Trump’s “Grab ‘Em” Could Hurt Republicans In The Long Term: Cracks In The Wall Edition

One of the few good things to come from Trump’s “grab ’em by the pussy” conversation with Billy Bush is the widespread (though, sadly, not universal) condemnation of his remarks. One interesting condemnation comes from prominent evangelical women (boldface mine):

Beth Moore doesn’t spend much time on politics.

The enormously popular evangelist—her sermons and conferences sell out arenas and printed Bible studies are perennial bestsellers—is more likely to be found helping women understand the life of the Apostle Paul or tweeting about her husband, new granddaughter and two adorable dogs.

But something changed for Moore after Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president of the United States, was caught on tape bragging about his ability to sexual assault women. When Trump said, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything,” Moore had had enough.

I’m one among many women sexually abused, misused, stared down, heckled, talked naughty to. Like we liked it. We didn’t. We’re tired of it,” Moore said. She also had a word about evangelical leaders still supporting Trump: “Try to absorb how acceptable the disesteem and objectifying of women has been when some Christian leaders don’t think it’s that big a deal.”

Moore’s broken silence about the 2016 race—rooted in her own experience with sexual assault—signals a widening gender divide between evangelicals. Increasingly, moderate and conservative Christian women are speaking out about Trump’s brand of misogyny and divisiveness, and condemning support for the nominee or silence about him from male evangelicals

“When Christian women like Beth Moore choose to publicly speak about their own experience with sexual assault, it signals to me that they do not feel heard or understood by fellow Christian leaders who continue to support Trump,” Katelyn Beaty told me. Beaty, until recently the print managing editor of Christianity Today, the country’s largest evangelical Christian publication, is the author of A Woman’s Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the World. “Moore and others are saying to their fellow leaders, the one-in-six statistic”—of women who have experienced sexual assault—“includes me. When will you believe me and stand up for me?

If you read the whole article, the sense of betrayal pervades throughout–hold onto that thought.

Another thing that rattled across the transom was a tweetstorm by a conservative woman who takes Republican and conservative men to task for tolerating Trump–and as Trump has so successfully done this election season, proven Democrats to be right. She writes:

Now some Trojan horse nationalist sexual predator invades the @GOP, eating it alive, and you cowards sit this one out?

And:

He treats women like dogs, and you go against everything I – and other female conservatives – said you were & back down like cowards.

And:

Various men in the movement are writing it off as normal, confirming every stereotype the left has thrown at them. So I’m done.

I’m sooo done. If you can’t stand up for women [and] unendorse this piece of human garbage, you deserve every charge of sexism thrown at you.

Trump–and his defense by other Republicans and conservatives–could very well have long term effects. Not just in short term regarding voter turnout, but, as I’ve noted before in the context of politicizing tragedy, this kind of visceral and personal betrayal related to concrete experience is often what causes people to reconsider world-views:

…often the only way a worldview is blasted apart is a personal tragedy or trauma. As bad as I think some writers are (including me), it doesn’t reach the level (or depths) of traumatizing. Given the resistance to change, when the opportunity presents itself to right a wrong–and that’s what we’re talking about here–’politicizing’ a tragedy is the right thing to do… It’s how people actually evaluate and reconsider what they believe.

Sara Robinson describes how this process works when fundamentalists attempt to live their communities (boldface mine):

Two or three times a week, we find new members on our doorstep. Safe in the anonymity of the Internet (and often under cover of night — these missives are typically time-stamped in the wee hours of the morning, usually posted furtively after weeks or months of lurking) we’re often the first people they’ve ever whispered their doubts out loud to. Their introductions are often heartbreakingly miserable: “I can’t believe this any more — but my husband will leave me if he knows.” “My whole family is fundie. I can’t tell my parents I’ve stopped going to church — it will kill them if they ever find out.” “I’m a deacon at my church. If I start asking these questions, I’ll lose my whole community.”

These people know that the tiny flicker of enlightenment kindling in their minds is about to set their entire lives ablaze. And yet — with a courage that I always find astonishing — almost all of them forge ahead anyway. Some race for the wall. Others pace back and forth for months, planning their escape. A few disappear for a while, but return again a year later, having put their lives in order and ready to go at last.

We must never, ever underestimate what it costs these people to let go of the beliefs that have sustained them. Leaving the safety of the authoritarian belief system is a three-to-five year process. Externally, it always means the loss of your community; and often the loss of jobs, homes, marriages, and blood relatives as well. Internally, it requires sifting through every assumption you’ve ever made about how the world works, and your place within it; and demands that you finally take the very emotional and intellectual risks that the entire edifice was designed to protect you from. You have to learn, maybe for the first time, to face down fear and live with ambiguity. On the scale of relative trauma, it’s right up there with a divorce after a long marriage; and it requires about the same amount and kind of grieving…

They believe outrageous lies, and forgive all manner of sins. Democratic strategists keep trying to run campaigns that will reach these people on the basis of evidence and fact — and are perplexed to find their attempts at education totally rebuffed. George Bush may have lied us into a war, wrecked our economy, saddled our great-grandchildren with debt, savaged the poor, and alienated the entire world; but he is Our Leader, and we will always take his word over anyone else’s. We do not accept you as a legitimate authority. We don’t care what you have to say, because you have no standing at all in our little world.

Mere political or cultural betrayal, no matter how destructive, does not cut through this piece of the wall. The guilt-evaporation process applies to both followers and leaders: you must forgive all wrongs committed by someone inside the fold. Our leader didn’t lie; he was misunderstood, his words distorted by our enemies. Besides, he would never lie to us. Besides, he is just following orders — or God’s will, which is beyond our understanding. Besides, our own forgiveness depends on our ability to forgive, and so we will — never mind the contradictions.

And yet, even so: There is one — and only one — sin so heinous that it cannot be rationalized away by the authoritarian thought process. It is this: the leader’s main job is to protect his abused and terrified horde from personal harm (or, for that matter, any sudden negative change to their immediate status quo). A leader who wantonly allows one of his followers to intimately experience such harm breaks that contract. It is in that moment of betrayal that some followers come to their senses, and start looking for a reckoning.

It’s important to note: the betrayal must be an intensely personal breach that has a deep, immediate, life-changing impact on the individual follower. Fundies don’t think in abstracts. Big national debts, epic political prevarications, and other people’s suffering (even on a global scale) do not impress them. But there are plenty of authoritarian parents across the country who proudly sent a son or daughter off to war — and later received that precious child home under cover of darkness, in a wooden box, with minimal explanation. That’s the kind of personal and profound loss I’m talking about. For many of these patriotic parents, it was also the searing moment of deep betrayal that broke the spell and shoved them off in the direction of the Wall.

“Grab ’em” just might have weakened various conservative institutions, far more than anything Democrats or the Left ever did.

As an aside, I’m certain a similar phenomenon has nothing to do with some Democrats (and ex-Democrats) who are finding it hard to support Democrats in 2016. Nothing at all, I’m sure.

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