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On Private Parts, Public Discourse, and Cultural Decline

Go right ahead and call us old-fashioned, and we’ll freely admit we have no idea what sort of focus groups and poll-testing might have signed off on it, yet we can’t help thinking that “grab ’em by the p***y” is probably the worst presidential campaign slogan ever.
Please accept our apologies for using even such politely expurgated language in these previously pristine pages, but that’s where we find ourselves at this late moment in America’s long cultural decline. This year’s presidential election has dragged the entire country right down in the mud, where Republican nominee Donald J. Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters had always promised it would be won, and at this point we can’t see how anyone emerges un-muddied. Trump has ambiguously apologized for that “grab ’em by …” slogan that was revealed on an 11-year-old videotape of him bragging about how his celebrity allows him to take such liberties with women, and he has defiantly and plausibly asserted that Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s husband’s behavior over the years has been even worse, but the mud still sticks almost all around.
We were called old-fashioned at the time, but when Bill Clinton was first running for the presidency way back in our relative youth we objected that his well-documented tawdry private life had disqualified him from public office. The tawdriness of his private life was publicly documented during his second term by revelations of an affair that involved cigars and Altoids and a much-younger White House intern, and it dominated all the early morning headlines and late night comedy monologues, but even the current Republican nominee was then a Democrat contributing his family causes and scoffing at such prudes as ourselves, so his reputation somehow survived to such a point that his oft-wronged but still defiantly defensive wife is now the betting favorite to be the next president.
Way back when we were proud of the Republican Party’s willingness to go ahead and impeach Bill Clinton for the lies he told under oath about that tawdry affair with a much younger and quite obviously stupider young woman, even if they didn’t succeed in removing him from office because of a strict a party-line vote, despite the reputation as an old-fashioned bunch of blues-noses they acquired as a result. When Clinton’s complicit wife emerged as the Democratic front-runner this year we were hopeful for a Republican who would be willing to confront her about it, but as it turned out the only one who threatened to do so was Trump. From the outset we worried that the twice-divorced and married-for-a-third-time-to-an-illegal-immigrant-nudie model and six-times-bankrupt casino-and-strip-joint mogul was hardly the one to make the case, and that was just based on his own autobiographies and countless appearances on Howard Stern’s shock-jock radio show, and even before that footage of him bragging about grabbing women’s private parts because he was a reality show star we could see the race winding up in the worst sort of mud.
At this point all those Democrats who called us old-fashioned back in the day are suddenly appalled that the Republican nominee is such an undeniably sexist pig, all those Republicans who objected to Bill Clinton’s sexual piggery and his wife’s complicity are suddenly defending Trump’s behavior as mere “locker room talk” are similarly hypocritical, and even such prudes as ourselves are reduced to using asterisks to expurgate the current political discourse. We can congratulate ourselves on being so consistent as to being appalled by the last few decades of cultural decline and right up to the current moment, we suppose, but we still feel slightly muddy. Much of the rest of the Republican Party is also distancing itself from the party’s candidate, and a disappointingly smaller share of the Democratic party is distancing itself from their party’s candidate, but the muddiness seems likely to prevail.

— Bud Norman

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