President Obama has said many times that his real enemy is cynicism.
February 2, 2007: “…Our rivals won’t be one another, and I would assert it won’t even be the other party. It’s going to be cynicism that we’re fighting against.”
March 13, 2007: “The biggest enemy I think we have in this whole process…it’s not just terrorists, it’s not just Hezbollah, it’s not just Hamas–it’s also cynicism.”
July 30, 2014: “You don’t have time to be cynical. Hope is a better choice.”
November 30, 2015: “One of the enemies we will be fighting at this conference is cynicism.”
By that standard, the choices we have available for the two major party candidates to become his successor indicate that the Obama Administration has been an utter failure and cynicism stands triumphant. The now-infamous video of Donald Trump is the latest in a long history of outrageous and horrifying things he has said. Similarly, a new round of revelations from WikiLeaks that the Clinton political machine had been coordinating with the DNC and super-PACs to rig the Democratic primaries against Bernie Sanders is only the latest in a long history of corruption and manipulation that will surprise no one. As the trove of emails is reviewed, more embarrassing details are coming to light. Instead of enthusiasm for either candidate, both parties can only cynically appeal to their partisans to choose the lesser of two evils as they see it.
Your humble writer has long suspected something like this was going to happen. For so long, the media gave Trump whatever he wanted, always making him the center of attention throughout the primaries, but the most recent video (after all, this was not the first such episode) was kept hidden from the public until now, exactly one month before the election, precisely when it could do the most damage. Indeed, there is almost certainly more material out there. Whoever sat on this discovery is a special kind of evil, when he or she could have done such a greater service to the Republic by making it available immediately after Trump announced his candidacy.
Then again, had the video been aired in the primary season, it probably wouldn’t have even made a difference. Trump has said so many horrifying and truly vile things it’s impossible to remember them all. This is just another example of the entire genre that is Trump’s wretched egotistical machismo. The people who voted for him in the primaries will not be dissuaded, not even by this. Indeed, at an emergency meeting of the Republican National Committee on Monday evening, Chairman Reince Priebus declared–as he has so many times in the past–that despite Donald Trump’s inexcusable boorishness and veniality, the party will continue to stand behind him.
Even as horrible as all this is though, it is really only a manifestation of the sexual revolution that Hillary Clinton wants to accelerate. This kind of talk would make even fictional arch-womanizers James Bond and Don Draper blush, but it is also this appalling misogynistic objectification which gave rise to the pill and social acceptance of libertinism in the first place. Women of Hillary Clinton’s generation wanted to have the same freedom as men, and they got it–not as in the past by making men chaste, but by sinking to the level of adulterers and compulsive fornicators like Donald Trump and Bill Clinton.
Now the revolution which was so counter-cultural in Trump’s and Clinton’s salad days has become completely mainstream and it is virtue which is counter-cultural. Pornography and the hook-up culture make Trump’s comments actually look kind of tame by comparison–which is a horrifying fact in itself. If you think the video was objectifying, consider that one of the most popular dating apps allows people to choose their next date purely on the basis of physical appearance and instead of going to the trouble of courtship, the youth of today view the entreaty to “Netflix and chill” as a sufficient preamble to a forgettable one-night stand free of consequences.
If the liberal politicians and celebrities concern trolling about the video of Trump were acting in good faith, the dozens of NFL players who have been accused of sexual assault and physical abuse would all be unemployed. If Hillary Clinton’s plaintive concern for the delicate minds of our nation’s youth was genuine, she could have used the debate stage and the question about the videos for her own “Sistah Soujah Moment” to implicate not only Trump, but the degrading and abusive lyrics of popular music artists such power couple Beyoncé and Jay Z or the hypersexualized blue comedy of ultraliberal women fellow-travelers like Amy Schumer, Samantha Bee, Sarah Silverman, Nikki Glaser, Lena Dunham, and the list goes on and on of celebrities who all bear just as much blame as Donald Trump, if not more so, for the misogynistic and objectifying smuttiness of our entire culture. Hillary Clinton did no such thing.
Rather, Hillary Clinton wants to make abortion a form of taxpayer-funded birth control, as it is now in so many of the countries that were formerly part of the godless Soviet Union. Abortion is tragically too often a direct consequence of the terrible things that Trump spoke about, because the men who treat women this way have no intention of taking on their fatherly responsibilities and the women who tolerate—or indeed, encourage—this kind of boorishness overlook the gentle and patient respectfulness of true masculinity.
