1990s nostalgia is currently en vogue. Here is a dash of nostalgic reflection from that decade: There was a time when conservatives tended to speak widely and publicly against sexual immorality, most pointedly concerning former President Bill Clinton, whose extramarital sexual escapades embarrassed a nation and disgraced the presidency for a time.
Quite apart from the perjury the president committed, his own willful and serial moral degeneracy was roundly criticized by everyone who had eyes to see it. It was good times. The White House is currently occupied by a man who has not merely emulated Bill Clinton but outdone him: Donald Trump is not simply an adulterer and a sexual profligate but a braggart about it. (AP Photos)
There is not so much of that these days. The White House is currently occupied by a man who has not merely emulated Clinton but outdone him: Donald Trump is not simply an adulterer and a sexual profligate but a braggart about it, who has spoken glowingly about cheating on his wife, who once used the persona of a fake spokesman to crow about his extramarital sexual escapades, and who once wrote a giggly allusion to bedding “seemingly very happily married” women.
There is every reason, too, to believe that Trump’s alleged affair with Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, did indeed happen: We know that Trump has no compunctions about cheating on the women to whom he is married, and we know also that he is a rather weak-willed man who operates largely at the behest of his own shallow desires. It is also entirely probable that he had an affair with Karen McDougal while his third wife was pregnant with his child. These are not unrealistic allegations.
Conservatives should not be afraid to wholly and persistently condemn this behavior. It is not, in the end, strictly necessary for anyone to disavow Trump completely based on his degenerate sexual conduct; as Rich Lowry notes, plenty of people have decided, not unreasonably, that “the alternative to Trump is a disaster on every policy front.” The gamble, then, is that we might be able to strike a balance between political expedience and timeless virtue, that we can affirm and vocalize our wholesale opposition to the president’s reprobate sexual habits while still recognizing that he can do some good while in office.
Maybe it’s too late for the former. But it shouldn’t be. Sexual morality is a vital and necessary part of a stable and happy society; it forms a particularly critical part of the foundation of an ordered life. We have drifted very far astray from that order since the dawn of the sexual revolution, with predictable consequences: Marriage is down, divorce is up, abortion kills a million humans per year, we are now educating 13-year-old girls on the finer points of anal sex.
None of which is the president’s fault, of course. And yet it is a mystery that so many conservatives — particularly Evangelicals, who have thrown in their support for Trump in record numbers — are loathe to point out the obvious: that the president is, in a real and pointed way, part of the problem. Adultery is bad. Smirking and bragging about it to millions and millions of people is worse. Cheating on your pregnant wife with a porn star is lower still. These are terrible examples to be setting for the country, particularly for young men, who now more than ever need to not be presented with such rotten and amoral behavior.
In that respect, Clinton was in some ways superior to Trump: for all his sleazy behavior, Clinton at least had the foresight to not brag about it, to try and keep it under the carpet (or the desk) where it belonged. Nevertheless, we were right to condemn him for it back then. We would be right to do the same thing to Donald Trump today.
Daniel Payne is a writer based in Virginia. He is an assistant editor for the College Fix, the news magazine of the Student Free Press Association. He blogs at Trial of the Century.