In light of the recently publicized tape showing Republican Nominee Donald J. Trump making demeaning comments about women – no, not the time when he said how they should be treated, or his bragging about sleeping with married women, or any of his other remarks that reduced them to sexual objects. In this video, picked up on an “Access Hollywood” mic back in 2005, Trump casually glorifies behavior that amounts to textbook sexual assault. This latest controversy has ignited a firestorm in a nation completely shocked – shocked – to hear such remarks from the triply-married TV celebrity.
In the midst of all the outcries, it’s worth pausing to take stock of the Trump phenomenon, in an effort to avoid mischaracterizing him and deceiving ourselves. I don’t say this preparing to defend Trump, his words, or his actions. Quite the contrary. I criticized Trump in the primaries and I mocked him even when he was beating Clinton in the polls. He is a disgrace. Nonetheless, it’s important that we understand him correctly.
Know Thine Nominee
We must understand Trump, because the 4% of Americans who chose Donald J. Trump as the Republican Presidential nominee also made him the de facto leader of the GOP and ailing conservative movement. Therefore this man taints Republicans and conservatives, whether they share any common traits or not.
To highlight the irony of Trump’s becoming the face of right-wing politics, consider his Wikipedia entry: Few Republicans, and fewer conservatives, have political affiliations that read, “Republican, 1987–99; Reform, 1999–2001; Democratic, 2001–09; independent, 2011–12.” Trump became a Republican so recently that reputable Internet sources haven’t even caught up yet.
Does it matter that Trump was smack dab in the middle of his registered Democrat years when Access Hollywood caught his unconscionable remarks on record? Why, more importantly, has the superabundance of news coverage neglected to include this fact?
New York Values
Trump is a downtown New Yorker who has lived his whole life breathing an atmosphere filled with the “New York values” that people love to claim confusion about while knowing exactly what they are. Vanity animates his very existence as a wealthy Don Juan, disconnected from basic moral principles because “consequences” has no meaning to that stratosphere of celebrity. To the extent that Trump has imbibed notions about what government looks like and should do, they are Democratic. So this New York Democrat celebrity can travel to Hollywood and make crass jokes – and eleven years later, after negotiating his star power to win the GOP primaries, he can befoul a base of Republicans who have spent their lives fighting ridiculous, falsified stereotypes about being hateful, backwards misogynists.
Is this how the Republican Party dies? A gold-plated Democrat infiltrating our presidential process so that his selfish, vile remarks besmirch our whole movement, just in time for him to drag the Congress down with him and hand the Presidency off to his old friend Hillary?
How individual Republicans respond to this – shrugging it off, rescinding endorsements, voting for Trump while maintaining that his actions were reprehensible – is on them. No matter what, we must not allow detractors to use the latest controversy as an excuse to slander as bigots hard-working, down-to-earth, good men and women living all over this country. After all, Trump didn’t trot out this material back in March to win Republican votes; it has surfaced late in the cycle to the embarrassment of the nation.
In the scope of what we know about this man, this past weekend added no substantially new information. What Trump said was clearly bad and, since he hasn’t kept his character a secret, only suckers are actually surprised by it. All that emerged is a reformulation, in words so crude and clear that no one can ignore them.
Because of Trump’s political status, his vulgar attitude contaminates the right wing’s reputation. In reality, if Trump’s behavior indicts any class of people, it should expose the same people that his enraged primary voters have hated all along: urban liberal elites.