On Tuesday night, President Donald Trump will deliver the keynote address at the pro-life Susan B. Anthony Lists Campaign for Life Gala. His adviser Kellyanne Conway will receive the organizations Distinguished Leader award.
Giving pro-life awards to these two individuals recalls a familiar irony in American politics. The ends justify the means, even if the means had to grab a few pussies or pay off a few porn stars to get there.
The irony of Donald Trumps receipt of this award is fairly obvious.
The Susan B. Anthony List is an organization that promotes a specific sort of morals. It describes itself as a family of organizations, an arsenal designed not to hurt but to heal; not to shame but to shield. Their gala celebrates defending women from abortion.
Donald Trump has not lived a moral or healing life. At latest count, hes fathered five children with three different women. Shortly after his newest wife had given birth to his final child a little over a decade ago, Trump had an extremely horny year wherein he (allegedly) had affairs with at least two women (that we know of), one a Playboy model, the other, a pornographic-film actress. We know about these women because his lawyer organized hush-money payments to both in the leadup to the 2016 election. By his own account, Trump spent decades literally fucking his way through desperate New York climber society. Trumps personal attorney Michael Cohen arranged a $1.6 million abortion for the mistress of a prominent Republican fundraiser. (Some have pointed out that theres plenty of reason to believe that the so-called Broidy payment was actually cover for a pregnant Trump mistress abortion, since it was shared so many qualities with other payments Cohen made on behalf of Trump.)
President Trump has a checkered history with consent. Nineteen women have accused the president of unwanted sexual advances or other misconduct.
Further, the president doesnt seem to know much about who Susan B. Anthony is. To cap off his awkward first Womens History Month last year, President Donald Trump awkwardly asked attendees of a womens empowerment forum if theyd ever heard of her. On one hand, this statement seemed structured like how his other jokes are structured: not clever or incisive as much as deeply weird statements with no setup or punchline. On the other hand, Donald Trump is a stupid man about a lot of things. Its possible that he didnt know much about Susan B. Anthony. (Perhaps we should ask Frederick Douglass, who many are saying is being recognized more and more.)
Susan B. Anthony List justifies their choice of Trump by pointing out that hes governed in a more pro-life way than any other president in recent history. Trumps Supreme Court appointee Justice Neil Gorsuch is defined, for them, as inherently anti-abortion. Trump has stacked the federal bench with anti-abortion judges. Hes imposed a global gag rule on public-health organizations, cutting off federal funds to those that mention the existence of abortion to pregnant women. Last week, he announced he will be imposing the same rule stateside. The Department of Health and Human Services is stacked with appointees who believe that birth control is black magic and abstinence-only education is the only way to keep teens unpregnant. All this from a man who might not understand the difference between HIV and HPV, and who two former paramours claim didnt use a condom when they had sex. Impressive.
The irony of Kellyanne Conways receipt of her award is a bit more complicated. Unlike Trumps, Conways pro-life bona fides are long-established. Shes never wavered from her personal anti-abortion stance, nor has she lived her life in a way that would lead one to think she was only pandering.
But Conways decision to stand behind Trump betrays a hypocrisy among the American right. Its true that Trump is governing as a pro-life president. But he has not lived a pro-life, pro-family life. Conway, SBA List, and the evangelical wing of the GOP has decided that Trumps moral bankruptcy is acceptable on a micro level, because, on a macro-level, he will enact policies they agree with.
If it sounds a little familiar, thats because it is.
In 1998, Gloria Steinem defended Bill Clinton in a now-infamous op-ed in The New York Times. Feminists shouldnt be criticized for sticking with Clinton, she argued, because he supported policies that benefited women as a whole.
If the president had behaved with comparable insensitivity toward environmentalists, and at the same time remained their most crucial champion and bulwark against an anti-environmental Congress, would they be expected to desert him? I dont think so, she wrote. If President Clinton were as vital to preserving freedom of speech as he is to preserving reproductive freedom, would journalists be condemned as inconsistent for refusing to suggest he resign? Forget it.
Last November, when the American left was again re-litigating how they processed Bill Clintons sexual history in light of the #MeToo moment, Steinem was savaged for that column, which the peanut gallery agreed didnt age well.
At the time, Kellyanne Conway pounced on other so-called feminists who soft-pedaled condemnation of Bill Clinton. In an interview with Fox News, Conway called women like Steinem and Hillary Clinton hypocrites. In Conways view, Clintons acolytes, if they were truly pro-woman, should not have accepted Clintons conduct as collateral cost for feminist-leaning laws, for a feminist-leaning Supreme Court justice.
Others on the right have pointed out hypocrisy inherent in supporting the principles the Clintons stood for politically yet turning a blind eye to their personal conduct, which is fair.
But its also fair to point out that the same duplicity is at play now, when religious-aligned groups celebrate the accomplishments of Donald Trump but ignore the way that hes lived his life. As Bill Clinton was an instrument to Gloria Steinem, so is Trump an instrument to the Susan B. Anthony List and to Kellyanne Conway and to white evangelicals and all the self-righteous Republican moralists in Congress. Its the same mental gymnastics routine just with a different ideological leotard.
Ive been thinking a lot about how Dave Chappelle talks about Bill Cosby. [Cosby] rapes, but he saves. And he saves more than he rapes. But he probably does rape, said Chappelle. This was during a standup special written and performed in 2017, after more than 50 women had accused Bill Cosby of rape.
I dont want to applaud or boo Chappelles joke based on how much I agree with it. Im bringing it up because it succinctly expresses something uncomfortable both ends of the American political spectrum have grappled with. He saves more than he rapes. But he probably does rape.
Congratulations to President Trump and Kellyanne Conway, champions of doing what everybody else has always done.