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The Trouble With Normal Is It Always Gets Worse


Earlier today, Paul discussed this LOL Nothing Matters post by Kevin Drum, arguing it was OK that the media was substantially under-covering E. Jean Carroll’s credible rape allegations because nothing could change the mind of Trump’s base or his colleagues. With all (genuine, in this case) respect for Kevin, I think this is a wrong and pernicious line of argument. Two obvious things:

–Elections are decided by marginal voters and the relative mobilization of partisan voters, not by changing the minds of the base, and nobody knows what might ultimately matter at the margins. In early 2015, after years of trying and failing to make Benghazi a thing, did it seem plausible that Republicans could make a minor scandal about a mind-numbingly boring issue nobody has ever cared about before or since the dominant issue of the election, with history-changing results? And yet here we are. Hearing yet more new accusations of sexual assault might not change the mind of any swing voters or demobilize any educated suburban Republican voters, and then again it might.

–More to the point, since when is “will it materially change the outcome of elections?” the standard for determining whether something is newsworthy? By that standard — particularly if we’re talking about individual stories — almost nothing is. What are we even doing here then? If you’re a political reporter and believe something is only news if it will turn hardcore Trump supporters against Trump, the logical conclusion is find something to do for a living.

As Paul says, this cynicism when fashionable fascism dominates the scene ultimately has the effect of normalizing. As Nobdy put it recently:

Regardless of his supporters we have to keep talking about these rapes over and over and over because otherwise we accept the implicit framing that it’s somehow okay or that there’s some kind of non-legal statute of limitations on holding someone accountable for rape.

In other words we normalize it. We normalize rape. Rape.

That’s not okay. I understand that we live in a rape culture and that rape and sexual assault are to some degree already distressingly normal and normalized, but this is different. This is not hidden or glossed over or anything. It’s an open accusation, both credible and substantiated by what she said at the time, and consistent with over a dozen other accounts.

We need to keep talking about it. A lot. Because if we don’t we give the message that you can get a free pass on rape* if you just…do it enough times that people get tired of hearing about it, or stonewall and lie about it no matter how obviously.

If I had a media platform I would consider calling him “Credibly accused rapist and president Donald Trump” on a regular basis.

Like it or not many people, including children, take their cues from ‘leaders.’ What message are we sending if we say “if you’re important enough it doesn’t matter if you rape someone, because holding you accountable is too inconvenient” on such a public scale. I understand that’s a message we send frequently in other situations but it’s one we must resist.

Trump cannot be allowed to get away with the moral equivalent of the Gish gallop. Not on this.

Paul Waldman has more:

But the rest of us need not acquiesce to their dismissal of these stories out of some supposedly savvy assessment of political realities. We can speak the truth:

If the allegations are true, the president of the United States is certainly a sexual predator, and most probably a rapist. We will never know for sure how numerous are his victims, but at a minimum they might number in the dozens.

To those who say, “That’s awful, but what matters now is what he does as president,” I understand. But this all must be part of the reckoning we eventually make with this sickening era in our history. Not just his boundless corruption, his bigotry, his cruelty, his eagerness to allow hostile foreign governments to twist our elections. This, too: One of our great political parties selected as its champion the single most odious and immoral figure in American public life, then went to every length they could to defend him.

I have no illusions that Republicans will ever face the accountability they deserve for their tireless service to Trump, any more than he will face accountability for his own actions. But we can’t ever stop saying it, crying it, shouting it: This is who you gave us. You are complicit in all he is and all he has done. I’d say you should be ashamed, were it not for the fact that you’ve proved you have no shame.

History, at least, will remember — if we make sure it does. It’s not nearly enough, but it’s something.

To paraphrase another Canadian philosopher, you choose to ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, you still have made a choice.

…more good pieces from Jong-Fast and Millhiser.

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