Don’t Put Tribe Before Truth

Just when we thought the race for president couldn’t get more discouraging to watch, this week we were faced with the publishing of a tape where the Republican nominee was unspeakably crude, sexually aggressive, and lewd.  I wish that my teenage daughters didn’t have to see or hear Trump talk about women in the way that he did.  But more destructive has been the defense of such speech as mere “locker room talk.”  From conservative friends and relatives, they are hearing that this is the way that all men talk or that “boys will be boys.”

Let me say to my daughters and to the other girls and women who have had to encounter Trump’s trashy talk: I have never in my life heard someone speak that crudely and callously about acts that are clearly sexual assault.  I have been in sports all of my life and been in a lot of locker rooms.  Even now I am in a locker room multiple times every week.  I have never heard a man brag about grabbing a woman’s genitals.  I have never heard someone brag about pushing himself on a married woman.  This is not mere locker room talk and it is not typical of all men when they are left to express their real feelings.

Trump’s sexually explicit tirades for years on the Howard Stern show and on the tape revealed this week are to me a great offense to women and girls.  To defend those remarks as something all of us do is a great offense to men and boys.  Men and boys with dignity and respect for women are careful in our thoughts and speech whether or not we are around women or not.  For Trump to say “Nobody respects women more than I do” is patently false.  I have never cheated on my wife of 18 years.  I have never spoken about girls or women in the way that he has.  Ever.

Stop defending his speech as commonplace when the defense is really about tribalism and politics.  I get that both parties this election are having to reconcile themselves with nominees that violate some of their own ethical and political values.  But let’s be honest about it.  Admit that if a Democratic nominee was found saying the same things you would call for their resignation.  You would call their comments indefensible and tie it to the moral laxness of their political party—as you see it.  You wouldn’t accept it as mere locker room talk.  You could call it what it is because it came from the “other party.” And if you are a Democrat, you must admit that Clinton’s “mistakes” of judgment would look much more menacing if they came from a Republican candidate.

Whoever wins this election is not going to come into the presidency with a mandate from voters.  Both are historically and exceptionally weak candidates.  The one who wins will primarily win because of the more extreme liabilities of their opponent.

Loyalty to party over country is not patriotism.  Electing a candidate who has no respect for constitutional separation of powers is not worth keeping the power in your own tribe.  Perhaps the losing party in this election will be in a better place anyway.  The losing side will be forced to change and rethink why they nominated such a flawed and weak candidate.  The losing party will have to reckon with how they lost the trust and loyalty not just of the other side, but even large parts of their own tribe.

The winning party will be stained with a weak winning candidate.  In particular, if Clinton wins the Democratic Party may be headed for some serious problems.  They are a party with so few young people in leadership.  The two leading candidates were 68 and 75 years old.  The young progressives found themselves aligning behind a charismatic but aging candidate with little time left in politics.

But Republicans need to remember that the two top candidates for their nomination, Trump and Ted Cruz, were reviled by large groups within their own party let alone the country at large.  This week’s only bright spot for me was that large numbers of Republican leaders withdrew their support for Trump over another scandalous revelation about his character.  This willingness to risk their own political party’s power to stand up against such lewdness is refreshing and a good sign for the future of the party.

Don’t defend the indefensible because it is “your side.”  Speak up against the sexualizing of women regardless of who says it.  Stand up for goodness and virtue wherever you find it.  In the long run, losing a single election is preferable to selling the soul of your party.

Thank you to all those Republican leaders who set the example for my daughters this week by denouncing and disassociating yourselves from such nastiness.  It takes courage to stand against your own.

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