Vox Populi: A Public Sphere for Politics and Poetry
It is, without any doubt, a disgrace that Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for president. Among many other reasons, no nominee in America’s history has shown so much blatant contempt for women and minorities. The released audio/video and numerous other incidents reveal a profoundly narcissistic and debased man who takes joy in using his position of power to commit sexual assault, to objectify and degrade women, and to attack and intimidate those who resist. Through words and actions spanning decades, he has proven that he sees women primarily as objects to serve at his pleasure. Trump’s defense that his comments in the video were “locker room talk” is insulting. Such comments are debased, but perhaps remotely excusable for an immature teenager trying to impress his friends. Trump was 59 years old at the time.
If Trump’s primary business is that of real estate developer, why would he be interested in owning beauty pageants? From 1996 until last year, Trump owned the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants, and according to various reports by contestants, he made a habit of invading dressing rooms while female contestants were changing clothes. At a Miss Teen USA pageant, Donald Trump barged in on naked and half-dressed contestants, some as young as 15. Tasha Dixon, Miss Arizona in 2001, told CBS 2 Los Angeles that Trump walked into the Miss USA pageant dressing room. “Our first introduction to him was when we were at the dress rehearsal and half-naked changing into our bikinis,” Dixon said. “He just came strolling right in. There was no second to put a robe on or any sort of clothing or anything. Some girls were topless. Other girls were naked.”
The Trump campaign has denied these reports, but Trump himself confirmed them. In a 2006 interview with Howard Stern, Trump bragged about invading pageant dressing rooms: “I’ll tell you the funniest is that I’ll go backstage before a show and everyone’s getting dressed. No men are anywhere, and I’m allowed to go in, because I’m the owner of the pageant and therefore I’m inspecting it. … ‘Is everyone OK?’ You know, they’re standing there with no clothes. ‘Is everybody OK?’ And you see these incredible-looking women, and so I sort of get away with things like that.”
Are these the words and actions of an American president?
As of this writing, my count shows that 16 Republican senators and 22 representatives have stated that they will not vote for Trump, and that many will vote for Hillary Clinton. Some have called for Trump to quit his campaign. This is unprecedented in American history and reveals the disgust these Republicans hold for Trump’s candidacy. But that leaves 38 Republican senators and a stunning 224 Republican representatives who apparently have no problems with Trump’s behavior and still support him. Incredibly, many are still vocal supporters. Following the video of Trump’s bragging about sexual assault, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama stated that Trump’s grabbing women by the genitals is not assault (even though the law is emphatic). However, in a statement released the next day, Sessions agreed (perhaps after a conversation with his wife) that such contact is assault. However, this criminal behavior is apparently not enough for Sessions to drop his support for Donald Trump.
Throughout Trump’s campaign and his attacks on women we have barely heard a word from those 262 Republican representatives and senators in Congress who claim to represent the men and women of Texas, Arizona, Alabama, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
To you quiet-as-a-mouse Republicans representing these states, are we to conclude by your silence that you endorse Trump’s debased behavior? Do you believe that such disgraceful, even criminal behavior is what our president should model to our own children? Do our mothers, wives, and daughters deserve to be so thoroughly disgraced in this way, or will you defend the values you claim to hold? Note that standing up against Trump’s misogyny after he ends his campaign, if that should happen, will be too late – you took the coward’s way out. You were silent when it mattered most.
Ultimately, what is “conservatism” if it embraces behaviors that reduce half of the population to the status of disposable sex objects? You silent Republican politicians, are you willing to assault the dignity of all women, simply in order to “win”?
A political party that supports Donald Trump, and a nation that elects such a man, is telling its women that they will be treated only as sex objects, to be used and discarded by men, and that this is okay. Well, it isn’t okay. Donald Trump’s perverted, disgraceful morality cannot be legitimized as the new “normal.” The nation’s conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, must come together and take a stand. Those who support Trump’s disgrace, openly or with their silent complicity, must be removed from office.
Copyright 2016 Daniel R. Cobb