For any of you out there with video editing skills, I have a request. Please mash up the audio of Donald Trump talking about his proclivity for sexual assault with this video:
You don’t need to change the footage. Just intersplice the audio. I want to belly laugh at the difference between the imagery the Republican Party sells itself on and the sound of their nominee imploding.
Rolling virgin farmland. Dad lets the family hound hop into the flatbed.
“I did try and fuck her. She wanted some furniture. I said, ‘I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.’”
“He’s luuuved one woman, all-a his laaaife.”
“I moved on her like a bitch but I couldn’t get there. And she was married.”
Dusty gloves clap a young baseball player crisply on the back.
“When you’re a star, you can do anything. Grab em by the pussy.”
Turn off that Chevy commercial before you start puking; you’ll get the idea quickly. It’s a picture of an America that needs to be jealous of its racial purity to preserve its beauty. An America uncorrupted by sexual plurality or cosmopolitanism of any sort. A Republican America.
It’s always funny to compare this white-bread fantasy, and the homiletic scoldings of the Republicans entrusted to preserve it, with the actual behavior those politicians engage in. Usually we get joy out of seeing the anti-gay bigot caught in the bathroom with a male prostitute. This time, it’s a little different. How vile was the Access Hollywood video? Put it this way: you know it’s bad when a Republican is taken down for making heterosexual comments.
Even aside from the fact that Trump boasted about committing sex crimes, the Hollywood video laid bare how far the GOP has sunk in pursuit of the smallest, meanest, hardest message available. It wallows Republicans in a truth you’d have to be Kellyanne Conway-oblivious to deny: the Stupid Party didn’t get hijacked. The Stupid Party willingly took the bait when Trump offered a more hateful message than anyone else.
Donald Trump is the embodiment of what mainstream conservatism has devolved into. Far from being a movement to reduce the influence of government, today’s Republican party consists of splintered dogma orbiting the central principle of misanthropy. Anti-minority. Anti-you-fucking-who-you-want. Anti-science. Trump saw the black hole at the center of the Republican galaxy and exploited it. And as the embodiment of what the party has turned into, any display of his disgusting nature gives a face — an accurate face — to the hatred propagated by American conservatives.
Traditionally, Republicans have gotten away with being judgmental because they projected impeccable values in public. Even when they cheated on their wives or secretly paid off boys they had raped, Republicans knew their veneers had to be unassailable. But what they were preaching had little to do with Christianity or classical liberalism and a whole lot to do with resenting the current of social progress. Opposing the spread of government turned into opposing the good itself that government could do. Thus we had the rise of flaming zealots mostly defined not by the agenda they had but by the people they hated: gays, feminists, bureaucrats, gays again. Remember when it seemed like the whole Republican Party was guys like Mike Pence?
Ultimately, those holy rollers undermined their own position. The more Republicans relied on misanthropy as a goal and not a tactic, the more tenuous became the link between personal virtue and Republican messaging. You don’t need a good guy to demonize immigrants; you just need an asshole. Enter Donald Trump, a man who had a bold vision for the bottom that the GOP was racing towards, because he lived there. Even owned a little property.
Now we have the hideous specter of a Trump/Pence ticket, where everything the GOP used to be is Frankenstein-fused onto the man of the moment, who figured out he could shortcut rhetoric entirely by offering a radical degree of misanthropy at a fourth-grade reading level.
That’s why Republicans are reeling over the Access Hollywood video. It’s one idiomatic moment that encapsulates how far they’ve fallen in search of meanness — from the evangelicals of the Bush years to the lecher leading them to ruin.
From this perspective, the fact that the Democrats nominated another Clinton turns into a strength. While Republicans are confronting just how false their former emphasis of Jesus and family values really was, Democrats are the ones sticking to their guns. We believed in the tenets of moderate progressivism twenty years ago, and we believe it now. Imagine that.
The GOP, meanwhile, believes in mass deportation and voter intimidation. (If they didn’t, someone would have spoken out against Trump when he openly called for racial violence at the polls last week.) They believe in ending “PC culture.” And who’s really better to oppose political correctness: some boring Midwestern politician, or a flamboyant showman with no shame? Trump is a chimera created by the depravity of the Republican party line, not the other way around.
After the Trump nightmare ends, the challenge for progressives will be keeping Republicans honest about what happened. We who have alleged the worst about the GOP base have been utterly vindicated watching the conservative id boil up. And we can’t let them get away with it. We can’t let them say he was an outlier. Trump was a surprise, sure, but his ascent was entirely of a piece with the Republican Party’s strategy for decades. When your ideology is nothing more than ugly rhetoric, surprise, you get ugly people to sell it. The stroke of luck here is that the public got to see it, in terms they understand, before it was too late.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.