Nobody entered this week thinking that Donald Trump was sexually moral at all. The crudity and foulness of his banter about despoiling women bring absolutely no new information to the table about how Donald Trump treats women or treats his own body. These are things that we all already knew long ago.
And yet, from my friends who plan to vote for Trump, most of whom seem a little defensive tonight, I read rebuttals along the lines of "I'm thankful that my past talk about women isn't being played back" or "What about grace and forgiveness?" or even "I'm not voting for a pastor-in-chief." But—and I write this earnestly and cordially—I think you're missing the most important point.
To make my point, permit me to summarize what is, in my opinion, the best argument that can be made to appeal to people to vote for Donald Trump:
Hillary Clinton will most certainly make bad Supreme Court appointments. This is an indisputable point. She promises to do so. We should take her at her word.
Donald Trump promises that, if elected, he will make very good Supreme Court appointments. This also, by the way, is an indisputable point. He promises to do so. But here's the question: Should we take Donald Trump at his word?
The entire case in favor of voting for Donald Trump comes down to whether we can and should trust a promise that he has made about Supreme Court appointments. And it is at precisely this point that "character matters." What do the events of the past week tell us about how much trust we should put in Donald Trump's promises?
One reason that several of my friends have given for trusting Trump's promises is that Vice President Mike Pence (if elected) will make sure that President Donald Trump (if elected) will do the right thing in appointing Supreme Court justices. This week has given us reason to doubt that promise because it has shown us how little respect Donald Trump has for Mike Pence. We already knew that Donald Trump wasn't enthusiastic in selecting Pence, and this week we watched as Donald Trump reacted to Mike Pence's masterful debate performance first with jealousy and then with self-serving petulance. Come face-to-face with the facts: Donald Trump doesn't view Mike Pence as a trusted advisor. Trump doesn't respect Pence. Trump sees Pence as, at best, a competitor for the limelight. Notions that a successful Trump will hand over the reins on his most lasting and consequential decisions to Vice President Pence are the stuff of fantasy.
Then came two days of released recordings in which Donald Trump has talked about his sex life. Donald Trump talks about his sex life a lot—or, at least, he used to talk about his sex life a lot, before he commenced his presidential run. That he beds women left-and-right is a point of great personal pride for Donald Trump, and a shelter to which he runs when he feels insecure (see the anecdote at the beginning of this article, for example).
Donald Trump doesn't just sleep around; this is a part of his life about which he is particularly proud of himself.
And in this week's released recordings, we hear Donald Trump talk about the lengths to which he went in his attempts to seduce a married woman to get her to commit adultery with him. He knew she was married. She knew she was married. He himself was married at the time. He took her to shop for furniture. He "moved on her very heavily."
This is what Donald Trump brags about doing. He sees this as his skill set.
Now set aside for a moment that this story was about sex. We've had some good presidents in our nation's history who were sexually immoral before, during, and after their presidencies. Put the sex part of it completely away, and what do you have? Donald Trump prides himself in his ability to convince people to do things that are contrary to their values, that break commitments that they have made, and that obligate him not one bit.
I submit to you that Donald Trump, who has previously been very clearly on the record in support of Planned Parenthood, who has previously been very clearly on the record in support of liberal Supreme Court justices, who has previously been very clearly on the record in support of same-sex marriage and men in the women's restrooms and a whole host of other positions that generally have been contrary to what you, my Donald Trump supporting friends, have always believed—I submit to you that Donald Trump is at this moment "[moving] on" YOU "very heavily."
THAT is the most important revelation about Donald Trump's character from this week. Read a page from the Donald Trump playbook and recognize what he is doing to you. He's trying to woo YOU, now, my Evangelical friends! He's making appealing promises to you. He knows what matters to you. He tells you what you want to hear. He's trying very hard to seal the deal. You are being seduced.
But Even If That's True…
"But even if that is true," perhaps someone will reply, "don't we STILL have to support Donald Trump so we can stop Hillary Clinton?"
No. We don't. People make that calculation, from what I can see, primarily when they add up the costs of a Clinton presidency without adding up any of the costs that come along with supporting Donald Trump. But supporting Donald Trump costs us some things. Here are a few:
It has already cost us the presidency. Once Trump became the nominee, "President Hillary Clinton" became inevitable. Inevitable. Go to this link and check out the little graph under the heading "RCP Electoral Spread." In Hillary Clinton's best weeks and worst weeks, in Donald Trump's worst weeks and least-worst weeks, there has never yet been a single moment in this election in which Hillary Clinton has not been ahead of Donald Trump in the projected Electoral College result. Trump started behind, ran behind the whole way, and will finish even behinder.
