The Moustache of Wisdom has a question: “Can the U.S. Win This Election?” He says it will be a tragedy if little changes after all we’ve gone through. Mr. Bruni considers “Daughters and Trumps” and has a memo to Republicans: You don’t need to be a dad to be sickened by Donald. Just a human being. Here’s TMOW:
Seriously, why didn’t we sell tickets? If only our national election had been pay-per-view for the rest of the world, we could have wiped out the national debt. But while viewers around the world seem to be lapping up our national reality TV show, are we, the citizens of America, going to get anything out of it?
Specifically, are we going to get the thing we need most and have enjoyed least this century: effective government? We have too much deferred maintenance to fix, too much deferred leadership to generate and too much deferred reimagining to undertake to wait another four years to solve our biggest problems, especially in this age of accelerating technology and climate change.
If we will have indulged in almost two years of electoral entertainment and pathos just to end up back where we were, only worse, with even more venomous gridlock in Washington, it won’t just be emotionally depressing, we’ll really start to decline as a nation. When we forfeit governing our country strategically at the national level for this long, inevitably the roof will start to leak and the floors will start to buckle.
But how can anything good come from a campaign where the entertainment is increasingly X-rated and where the winner will be so morally injured — because of the hatchet wounds that were inflicted by the loser or that were self-inflicted?
What needs to happen for this election-drama script to end differently, or at least not so tragically?
For starters, this version of the Republican Party has to die. I don’t say that as a partisan. I say that as a citizen who believes that America needs a healthy center-right party that offers more market-based solutions to problems; keeps the pressure on for deregulation, freer trade and smaller government; and is willing to compromise. But today’s version of the G.O.P. is not such a problem-solving party.
We have known that ever since the G.O.P. speaker of the House John Boehner quit, not because he couldn’t work with President Obama but because roughly a quarter of House Republicans, the so-called Freedom Caucus, were simply not interested in governing and had made his job impossible.
For the sake of the country, this version of the Republican Party has to be fractured, with the extreme far right going off with the likes of Donald Trump, the Tea Party, Ted Cruz — along with all the right-wing TV and radio gasbags who thrive on chaos — leaving behind a moderate center-right bloc, which, one hopes, one day would become the new G.O.P. But it will need to nurture a new base, one inspired by a Jack Kemp spirit of conservative innovation, not by Trump dog whistles of anger, xenophobia and racial enmity.
Toward that end it is particularly important that Trump be crushed at the polls to send the message inside the G.O.P. and out that someone of his poisonous ilk can never win in America, and to strip him and his loyalists of any argument that the election was rigged.
At the same time, we have to hope not only that Hillary Clinton wins the national election but also that Democrats retake at least the Senate, so she has some real leverage to forge trade-offs with a more sane G.O.P. to start fixing things: putting in place common-sense gun laws, like restoring the Assault Weapons Ban, requiring universal background checks and making it illegal for anyone on the terrorist watch list to buy a gun; borrowing money at near-zero interest rates to rebuild our infrastructure; replacing some income and corporate taxes with a revenue-neutral carbon tax to stimulate more clean-energy production; fixing Obamacare; and implementing sensible immigration reform and responsible tax and entitlement reforms.
The bigger Clinton’s margin of victory, the less dependent she’d be, I hope, on the left wing of her party, and the more likely she’d work with Republicans, as she vowed during the last debate, by “finding common ground, because you have to be able to get along with people to get things done in Washington.”
I say “hope” because I don’t know who the real Hillary is — the more Bernie Sanderish one speaking publicly or the more Bill Clintonish one who spoke privately to Goldman Sachs.
The nightmare scenario — ruling out, God forbid, a Trump victory — is that Clinton wins with a slim majority and the G.O.P. holds the House and the Senate. The Democratic left would have a stranglehold on Clinton while Trump, who would start his own TV network and movement, would keep the Republican base in a state of permanent anger, intimidating every Republican lawmaker who contemplated compromise. If that happens, America will be adrift.
