be the most offensive since it has come to serve as an abbreviation for the rest of the conversation—is his description of what some women “let” him do because of his fame. It’s probably hyperbole, given how it serves as an exclamation point after he says he “just start[s] kissing them.”
But even if it’s not hyperbole, what they let him do is not at all the same as what he thinks he gets to do against their will. “Let” implies what he believed to be consent—consent to debauchery, to be sure, and not the kind of consent demanded by ridiculous affirmative consent laws, but consent nonetheless.
It no doubt strikes most women as odd that anyone would consent to that kind of sexual aggression, but a subset of women do throw themselves at celebrities in such a manner. Back in the day, people called them “groupies,” and it makes no sense to pretend they don’t exist or that Trump was talking about women in general (especially when he gives a counter-example of an uninterested woman in the very same conversation).
Naturally, accounts from women who claim to be on the receiving end of such treatment from Trump are subsequently beginning to emerge, and just as naturally, the details are disgusting. Unfortunately, the fact that these stories seem timed for maximum political effect rather than maximum truth-telling forces critical thinkers to ask whether the specific details that were revealed were likewise contrived. Do we have the whole story from any of these alleged incidents?
Unfortunately, three weeks before the election is better suited for reflexive disgust than reflective analysis of the facts, and that hardly seems coincidental. For better or worse, the media’s mishandling of their reporting for political ends will cast a pall over these decades-old stories and make it difficult to determine whether even they truly entailed a violation of consent—particularly in the older “no means no” sense of the word.
A more important revelation from the “Access Hollywood” audio is the extent to which the media and our two-headed ruling party will go to sink a candidate. The tape was not released as part of the natural news cycle, but held in reserve until October because they thought it would make a good silver bullet. That’s no real surprise from a media we’ve long known is in the tank for the Democrats.
However, it was a little more surprising just how quickly all of the Republican establishment got on board with the posturing. Big-name Republicans somehow managed to come down with the same case of bizarre solipsism in which those comments were somehow about all women everywhere—especially their own daughters and granddaughters—so they could talk about how deeply and personally it affects them. Even Sen. John McCain, of all people, found it completely inexcusable despite some of the really nasty things he’s reportedly said and apparently excused enough to continue in politics.
Get a Sense of Perspective, People
More important still is our skewed sense of proportion. To be sure, the dismissal of these comments as “locker room talk” that everyone participates in is not entirely convincing. As a huge nerd, I haven’t exactly spent a lot of time in locker rooms. Accordingly, I couldn’t say whether this is typical. Nevertheless, I can certainly affirm that not all men talk that way behind closed doors. I make absolutely no claim to lead a perfectly chaste life in thought, word, and deed, but I do actually try to filter what comes out of my mouth—even in private.
That said, we are still talking about words said in private whose only real damage is causing emotional offense once they became public under dubious circumstances. The words are certainly depraved, but we live in a culture of depravity. Anyone who enjoyed “50 Shades of Gray” can hardly call this out for promoting the poor treatment of women. Neither can anyone who enjoys popular music call it out for crudity. If one used some of Trump’s lines as lyrics, no one would think twice about it. We’re a reality TV nation, and Trump is a reality TV star. Class is something we have no business expecting or requiring.
Yet Trump is running against someone whose wrongdoing does stand out—even in our depraved culture. If “respect for women” has become the only point on our moral compass, then what of Hillary Clinton? Despite her rhetorical support for abstract victims of sexual assault, her treatment of real victims of sexual assault is abominable. Yet how many people who are mad-as-hell-and-not-going-to-take-it-anymore about the Trump audio don’t know or don’t care who Kathy Shelton is?
That’s not to mention people like Baronelle Stutzman, Kim Davis, Ruth Neely, and all the other women hurt by the Left’s zero-tolerance policy for religious freedom. Believe it or not, there is more to life than respecting women. Whether it’s shady finances or legal investigations, every time I see an example of outrage over Trump’s wrongdoing, I can think of something worse Clinton has done that the perpetually outraged have hardly noticed. As corrupt as Trump is, he’s running against the rare individual who manages to be worse by an order of magnitude.
