WASHINGTON, October 12, 2016 — Donald Trump, never one to mince words, told his social media followers Sunday, “So many self-righteous hypocrites. Watch their poll numbers—and elections—go down!”
The reactions to Trump’s “pussy” comment have been notable for their industrial-strength hypocrisy. Liberals object that Bill Clinton isn’t running, missing the point that when he was grabbing Kathleen Willey’s lady parts, it was “just sex.” Trump, who brought four of the Clinton with him to the debate, has no intention of letting that bit of hypocrisy pass.
For many Trump voters, Trump’s comments don’t matter. They’ve looked at Trump and Clinton and decided that Trump policies and Trump court appointees are less likely to cause long-term damage to America. Their support for him is a no-brainer. It has nothing to do with character—Clinton has none, so what are they supposed to do, sit out the election?—and everything to do with politics, and they’ve been very clear on that point. There is nothing hypocritical in that at all.
Other conservatives have forgotten that once upon a time, the problem with Bill Clinton wasn’t just sex, but character. “Values voters” have now made clear that the values that matter aren’t Trump’s; their outrage over Clinton’s behavior was never really about his character at all. It was never about adultery, unwanted advances and groping; it was always plain old politics.
Trump doesn’t yet have the lineup of women claiming sexual assault that Clinton has, though the difference seems to be of degree rather than of kind. Nor has anyone formally accused either man of rape or sexual assault. For his supporters to give Trump the advantage on this point, though, seems arbitrary.
The greatest hypocrisy comes from Republicans who endorsed Trump and who are now abandoning him. As so many Trump supporters are saying, those people are serious pussies.
It was impossible that the politicians who endorsed Trump didn’t know anything about him. Trump didn’t suddenly burst onto the scene last year like a nova. He wasn’t known only for his real estate holdings or his staring role on The Apprentice.
Trump has been in the media eye for decades. He’s known for his taste in women and his womanizing. He’s known for tentative forays into politics and his role in “birtherism.” He’s known for his litigiousness, “hard bargaining,” and thousands of lawsuits. He’s been known for years for his crude language, thin skin, braggadocio and his spat with Rosie O’Donnell.
There was nothing they know about Donald Trump today that Jon Huntsman and Paul Ryan couldn’t have Googled a year ago. Their sometimes tepid embrace of Trump tells us that they did know, yet they endorsed him anyway. So why, all of a sudden, are they shocked? Why did they endorse him in the first place?
They made a political calculation, of course. They calculated that Trump might be the next president; they calculated that they would have more influence in his administration if they supported him; they calculated that they could influence him during the campaign. They calculated badly.
Trump is his own man. That’s one thing his rank-and-file supporters like about him. He’s beholden to no one and will be controlled by no one. He’s run his campaign on his own terms, not always for the better, seeming at times almost determined to lose it.
A Trump loss doesn’t have to bring down his supporters, unless the media can make them look bad for supporting him. And how easy is it to make Trump toxic by capturing stupid words with a hot mic? Suddenly the collateral damage could be severe.
Those who have hopes for future, higher office or who are in tight races of their own are fleeing like vampires from sunlight. One could almost feel sorry for them; they were, after all, set up by NBC and the Washington Post, who had this tape for years and apparently saved it as an October surprise. Russia could learn a lot from American media about manipulating an election; compared to these guys, Putin is an amateur.
But Trump’s big-name, establishment GOP supporters walked into this one on their own, eyes wide shut. If there’s blame for the GOP’s looming electoral debacle, it’s theirs for not uniting against Trump when they could. They gambled, they lost, and now they’re claiming shock and the sudden need to stand on principle, to stand against Trump’s shameful views on women.
What they’re standing on isn’t principle, and the shame isn’t Trump’s. He is as he’s always been, and he’s never claimed to be anything else. The shame is theirs, first for embracing a man they now call “indefensible,” and second for cowardice. This is their show. They should force themselves to stay until the finale.