Today I received an email from my state’s Trump campaign. It presented the current controversy as “locker-room” talk, inappropriate of course, but nothing compared to Hillary Clinton’s ensuing list of awful deeds. While I’m on board with the list of #NeverHillary arguments, this letter was an insult. Clinton doesn’t deserve a single vote. Neither does Trump. Because I think it’s important, and I hope I can play a part in salvaging conservatism, what follows is the body of my response.
What a deeply troubling letter to receive.
[name], I apologize, I’m not sure if we’ve met. I was previously a committeeman, generally inactive due to a regular work conflict at the same time as your meeting. I did not file for re-election this year as I hoped someone could take the position who had more time to participate. I seem to have remained on the mailing list. I don’t know if the below letter reflects your opinion, or the official position of [my county GOP], or if you simply forwarded it as a statement regarding the party’s nominee from his local spokesman.
I cannot stand with Donald Trump, and I cannot say how profoundly I disagree with this request to do so. I hope I can express how strongly I think these arguments harm the American conservative movement. If you care about conservative values as I do, please do not associate the GOP with such a flippant dismissal of this man’s abominable words and actions. And if you care about human decency as I do, then please don’t defend someone’s bragging about sexual assault as if it were mere “inappropriate language”.
Nobody cares about anyone’s use of “foul language” in private. But everyone, everyone should be concerned with a powerful man bragging proudly about abusing women. This is not about language. This is about abuse. This is not about the opposition. This is about our own house.
To pretend that this uproar is over rough language is an insult to my intelligence and that of everyone this intends to persuade. Donald Trump bragged about forcing himself on women, about being in a position of such power that women would let him do it. This isn’t frat boys ogling women. This isn’t simply offensive or off-putting. It’s contemptible.
We–conservatives, Republicans–can never argue again that we stand on the side of right, of morality, if we defend this. Point out everything that’s wrong with Hillary Clinton, yes, convince the nation why she doesn’t deserve a single vote, yes–I’m trying my best to do the same. But that does not mean we must minimize sexual assault and defend evil when it’s in our own house. On the contrary: if we defend Donald Trump’s behavior, if we pretend for political gain that this is not evil, then we give up any grounds for being taken seriously on any moral issue, ever, for as long as anyone remembers this election.
And, far, far worse, if we pretend that this is not evil, we participate in the victimization of every woman who has suffered abuse, or could, at the hands of someone like him. When men and women observe abusive behavior and dismiss or ignore it, WE. PARTICIPATE. When Hillary Clinton intimidated her husband’s victims into silence, she participated in their abuse. If we ignore the same behavior from Donald Trump, we do the same. And I will not participate in that.
This is not about being offended or being politically correct. This is about real people suffering real abuse, and our choice to either stand up and say no, or to ignore it out of political expediency, or cowardice, or both.
No matter who wins the Presidency this year, the entire country has already lost the White House. Barring divine intervention, the office will go to a well-connected narcissist who will abuse his or her power. Far more important now is Congress. Good men and women in the House and Senate will be our only voice and only defense, no matter who wins the top of the ticket. These races are more important now than ever before. Even the fight over Supreme Court nominations still hinges on the Senate. Let’s fight for these all-important positions, and let’s continue to convince the country that we’re on the right side. I will stand and fight with you. But if we begin to defend evil, we have lost our way, and none of the rest will matter.
My heart breaks for our country, and for our party. It doesn’t have to be this way.