By submitting to the media narrative that what Trump said on tape is a Really Big Deal in comparison to absolutely everything else, we are lubricating the same machinery they use to destroy everyone they disagree with—particularly the ones who are actually on our side.
Do you really think you’ll find a candidate who was never—in his or her entire life—mean or disrespectful to a woman? Do you think the mainstream media is ever going to do anything other than placard the skeletons of people who oppose progressivism while ignoring far worse on the Left? You’ve been trained for such outrage regardless of the target and whether the comments were out of character.
The fact that conservatives let themselves be blindly led this way is one of the key methods the media and Republican establishment use shut down genuinely conservative candidates. Trump’s no genuine conservative, and his taped comments don’t seem terribly out-of-character to me, but if conservatives fall in line with their enemies over this issue, of all things, then there will be no one left to speak up for the true conservatives when the same cry is raised for them.
A Word to Social Conservatives
Now we come to social conservatives who are changing their minds because of this particular scandal. Having read this far, they are no doubt thinking to themselves that the duplicity of the media, the hypocrisy of the Left, and the wretched state of American culture fail to excuse Trump. After all, if that’s the reason someone brings all that up, it’s just the tu quoque fallacy.
Accordingly, they conclude that even if everyone else is as bad or worse, Trump is still unfit for the office of president. They cannot compromise their code of honor or moral character by voting for the man. That would be an entirely respectable view to hold—if it were actually true about most of the offended conservatives.
The fact that it’s not really about morality is shamefully easy to demonstrate. One thing in the recorded conversation stood out from the relatively minor categories of class, manners, or “said mean things,” and that was Trump’s self-reported attempt to seduce a married woman. He failed, but if you’re going to take umbrage at his language, then you certainly need to do so at attempted adultery.
It’s unclear from the conversation whether Trump’s repeated assertion that she was married indicated that he knew beforehand or simply gave the hitherto unknown reason he ultimately didn’t succeed. But let’s put the worst spin on it and say he knew exactly what he was doing. Obviously he wasn’t forcing anything, as nothing actually happened.
So in the alternate-reality worst-case scenario where he had succeeded in having a consensual relationship with a married woman, who exactly would the victim be? It’s not the wife (who would be an accomplice rather than a victim), and it’s certainly not every woman who ever lived. It’s a man—the husband. That is the one thing missing from virtually every bit of conservative outrage I’ve come across. It was the closest thing to an actual victim in this entire cesspit of audio, and most social conservatives don’t even notice because he’s not female.
Learn to Stand Up to Crass Identity Politicking
If you find yourself indignant over the language of figuratively grabbing groupies by their nethers but never gave a second thought that the primary victim of dalliances with a married woman is the would-be cuckold, then you have poor moral character. If disrespectful words are worse in your book than attempted adultery, then your code of honor is not worth keeping pristine. You raise your chin and hold your nose away from the mere attitudes and disrespect, but you walk past material wrongdoing without a word of protest. Just as Jesus Christ once said of your predecessors, you strain out a gnat while swallowing a camel.
Anyone with a functional set of ethics should know that adultery is the most serious issue these tapes raise. If one doesn’t take the adultery seriously enough to recognize the real victim, then how much less seriously should he take crass braggadocio? The fact that conservatives are not treating it that way means the outrage does not proceed from morality or conviction. Instead, like Pavlov’s dogs, we’ve been conditioned to respond to the Left’s “war on women” rhetoric.
Salivating when they ring the dinner bell is neither a high moral standard nor proper ethics—it’s just plain worldliness. If one is actually going so far as to claim that conservative men who support Trump have betrayed women because of this scandal, the fundamental moral oversight that a man would have been the victim had Trump’s words been anything more than words only demonstrates how completely backward that assessment is.
I’m not telling conservatives to vote for Trump. I can hardly do that based on what I’ve written about the man. I’m not arguing that he’s morally fit for office, because I am not convinced that he is. I’m not urging conservatives to hold their noses and support the Republican candidate, because decades of doing that is precisely what’s brought us to this point in the first place.
But I’m still going to speak up for him against all the manufactured outrage, because I would want the same thing to be done for a good candidate. If we’re really this foolish and inept to fall for the absurd political theater contrived by the people who hate us and everything we stand for, then conservatives have no business governing anything at all.