Column: The war on women is back
It’s been roughly a week since the Access Hollywood tape helped to persuade key parts of the nation that Donald Trump might have a character problem. “Would you vote for a sexual predator?” asked New York Magazine. “Donald Trump Versus Hillary Clinton: Choose Your Sexual Predator” headlined The Federalist.
Yet, while rumors are flying that other shoes remain to drop, only a few women have so far come forward with stories of loutish behavior by the Republican standard bearer. Natasha Stoynoff’s is the most disturbing. She alleges that she had visited Mar-a-Lago for a People magazine spread on Donald and Melania Trump (who was then pregnant). While Melania left the room to change her clothes for a photo shoot, Stoynoff recounts, Trump pushed her against the wall and “shoved his tongue down (her) throat.” He backed off only when the butler announced that his wife was returning.
While it’s possible that many more women will come forward with similar accounts, my guess is that Trump’s actual gross conduct is probably some fraction of his claimed gross conduct. You have to apply the Trump-adjuster to every statement. Assume that 90 percent of what he claims – even when he’s boasting of unpardonable behavior – is false.
Some of us have argued for the past year that Trump’s candidacy, and his presidency, if one were to transpire, would do incalculable damage to the Republican Party and to conservative ideas.
We see one aspect of that mutilation playing out now. In 2012, Democrats invented the absurd “Republican war on women” theme. It was so over the top that it began to fray and dissolve in 2014, when Sen. Mark Udall was mocked as “Mark Uterus” for overdoing it. He lost to Cory Gardner.
But with Trump heading the Republican ticket, the war is on again. Nothing is too extreme to allege about Republicans now. Donald Trump lives down to every crude stereotype that the left has ever conjured about the right. If Clinton mad scientists attempting to create the only candidate she could defeat had concocted him in a laboratory, he could not be playing his role any better.
The damage goes far beyond an electoral defeat. Conservatives, particularly religious conservatives, who have rallied to Trump have squandered their own integrity and tainted the reputation of conservatism. They signed on for all of this when they saluted smartly and, in effect, acknowledged that all that character talk about Bill Clinton was so much gas.
Across America, college students are being instructed that “traditional” masculinity is to blame for the rape “crisis.” Young men are taught that, until feminism came along, their sex had been cruel and even criminal in its understanding of and treatment of women. The website MenCanStopRape, for example, seeks to “promote an understanding of the ways in which traditional masculinity contributes to sexual assault and other forms of men’s violence against women.”
Conservatives saw the world differently. They argued that the sexual revolution had freed men from the responsibility to treat women respectfully. If sex was “no big deal,” then the old rules no longer applied and women were left more vulnerable.
Traditional masculinity, while it may have had some disadvantages, also had its virtues. Men who were raised to be gentlemen, or whose religion required sexual restraint, attempted to live by a code.
They didn’t always live up to their own standards, but they had standards. Gentlemen didn’t cheat at sports or cheat on their wives.
There were lots of rules about how to behave with women. None of them included groping or unwanted touching.
They didn’t use foul language in front of women or speak disparagingly about them behind their backs, either.
They didn’t treat women as “pieces of a—,” to quote Donald Trump, or if they did, they didn’t boast about it.
The sexual revolution was a project of the left, not the right. Yet the man who now represents the right is a pure product of the left’s cultural inheritance. Trump, a lifelong Democrat, learned about women, he told a friend (who recounted it to PBS’ Frontline), from Playboy. It shows.
In fact, his critique of Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky was that Clinton did not choose a “really beautiful woman of sophistication.”
Trump is a user and abuser of people, not just women. But his disgusting behavior fits a narrative the left is spinning about sexuality and masculinity. He’s the poster boy for “toxic masculinity,” and every conservative who justifies or excuses him is digging the grave of conservatism even deeper.