Let this sink in: On his best weeks, your guy has never been winning. Not for a single, solitary second.
The one wacky conspiracy theory in this whole election that actually makes sense to me is the idea that Donald Trump has been a Hillary Clinton plant from the get-go. Few are the people I can imagine losing to Hillary Clinton in this election. Donald Trump is one of them.
Supporting Donald Trump is something you have to do to keep Hillary Clinton from winning the presidency in the same way that standing on the beaches of South Carolina and blowing really hard out to sea is something you had to do to keep Hurricane Matthew from making landfall.
Congratulations! You've lost the Senate for us, too! As Donald Trump's presidential campaign crashes and burns, the casualties include all of those senatorial candidates who knew that they shouldn't endorse Donald Trump and didn't want to endorse Donald Trump but were forced to do so by people who demanded "party loyalty" and made incendiary threats. And as of today, Democrats feel pretty confident that they're going to take back the United States Senate.
Don't let the significance of this slip by you. We faced the frightening prospect of Hillary Clinton making Supreme Court nominations. We reacted to that prospect out of fear. What has that gotten us? It has gotten us Hillary Clinton making Supreme Court nominations now to be confirmed by a Senate controlled by Democrats. We acted as though with Hillary Clinton running for the Presidency we had nothing to lose. As it turns out, we had quite a bit to lose. We're learning that lesson because we're losing those things now. And if we manage not to lose the Senate, the only way we will hold onto it is if our senatorial candidates can successfully denounce Donald Trump and distance themselves from him.
Democrats, by the way, are now speaking openly about trying to take the House of Representatives, too. This is just a train wreck.
The GOP is losing every numerically-growing demographic in our electorate, too. This week I've read this blog post from Dwight McKissic. Now, I'll be 100% forthright here—Dwight and I are on different pages politically, and he has done something I could never do: publicly pledged his vote to Hillary Clinton. I'm, I think, quite a bit more of a Republican than Dwight is. But here's the thing:
The GOP can't win without winning over some people who are less of a Republican than I am. Otherwise, the numbers just do not add up. With Dwight you've got a man who has been a Republican-voting black preacher. Do you realize how much courage that takes? Do you realize how rare that makes him? The numerical viability of social conservatism depends upon making men like Dwight less rare, not more rare. Donald Trump has moved the demographics of the Republican Party in the wrong direction.
What's more, Dwight McKissic is, by several orders of magnitude, more my brother than is Donald Trump. Dwight and I are both believers. Dwight and I are both pro-life. Dwight and I are both pro-natural-marriage. Dwight and I are both pro-religious-liberty. Donald Trump never even claimed to be any of those things until he "moved on [Evangelicals] heavily." I know for a fact that Dwight has these convictions; I'm pretty sure that Donald Trump has none of them. If you force me to decide whether I am more at home with the politics of Dwight McKissic or the politics of Donald Trump, I'm going to choose Dwight McKissic every time.
And Dwight is now a Democrat.
But I don't think Dwight has to be a Democrat. I think a very strong political party could be formed if someone were to unite Evangelicals Black and White with Hispanic Roman Catholics and other elements of the American electorate who are basically pro-family, pro-life, and pro-natural-marriage. In fact, some significant portion of other immigrant populations from regions of the world that are more traditional in their moral values could also become loyal voting blocs for such a political party.
The GOP's chances of ever being that political party go down with every passing day that the party supports Donald Trump. Donald Trump could never be a part of any political party even remotely like that. Donald Trump's voting bloc doesn't have children above the replacement rate. When you pledge your vote to Donald Trump, defend the bile that he spews forth, and repeat his talking points, you make it harder for the GOP ever to do what it must do to survive.
There are, I have discovered by briefly coming onto the radar screen of some of the darker neighborhoods of Twitter, some people who would rather be in a losing political party gathered around racial purity than in a winning political party gathered around ideological conviction. I know that you, my friends, are not those people (or else we wouldn't be friends). But I think that you're being seduced into just that kind of a political party, and I hope that you'll stop, look around, and not be fooled.
Donald Trump says of his seductive efforts, "When you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything—whatever you want." Trump has certainly turned on his star-power in his efforts to seduce Evangelicals. Will we let him do it? Can he do anything—whatever he wants—and still count on our political support?
Well, not me. Never me. #NeverTrump.