You would think that with rising geopolitical tension and a supposed “trade war”on the horizon, the media attention would be covering those stories, but instead when we tune in, a large portion of our time is taken up with stories about a woman named Stormy Daniels. For those of us who don’t care for that sort of thing, Daniels is a fairly popular pornographic actress who is now in the media spotlight due to a report that she had an affair with the current United States President, Donald Trump. Not only was this already scandal-worthy, but it appears now that Donald Trump’s lawyer allegedly paid the actress “hush money” to not talk about the affair. Needless to say, media outlets, specifically liberal ones, have taken this as another opportunity to attack Trump’s character, which in the light of things is appropriate.
The President has a bad track record already with personal scandals (Billy Bush video anyone?), but he is in good company in Washington. Capitol hill is no stranger to scandals. In fact, it seems to be quite the staple. His son, Donald Jr. was recently divorced, which on its own isn’t exactly a story, but considering his father’s two divorces, the parallels were obvious. Several congressmen with both a (D)s and (R)s next to their name have had #metoo allegations levied against them and there is long history of indiscretions too numerous to count at the state and local levels. Indecency seems to have bipartisan support at the highest level of government. Sadly the white house also has a tainted history.
The Obama presidency spoiled us with its relative lack of any (personal) scandals, but the Democrats should take a moment to reflect as they chastise the sitting president for his failures in his private life. Just as it did during the last election, the Clinton legacy rears its ugly head. I don’t think there will be a time where Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky leaves our collective consciousness. It seems mild by comparison, but the abuse of power by former President Clinton still lingers over the Democrats. The Republicans have the luxury of casting Trump as a political outsider, and not part of the mainstream GOP (not something they’ve earned, I might add,)but the Democrats have put too much weight behind the Clintons to get rid of them for good.
So what do we, the electorate, do in this situation? Can we vote for leaders we agree with on policy, but who have morally questionable personal lives? I’ve written at length my disdain for the media’s obsession with trivial nonsense like what kind of steak Trump likes to eat, or how much Bernie Sander’s coat costs, but these situations are different. While I’m not sure what implications we can draw about a candidate from their choice of burger, there’s something damning about marital affairs and sexual abuse. It denotes a lack of character, and that can say a lot about a person’s judgment. The kinds of people who have affairs with interns are not good leaders, because the same moral fiber that requires good leadership is the same kind of thing that keeps people from cheating on their spouses. This is also not something that is just wrong with Clinton or Trump. Indecency is far too widespread and statistically more likely among the powerful for this to be an issue of individuals. No, I think that the reason we have allowed this to happen is because we are far too quick to defend people we agree with for otherwise objectively morally despicable actions. Supposed “feminists” who vote democrat come out to defend the Clintons way too readily, and the evangelical fervor over Trump’s argued moral quality makes me sick to my stomach.
The problem I think is deeper still. These positions of power, like the ones in Washington, D.C. and Hollywood, seem to encourage this behavior. The words “…and when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything…” followed by the more infamous line by our current president echoes in my head as I write this. We seem to give the powerful a pass, and more specifically, powerful men. How “toxic masculinity,” a colloquialism that describes harmful tendencies attached to our traditional understanding of masculinity, has influenced this phenomenon is not lost on me. “Locker room/golf course talk” and “boys will be boys” attitudes only further legitimize this kind of behavior.
So, while the media is covering these things for the wrong reasons, to attack opposing candidates and politicians, these issues do deserve closer inspection. We as an electorate, need to be more willing to point out the problems in our own camps as well as our opponents’. It is the only way things will ever change.