Every once in a while, an article comes along that is so egregious as to deserve its very own response post. I can say it is an even rarer occasion that such a piece comes out of the usually-thoughtful and measured Wall Street Journal, but hey – this isn’t any average election year.
2016 seems to have brought out the very worst in a whole lot of us, and unfortunately, the WSJ has not escaped unscathed. Example A: David Gelernter’s weekend commentary “Trump and the Emasculated Voter.”
The subheading is an accurate summary of Gelernter’s argument: “There’s only one way to protect the nation from Hillary Clinton, and that is to vote for Donald Trump.” It’s an exact flip of the most ubiquitous defense for an HRC vote: she’s not DJT. To say Gelernter (or his editors) were being unoriginal would be putting it nicely, so in this rebuttal’s final bow to graciousness: it’s a quite unoriginal wording.
Like much written over the past ten days, Gelernter responds to the video of Trump advocating and bragging about sexual assault. Here is his take:
“In his Mr. Nauseating video of last weekend, Mr. Trump showed us that he had all the class and cool of a misbegotten 12-year-old boy.”
As a former teacher of middle school students, this one’s an easy rebuke. Because to say Mr. Trump showed the “class and cool” of a 12-year-old is a hideous insult to 12-year-olds. I’ve actually been around them, hundreds of them, and I can promise you: They have 100-fold the “class and cool” of Trump.
But let’s deconstruct the words chosen here. “Class” refers to a person’s manners and decorum. It would be accurate to say someone who eats spaghetti with his fingers lacks class. “Cool” usually denotes some suave hipness to culture and/or an admirable rebellion against it.
Is it “cool” of Trump to brag about sexual assault? I don’t think so. It shows no understanding at all of what is embraced by thoughtful culture, and I doubt Gelernter – or anyone, for that matter – imagines that Trump’s “rebellion” against keeping his tiny hands off private female bodies is “admirable.”
And while it is absolutely lacking in “manners” to grab women “by the p***y,” is that really an appropriate description? Is the most we can say for dehumanizing one half of a population – because, according to Trump, he can “get away” with it – simply unmannerly?
If I could make a suggestion, I’d say we’re more on the money stating Trump showed he had all the “criminal confidence” of a rapey, entitled creep. That trust fund guy who knows daddy’s money will absolve him of consequences, should he sexually harass and assault some no-name piece of a**.
Gelernter goes on a long diatribe about President Obama governing like a “third-rate tyrant,” and how monstrously awful all his policies have been, finishing up with the dread that consumes all talk-radio: Clinton will be a third Obama term. He then turns to the hot-button issue that cranked up the Trump Train: immigration.
“Will America go on being America or turn into something else? That depends on who lives here—especially given our schools, which no longer condescend to teach Americanism.”
Hm. “That depends on who lives here.” Now this is interesting. Because my understanding, having grown up attending private Christian schools that did, indeed, teach a rather patriotic view of American history, is that the brilliance and beauty of America derives from its basis as an idea. An idea of limited government, and guaranteed freedoms: freedom of speech, of the press, of religious practice.
The idea of America does extend to all people, to the incoming huddled masses welcomed by our Statue of Liberty. At least, it did in the view our nation’s founders, and those who admire them. But Mr. Gelernter does not seem to think so… and it makes me wonder, actually, just how much he believes in those ideas himself. Because if Gelernter cannot imagine that foreigners might also embrace these universal truths, then how “universally true” could they be? In his view?
He goes on:
“We fail in our duty if we don’t think carefully whom we want in this country, who would be best for America.”
The most obvious question: Does Gelernter truly think Donald J. Trump is the sort “we want” in this country, who would “be best” for America? Do we want men who think treating women like disposable objects, to be used and trashed at will and whim, to multiply and fill our great land?
I wasn’t born – or even close, actually – when Jimmy Stewart ruled the Golden Screen. But I’ve seen him, and the ethos he represented, and I can say with no qualms whatsoever: Trump would have gotten punched in the face by Stewart, and those like him.
Men like my grandfather, who fought in the South Pacific during WWII, who had faced real demons from within and without, and who had no time for bums and losers. He would have clocked Trump, on multiple occasions. On the bus, with Billy – he would have told both those snickering misogynists how low and disgraceful they were. He would have asked that Trump be removed from the debate in Detroit, with his opener about the “no problem” size of his nether regions.
There was a time when good men were more open and assertive about their disgust for other men who behaved in the foul and criminally-minded ways that Trump regularly expresses.
Gelernter excuses it as “12-year-old boy” immaturity.
Here are his final thoughts:
“It’s too bad one has to vote for Mr. Trump. It will be an unhappy moment at best. Some people will feel dirty, or pained, or outright disgraced. But when all is said and done, it’s no big deal of a sacrifice for your country. I can think of bigger ones.”
I can too. I can think of all the young men and women who have sacrificed their time, their bodies, and sometimes their lives, to protect the freedoms Trump promises to try and curb (his desire to sue newspapers… gets no mention by Gelernter). I can think of the abolitionists who threw themselves in front of trains to end slavery, while Trump claims he doesn’t know who David Duke is, and offers to pay legal fees for a white rally-goer who cold-clocked a peaceful black protestor.
But most pertinently here, I can think of all the women jailed, for daring to ask for the right to vote. I can think of all my friends who have been sexually assaulted or harassed. I can think of that time a male boss told me, casually, he’d “had a dream about me,” then waited with a half-smile, enjoying how awkward and disorienting that kind of unwarranted comment made me feel in an environment that was supposed to be “professional.”
My question to you, Mr. Gelernter: Why do you not take the world Trump openly enacted, and tacitly condones – a world where women are only worthy if they’re young and beautiful… and then, only worthy to be groped at will – as seriously as you take the many faults you list of Clinton and Obama?
Because while neither Democrat is perfect, Trump poses a clear and immediate threat to half the population… of America.
Trump may be the “empty gin bottle” of the enraged anti-Establishment fanboy. But to dub these voters “emasculated” is Gelernter’s most unfortunate faux pas. It implies the grotesque “masculinity” demonstrated by Trump’s violence towards women as somehow an acceptable antidote to men who currently feel politically disenfranchised.
That is flatly disgusting.
One hopes the WSJ pulls itself out of its current Trump trough, and finds its way back to more thoughtful essays. Soon.
Photo: Getty Images