The most encouraging consistent reaction to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump throughout this election has been widespread public disgust with both of them. In poll after poll after poll after poll after poll, both candidates have been shown to be two of the most disliked in modern political history.
Why? Because Americans consider Clinton and Trump, corrupt, bullying, sleazy and worse. Much worse. In the last few days even the terms “sexual assault” and “rapist” made their way into the 2016 lexicon.
You can’t blame most voters for weeding through the muck to choose the candidate they believe might be the best—or least bad—next president of the United States. But that doesn’t mean any of us have to wrap our arms around these candidates. We don’t have to lower ourselves to their increasingly low level, with still a month to go.
We don’t have to lose our souls.
When a 2005 tape was released Friday of Trump bragging how he would simply walk up and grab women’s genitals, the number of conservatives who rushed to his defense was disturbing. I thought, wait—these are the same people who just a few months ago feared the “threat” of transgendered people grabbing their kid’s crotches in bathrooms, and who spent the last 20 years bashing Bill Clinton’s alleged criminal sexual behavior.
To which many conservatives responded—yeah, Bill Clinton! His abuse of Monica Lewinsky, the rape and sexual assault allegations, Clinton was way worse, many conservatives said, therefore Trump isn’t so bad. This was a common response from some right pundits and many on social media. I was floored.
Even most conservative evangelical leaders—people you would think might have a different set of priorities than mere politics—stuck with Trump. Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore dissented, calling his fellow evangelical leaders a “disgrace,” adding:
Trump held a press conference Sunday with Bill Clinton’s past accusers and invited them to the debate. This is fair game. But there is also a significant list of women, including a 13-year-old girl, who have accused Trump of rape or assault.
Are conservatives now saying ‘our rapist isn’t as bad as your rapist?’ Are we now firmly in the camp that sexual assault isn’t so bad when our guy does it?
Yeah, many are.
Then there is Hillary Clinton.
It is true that it is Hillary, not Bill Clinton, who’s running for president, but who also often touts herself as a strong female role model or even a feminist.
But Mrs. Clinton has also either maligned or turned a blind eye to the women who have accused her husband of the same, or perhaps worse, type of sexually deviant behavior she now happily advertises Trump talking about a decade ago. Hillary tweeted last year:
Except those who have accused her husband? Sexual assault is only bad when the other party does it? What if the Trump campaign started referring to any of the women making accusations against their candidate as “bimbo eruptions” as a Clinton aide referred to Bill’s accusers in the 1990s? One can only imagine the backlash.
This double standard really is hard to take. It should be hard to take for more Americans than simply those who lean right. It certainly should be hard to swallow for anyone who considers him or herself progressive. If bringing sexual assault to light is a priority, the Clintons’ lifelong example has been regressive.
It’s one thing for conservatives to say they are reluctantly casting their vote for Trump because they believe Clinton would be worse. It’s quite another to actively cheer the guy and dismiss behavior we found unacceptable when Bill Clinton was accused of it. It’s one thing for progressives to embarrassingly and regrettably cast a ballot for Clinton because they fear Trump. But declaring “I’m with Her” proudly is a hypocrisy too far for anyone now pointing fingers at Trump’s behavior.
First Lady Michelle Obama said at the Democratic Convention of her husband’s critics, “When they go low, we go high.” It’s good advice.
In a month this will be over. In the meantime, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are sure to go lower. None of us are obligated to follow them.