One more wish. Within hours of the leak of the “Access Hollywood” tape showing Trump saying vile things about women, WikiLeaks, which seems to have become an arm of Russian intelligence, leaked Democratic Party emails meant to embarrass Clinton. The Clinton camp suggested that Russia was trying to tilt the election to Trump. If so, crushing Trump at the polls is the best way for Americans to say to Vladimir Putin, “You can manipulate your elections, but you can’t manipulate ours.”
But please, Lord, let that not be the only good thing to come out of this election.
And now here’s Mr. Bruni:
As the father of no daughters, I’m appalled by Donald Trump’s comments about groping women.
As the husband of no wife, I’m offended.
What, you ask, do my parental and marital status have to do with recognizing the outrage of what he said? I wonder, too. But they must be germane, because Republicans seem unable to censure Trump without invoking female spouses and especially offspring. In this version of Take Our Daughters to Work Day, the work is displaying concern for women, and the daughters are less protégées than props.
Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, used a written statement of displeasure with Trump to identify himself as “the father of three daughters.” This was apparently a wellspring of his pique, which didn’t rise to the level of actually rescinding his endorsement of Trump. Would a fourth daughter have done the trick? A fifth?
“As a husband and father” was how Mike Pence, who has a son and two daughters, commenced his own short-lived reprimand of Trump. Jeb Bush tweeted that he was “the grandfather of two precious girls.” In a debate in Arizona on Monday night, John McCain referred to his daughters.
Sometimes sons were mentioned, and sometimes female politicians did the mentioning. But the pattern of husbands standing up for wives and fathers looking out for daughters was most noticeable — and most discordant.
As Yochi Dreazen noted in a post for Vox, it cast men in the role of protectors and carried a stronger whiff of chivalry than of equality. It also defined women in terms of men and caring about them in terms of their places in men’s families.
“Every wife, mother, daughter — every person — deserves to be treated with dignity and respect,” tweeted Ted Cruz, who seemed to catch himself midsentence and realize what he was doing. So why not go back to the start of the tweet and undo it?
In much of this there was a familiar insinuation that parenthood is a singularly sensitizing, enlightening circumstance, giving someone a special stake in a more just world. But doesn’t Trump himself contradict that?
He’s a parent five times over. He’s a father of two daughters himself, and that’s a credential he carried with him into his nauseating exchange with Billy Bush in 2005 and into his vulgar conversations with Howard Stern across the years.
It didn’t prevent him from giving Stern permission to call Ivanka “a piece of ass.” It didn’t give him pause as he objectified Megyn Kelly, Carly Fiorina, Alicia Machado and so many other women. Trump could begin every sentence with the words “as the father of two daughters,” and while they’d be true, unlike three-quarters of what he says, they’d be a testament to nothing more than a history of unprotected intercourse.
Trump’s an egregious example but hardly an isolated one. McConnell’s three daughters obviously haven’t clued him in to the special challenges many women still face in the work force, because he has spoken and voted on legislation in a manner that minimizes those.
And while Scott Garrett, a Republican congressman from New Jersey, called himself “a husband and father of two daughters” when he assailed Trump’s remarks, he has taken positions against insurance coverage for mammograms and medical privacy for rape victims. What did the women in his life have to say about that?
There’s something off-key when lawmakers — Republicans or Democrats, in connection with Trump or in other instances — describe the importance of an issue in accordance with its relevance to the people closest to them and its proximity to their doorstep. Or when they present their descendants as the best proof of their investment in the future.
The message of that is antithetical to public service and political leadership, which are ideally about representing kin and strangers alike, casting the widest possible net of compassion and letting common values, not personal interests, be the compass.
My loins are fruitless but my principles are clear: No human being — woman or man — should be regarded as a conquest or an amusement with a will subservient to someone else’s. That’s how Trump seems to treat most of the people in his life, and I object to that not as the brother of three admirable siblings (including a sister), not as the son of two extraordinary parents (including a mother), not as the uncle of many talented nieces and nephews, not as the partner of a wonderful man, and not as a friend to brilliant men and women whose welfare matters greatly to me.
I object to it as the citizen of a civilized society. I object to it because it threatens the people I don’t know as well as the people I do. I object to it because it’s wrong.
Tags: The Moustache of Wisdom