Trump vs. Clinton as Moral War

If you listen to the PBS pundits what is one of the central complaints about the Clinton candidacy. “She is not defining any large vision for America. She may be a program wonk but what is the big picture?”

They make this complaint because she’s mostly running a negative campaign. This makes sense of course because most people don’t either candidate so their hopes of winning are tied to putting the spotlight on the other and letting the spotlight illuminate what is scornful about their rival.

In a CNN post debate focus group of undecideds the members of the group who could make up their minds on the basis of this debate were all women. Their comments did not focus on any policy statement but mostly on “disrespect” that Trump showed for Clinton.

This of course was as everyone knew the set-up. Clinton’s job was to help Donald be Donald. Right away Donald tried to keep to his game “Secretary Clinton…” but Hillary right from the start kept to “Donald”.

Trump could only hold his composure for the first half hour but then had to become himself, thin skinned, bullying, interrupting, etc. and she had him. So much for “stamina”.

The Irony of the Clinton Moral High Ground

Almost towards the end of the debate Trump tried to play a moral high ground card.

“I could have said some very nasty things but I didn’t…” of course implying that he would go where everyone from the beginning of the campaign would go, to Bill Clinton’s famous Trump like sexual exploits. Here’s the irony. When Trump does this he reminds us that Hillary is married to a Donald of sorts. Every time Trump brings up Bill at a deep level Hillary is seen in the light of a victim of a moral degenerate. Hillary becomes in the eyes of some a figure of old-moral-virtue, someone who stays in a marriage in suffering. In the eyes of the new-moral-virtue, however, she’s a victim of old morality that says you should stay in a bad marriage. We then wonder if she is a ruthlessly ambitious woman who will sacrifice her personal life for craven political and economic success?

Moral Model for President

This morning NYMag crowed about the new Kahn moment in the debate, Alicia Machado. This, for the crowd of the church of the new civil religion is the closing argument. Trump is a bigot, a misogynist, a racist who is disqualified for consideration to the office because of his moral fiber. This is a working political strategy because it seems the only demographic group Trump can win are white men, the less educated the better. It is important that it is the wife of Bill that is making this argument. It is important that the religious right in the 90s used Bill’s sexual escapades as justification for their moral argument against him. Many of those same voices are now supporting Donald while others on the Christian right are denouncing those voices as hypocritical.

From the other side many in the media can’t seem to figure out how so many want Trump.

I overhead a conversation with someone I know to be a deeply committed conservative Christian. He is from the fundamentalist church, no drinking, no smoking, very traditional on sexual issues. If there could be a poster-senior for American Christian fundamentalism this would be it. He was pitching his pro-Trump message.

  • Ben Carson will serve in the cabinet
  • I like his family
  • I like him on abortion
  • I like him on the economy

Ben Carson has of course been a popular among white Christian fundamentalists for a long time. Carson is Bill Cosby before Cosby’s fall to this group.

The other three statements are of course jaw droppers. Trump is on this third marriage with a history of women worse than Bill Clinton. His family looks like Stepford families having the money that will buy the clothing and plastic surgery available. Trump is an icon of family values? What was he doing on the Howard Stern show again?

Abortion? Trump was outspoken for it before he was against it. Don’t expect any progress on the culture war front. Trump said he’ll let Caitlyn use the any potty she wants at Trump tower.

Economy? Well at least we’re talking about politics now again.

The love for Trump has always been the most obvious thing. Trump is a candidate who is promising to “Make America Great AGAIN”. He is an authoritarian who promises to use American power to bring back jobs, bring in money, plunder defeated countries. It is, a version of a moral vision. It isn’t a Christian moral vision, but it is a moral vision.

The Changing of the Moral Guard

After the conventions it was noted that in terms of obvious moral appeal the Democrats are now the party of moralists. The moral polarity of the nation has flipped. The old alignments are gone. The election has again, as it was in 1976, 1980, 1988, 2008 become a referendum on a vision of morality.


About PaulVK

Husband, Father of 5, Pastor
This entry was posted in Culture commentary, Daily Links and Notes. Bookmark the permalink.

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