In the cesspool of our diseased culture, there is the contrasting witness of authentic Christian chastity coupled with the openness to life in the sanctifying bonds of matrimony, which shines with the blazing light of truth for all those who have the eyes to see it. In this election however, that truth has no champion at the top of the ticket. In the vice-presidential debate, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana spoke movingly of the culture of life, but as far as the marquee candidates are concerned, the truth is left to fend for herself in the smarmy, groping, fleshpot that is our decadent age.
On the other side, there is an alternative reaction which answers the repulsive caricature of masculinity represented by Trump and the former president Clinton, not by affirming the truth of genuine sexuality, but by trapping sexuality–and especially male sexuality–in a labyrinth of smoke and mirrors constructed from a multitude of new gender identities on the one hand and a legion of new forms of imagined discrimination and oppression on the other.
Unlike the truth which stands naked and alone like the virgin girls paraded in the jeering slave auctions of ISIS, this world of illusion and self-delusion has a champion par excellence in Hillary Clinton, who has cannily transmogrified her enabling of her husband’s regressive philandering into instead making her the ultimate victim. Her appeal is not to her strength and virtue, but to take pity on her supposed womanly helplessness and weakness–which ultimately feeds right back into those despicable stereotypes that make the infamous video so revolting in the first place.
Like Scylla and Charybdis, Donald Trump and both of the Clintons are truly monsters, but we also live in a monstrous culture. Only one of them will give us a chance to change that culture towards the good, and mind you, it will not be because of his leadership but despite it. Still, it’s what we have to work with. The comparison between Oliver Cromwell and Charles II comes to mind. King Charles was an autocrat who repeatedly dissolved Parliament and ruled by fiat, yet did nothing to advance religious freedom for Catholics, waited until his deathbed to honor his promise of conversion in return for French support in the Anglo-Dutch war, fathered 12 illegitimate children, and continually overspent his generous annuity from Parliament on a lavish and hedonistic court. He was still better than Cromwell.
Likewise, we always knew Trump was a bad person unworthy of our trust. The latest video is not the first time he has said or done something which in any other circumstances would disqualify him from holding any political office, much less the Presidency. The thing is, Hillary Clinton is perhaps the only candidate in living memory who has been equally disqualified. Still, with him wielding the power to shape the judiciary for the next generation, we at least stand a chance. Under Hillary Clinton, we will have no recourse, and just as Hillary abandoned the girls of Iraq’s religious minorities to the slave auction, she will abandon our daughters in this country to the very same demeaning and denigrating hypersexualization that everyone who is cheering the release of the video claims to oppose.
Despite this cynical and negative campaign, in a weird way, the second presidential debate was oddly positive and uplifting, because unlike past elections where candidates have tried to pivot away from unpopular policies to focus on their opponents’ scandals, both candidates actually pivoted to policy issues to get off of the topic of their many scandals, and unlike the candidates themselves who are equally and indistinguishably deplorable (to borrow a word), their policy prescriptions could not be more starkly different–if perhaps equally wrong in almost every respect. The only good thing about this election is the fact that the many scandals attached to both major candidates still provoke revulsion, which means that, no thanks to President Obama, there is still hope–for now.
Unlike the promised hopeful new era which remains unfulfilled by President Obama, the bitterly cynical choice of this election promises to deliver nothing and we can vote soberly without any expectation that it will. Whereas Barack Obama was an empty vessel who channeled utopian and messianic aspirations of his supporters, the two candidates running today are mere placeholders who will face sharply divided razor-thin majorities in both chambers for whichever party manages to win control in the next Congress. As Catholics, our chief concern should be which candidate will do the least damage to religious freedom so that we can continue the difficult work of transforming the culture–hopefully–to prevent us from arriving at such a diabolical choice ever again in the future.
If Hillary Clinton becomes president, she will continue to manipulate the political process and the press to obtain the outcome she desires, overcoming whatever feeble opposition can be mounted by the legislature, even if, as seems more doubtful by the day, Republicans are able to hold on to the barest majority in Congress. Instead, she will use a compliant bureaucracy and a friendly judiciary to force through her agenda without resorting to the inconvenience of duly enacted legislation by the representatives of the people. On the other hand, if Donald Trump becomes president and the things he claims to have done in the infamous video are true, he will be impeached and run out of town and some semblance of the constitutional order will be restored. In this cynical race to the bottom, it is actually in the best interests of the Republic to choose the candidate who will get there first and at least in this respect, there can be no question that Donald Trump is the best man for the job.