Watching the Republican primary this year has been a wild and confusing ride through a hellish moral quandary for the right. Donald Trump, living embodiment of toxic masculinity, has destroyed 16 other candidates for his party’s nomination, clear-cutting all of his opponents in a political climate in which the GOP’s imminent self-immolation only becomes more apparent on the daily.
Republicans are very, very upset about Donald Trump. Even Fox News is upset about Donald Trump! Which begs an honest question from this GOP outsider: Why?
Do I think Donald Trump is a detestable human being who espouses view that make me vomit in my mouth? Yes. Do I think Donald Trump is a terrifyingly cavalier person who uses marginalized communities as pawns and scapegoats in an attempt to rise to power? Yes. Do I think Donald Trump is a racist, sexist, xenophobic piece of human garbage? Yep.
But it’s not surprising that I feel this way: I’m a queer mixed-race feminist with working-class roots, after all. I’m a lefty! An activist! For me to look at Donald Trump and feel my soul crumbling inside my skeleton wasn’t surprising. But watching his own party’s reactions to his campaign kind of has been.
Dozens of Republican legislators, legends, and everyday people have come out swinging against Donald Trump. #NeverTrump, they say, valiantly claiming a sense of nobility as they fight to save whatever scraps of dignity their party had left before this mess. Many of them claim they’re doing so because they can’t stand his “bigotry,” or — even more delicious — his “misogyny.” They’ve done so with such clarity that Hillary Clinton even recycled their talking points for an ad. In it, everyone from Ted Cruz to Mitt Romney to Jeb! Bush call out Donald Trump for being one of the worst human beings of all time, with a brief cameo from Chris Christie Who Is Dying Inside, which is my favorite Chris Christie because Chris Christie fucking sucks. (Jersey, baby.)
"President Trump" is a dangerous proposition.
Mitt Romney, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio agree.https://t.co/fUkISvgaXC
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) May 4, 2016
And thus I found myself sitting at home, grinning ear-to-ear, glossing over my discomfort at finally agreeing with these people who so deplore me and my basic human rights, and pressing play again and again and again. (In my defense, I’m pretty stoked about an election cycle in which the Republican nominee’s own talking points drive millions of dollars — and hopefully thousands of supporters — to his Democratic opponent.)
But in the time since that ad dropped, I could help but wonder: Just where does the GOP set the bar for what it considers “bigotry,” or sexism, or just plain offensive bullshit? In what alternate universe is Donald Trump a greedy misogynist, but Mitt Romney is not? In what alternate universe is Donald Trump a “race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot,” but Lindsey Graham is not?
And what does this kind of cognitive dissonance say about us?
Let us not forget, in our fervor to rub the GOP’s own destruction in its face, that every single Republican legislator coming out to oppose Trump largely aligns with his policies. Every single Republican voter or public figure speaking out about Trump’s behavior are people who would have, ostensibly, handily supported some of the other folks running — candidates who oppose raising the minimum wage and cutting taxes on the rich; candidates who unilaterally believe that women shouldn’t have control over their own bodies; candidates who have argued about who hates trans people the most; candidates who have, for the most part, demanded that their party take a hard stance on opposing humane solutions to America’s immigration complexities; candidates who have implicitly endorsed the Republican Party’s sexist witch hunt against Hillary Clinton — someone they’re now, astonishingly, being forced to admit is not the apocalypse-bringing anti-hero they painted her to be. These are people who have, until now, been part of what we can only believe was once a “unified” Republican party that adhered to a platform openly admonishing the human rights of immigrants, women, LGBT people, and people of color.
The jury is still out on whether Ted Cruz or Donald Trump would have been a more terrifying president because when you strip away the spray-tan and the reality TV theatrics, they agreed on a lot more than they disagreed on. In fact, I’d venture that Ted Cruz believed even more deeply in many of those things than the man who ultimately came to defeat him and snag his party’s nomination. I’d venture that Lindsey Graham and George Pataki and Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney believe more deeply in those things than Donald Trump, too.
I find it absolutely laughable that any members of the Republican Party — and especially those figures who have come to define it — expect any of us to buy into their new shtick painting Donald Trump as “the other.” It doesn’t entirely shock me, though, that it seems to be working. Republicans sincerely want us to believe that their kinder, more benevolent racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, and classism make them better people than Donald Trump. It doesn’t. In a culture where overt bigotry has been replaced with covert bigotry, the Republican Party has allowed its members — for years and without apology — to viciously push back against the gains of the last century using that kind of covert bigotry as a shield from criticism. Of course it isn’t sexism! It’s just about abortion. Of course it isn’t racism! It’s just about sticking up for cops. Of course it isn’t xenophobia! It’s just about keeping our country safe.
It’s fine and good that Republicans are demanding that someone as overtly bigoted and straight-up callous (and inexperienced, to boot) as Trump be denied the opportunity to represent their values. But Donald Trump is hardly an outlier. Donald Trump is simply the id of the GOP; he’s simply saying out loud the subtext of every discourse they’ve created in this country in recent times. It isn’t that Donald Trump is more sexist or more greedy or more bigoted, or that the others among him in the GOP ranks aren’t those things. It’s that Donald Trump has no censor, no filter, no common sense of human dignity to keep himself from saying freely what the Republican Party has long believed: That the status quo is worth fighting for, and the women, LGBT people, and people of color it crushes in its pervasiveness simply never mattered.