I’ve been writing about presidential politics since 1988, and never in a million years did I think I’d witness anything like the Donald Trump campaign, culminating, of course, in Trump’s unprecedented, vomitous behavior throughout the last three days. I never thought I’d ever cover a presidential election in which one of the two candidates boasted about wantonly molesting women by grabbing them by their crotches. Yet here we are.
Overall, and including every event, it’s a perfect storm of a semi-pornographic political horror movie combined with the political press’s confounding normalization of it. And even if he doesn’t win, it’s permanently changed the landscape of American politics for the worse.
By now, we’ve all heard about the latest in a long menu of mind-blowingly horrible remarks and deeds by Trump in which he bragged about sexually molesting at least one woman, and possibly more. Fortunately for the rest of us, the open-mic audio has potentially decimated Trump’s chances on Election Day, so that’s good. (But don’t get happy.) It’s also forced other pro-Trump misogynists and sex offenders to reveal themselves in public and on-the-record, so we know who they are, while rebooting an important national conversation about rape culture and the like. But it’s also having a carcinogenic effect on the political discourse and how presidential candidates ought to behave, given that, if elected, they’ll be in charge of one-third of the federal government, with the exclusive say-so as to whether we use our massive nuclear arsenal.
Joining the roster of blurts, there’s one remark by Donald Trump, overheard during the second debate, that hasn’t been discussed a lot publicly, even though it was symbolic of Trump’s obvious hatred and disrespect for women.
During the section of the debate about the disqualifying fact that Trump didn’t pay federal income taxes for 18 or more years due to writing off business losses of nearly a billion dollars, Trump said:
“A lot of my write-off was depreciation, and other things that Hillary as a senator allowed, and she’ll always allow it…”
That’s right, Trump blamed Hillary for allowing him to get away with not paying taxes. In other words, I didn’t pay taxes because Hillary made me do it.
So, not only did Trump confess to allegations brought to light by The Washington Post, but he stunningly deflected the blame to Hillary, who, as she said during the debate, was merely one of 100 U.S. senators operating under a Republican president, George W. Bush, who never in a million years would’ve signed into law such an anti-wealth amendment to the tax code.
It also speaks to Trump’s remedial-level view of how the Constitution and the federal government operates, implying that individual senators possess unilateral powers to change the tax code. Oh, and laws related to tax revenue have to originate in the House, not the Senate. I’d bet a month’s salary that Trump can’t name the total number of members of Congress, nor can he accurately describe how a bill becomes a law, so, in his damaged brain, senators can just do shit like that. Furthermore, The Washington Post‘s Glenn Kessler tweeted a fact-check last night that, indeed, Hillary voted to change the tax law to eliminate the loophole allowing carried-forward losses.
But here’s how this speaks to Trump’s misogyny and false sense of “who me?” innocence.
How many times have we heard about abusive husbands and boyfriends who excuse their criminal behavior with the line, “Why do you make me hit you?” Likewise, how often have we heard about rapists and rape apologists who suggest that it was the victim’s fault for wearing a tight dress, etc? In this case, Trump got away with not paying federal taxes — you know, like all those “takers” — and when called out for it, blamed someone who has nothing to do with his business failures or tax returns for allowing him to do it. It’s not his fault he didn’t pay taxes, it’s Hillary’s. Why does she make him hit her?
Other than when Trump threatened Hillary with imprisonment as any third-world dictator would do, it was the most horrifying thing I’ve ever heard during a presidential debate, and it ranks among Trump’s worst trespasses.
On top of everything else, it provides Trump’s supporters with a colossal excuse to behave the same way, turning the “party of personal responsibility” into the party of “why do you make me hit you?” — a shit-show of excuse-makers, blame deflectors and proud abusers. These are people who look up to Trump and want to be just like him. We’ve seen it nearly every day: fanboys who’ve transformed into permanent Trump cosplayers. So, from now on, when confronted with their bad behavior, they can now reply with the excuse: Trump does it, and he’s famous! Why do you make us hit you?
This isn’t a temporary glitch. It’s damage, and it can’t be undone. The best we can hope for is that the polls and news events continue to marginalize Trump and his Deplorables enough to humiliate these self-defined “winners” on Election Day. It’s incumbent on all of us, Republicans and Democrats, who cherish basic decency and decorum in our political leadership, to see to it that Trump and his people are put down with as much overwhelming force as possible.