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Trump Keeps Dragging America Into More Moral Sewers Than We Can Count

The American president is supposed to represent the national character. Trump has set a “moral example” that will take a generation at least to repair.


After just a bit more than a year of marriage and the recent birth of his youngest child, Donald Trump coerced Stormy Daniels into having sex with him by dangling a slot on Celebrity Apprentice and then physically blocking the exit from his hotel bedroom. Multiple other women have accused him of violent sexual assault, and he was also found by a court and jury to have sexually assaulted and then defamed E. Jean Carroll.

And now he wants to become president again.

Many countries split the functions of head of state and head of government. In the U.K. and other historic kingdoms, the head of state is the king or queen, while the head of government is the prime minister. In Israel and some other countries, the head of state is the president, while the prime minister runs the government.

The head of state is expected to define the moral tone of the nation (essentially a “parental” role), while the head of government runs the day-to-day details of governance (an administrative role).

In the United States, our president is both our head of state and head of government, which is why it’s essential that the person holding that position be both a competent manager and a respected moral leader.

While there have been a few immoral exceptions (whom history views with a jaundiced eye) like Richard Nixon, Andrew Johnson, and Andrew Jackson, our nation has generally been blessed with presidents who took both responsibilities seriously and, particularly as head of state, tried to establish a high moral example for the American people.

Until Donald Trump.

Trump’s incompetence as an administrator is legendary (see: Covid), but head-of-government ineptitude can be overcome with good staffing or repaired in future administrations (Biden is, for example, rebuilding the Environmental Protection Agency, Labor Department, and other executive branch offices that Trump tried to destroy).

The damage an immoral or amoral president does to the fabric of American society, however, can last generations.

As the example in chief, the president teaches Americans—particularly young people—how, essentially, to be an American citizen. He or she defines behavioral expectations, is the standard against which citizens, other politicians, and even business and nonprofit leaders are compared, and shows democratic leaders across the world how to behave.

Democracy, after all, is essentially an abstraction; a political and practical expression of morality. It’s based on “We, the People” trusting and caring for each other while working together to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

Our Constitution is a moral document as much as it’s the supreme law of our land. And for a constitutional republic to function requires moral leadership and the participation of a committed, moral citizenry.

This is where Donald Trump has done the most damage to our nation and to the cause of peace and democracy around the world.

It’s been nine years since Trump came down his escalator and declared his jeremiad against brown-skinned “rapists and murderers.” Young people hitting voting age this year, by and large, have no clear recollection of any previous presidential example; they were only 8 or 9 years old when Trump first moved from reality TV into running for the presidency.

Prior to Trump, racism—while a very real cancer that’s infected our nation from its inception—was largely under the surface; bigots were ashamed when they were publicly outed, and being labeled as intolerant meant being socially shunned in most levels and parts of society.

The same was true for misogyny, infidelity, untruthfulness, and open criminality. Over the years many would-be politicians, corporate leaders, and even employees have seen their careers ended when such aspects of their character were publicly revealed.

The past nine years, however, have brought us open marches by young men with Tiki torches chanting “Jews will not replace us”; an explosion of armed white supremacist militias that were once relegated to the backwoods; and Republican politicians flaunting their hatred for queer and trans people and racial and religious minorities, all while reveling in their denigration of basic standards of morality and decency.

Even Trump’s dismissive and exploitative attitude toward women has become a newly acceptable Republican doctrine.

Harvey Weinstein extorted sex from women who wanted in to his movies and raped aspiring stars, and then blackmailed many of them to keep their silence. While they faced the threat of embarrassment and eviction from Hollywood if they blew the whistle, and lifelong trauma from Weinstein’s assaults, they didn’t generally need to also fear hordes of male Trump followers threatening their lives like the 13-year-old who filed a suit saying Trump had raped her at Jeffrey Epstein’s mansion but then dropped the suit when she and her family started receiving those violent threats.

E. Jean Carroll told a court that she was so traumatized by Trump raping her in the Bergdorf-Goodman changing room that she was unable to have sex with a man again. Fully 26 women have publicly accused Trump of sexual assault, although most have backed away from the charges since he entered politics and acquired an army of angry, armed male followers.

Trump, in other words, is the political version of Harvey Weinstein—only arguably this situation is worse because the GOP continues to hold him up as a positive example. That doesn’t seem to bother Republican voters and right-wing hate media, though: They’re all in on trashing Stormy Daniels and supporting the orange adjudicated rapist.

Trump-inspired misogyny—most recently endorsed by the six Republicans on the Supreme Court and now embraced by Republican politicians celebrating the end of abortion rights and even calling for an end to the right of women to vote—has gone mainstream. From Michigan to North Carolina to Utah to speakers at the Republican National Convention and national conservative pundits, a growing, albeit still minority, movement within the GOP and the evangelical church is calling for the repeal of the Nineteenth Amendment.

Multiple Republican-controlled states (Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia) have, in the past nine years, passed legislation requiring women who want to vote to have ID that matches their birth certificates, leaving an estimated 34 percent of women in those states unable to vote because they adopted their husband’s names at marriage but never formally applied for a legal name change.

The GOP’s “war on women” is every bit as much a war on morality and common decency as it is an effort to elevate the political and economic power of men. It is shaking, and it threatens to devastate, the moral fiber of our nation.

Even worse, his immorality goes far beyond his pathetic sexual crimes.

He tore babies out of the arms of nursing mothers. He sucked up to murderous dictators around the world and denigrated our democratic allies. He tried to overthrow our government. He stole documents from the White House. He lied over 30,000 times while in office. He gleefully broke laws like the Hatch Act and today thumbs his nose at the Logan Act.

George Washington is often referred to as the “father of our country,” a reference to that parent-and-exemplar role historically played by our presidents. He famously walked away from the office after his second term, setting an example that was followed until the 1930s.

In its pursuit of political power and deference to great wealth, today’s GOP cynically rejects as quaint and irrelevant even the notion of common decency and carefully following the law while in public office.

Republicans on the Supreme Court and Judge Aileen Cannon shamelessly work to prevent Donald Trump from being held to account for crimes he committed openly, in front of us, our children, and the whole world.

Even if Trump isn’t put back into the White House this fall, the damage he’s done to our nation’s moral standing and culture will take at least a generation to heal.