If my Twitter stream is any indication, Ronan Farrow’s report in the New Yorker detailing Donald Trump’s pre-presidency affair with a Playboy model is sending a thrill through America’s progressive movement. Under general principle, they’d legalize “sex work” and they have systematically worked to dismantle the institution of marriage and the normalization of stable nuclear families consisting of a married man and woman and the children whom they together create. (Hello, disaffected young men.) But for the moment, those bedrock-destroying principles must be put to the side in order to get people back in power who will continue tightening their vice.
The reason they’ll put their usual perspective on traditional relationships is because they know that such stories disgust their real enemies: social conservatives. The thrill that goes through progressives when they hear such stories about President Trump is matched by the shudder that goes through social conservatives, and progressives know that the conservative ranks face a difficult question, here, and we come to different conclusions. It feels a bit like hypocrisy to work alongside such a man when within living memory we argued that a similar man had no business being president.
Because it has some of the odor of defensiveness, I won’t stress how the cases are different. Yes, Bill Clinton’s sex scandal had to do with a relationship with a much-younger subordinate while he was president, while this one has to do with a relationship when Trump was just a celebrity. Yes, the Playboy model emphasizes that her affair was adamantly consensual, while women came forward accusing Clinton of imposing himself non-consensually. But social conservatives shouldn’t like the feel of the limb on which they’d have to go out in order to suggest that Trump wouldn’t do such things.
Instead, two conclusions override the comparison of villains. The first is that we lost the debate. Clinton was impeached, but roughly half the country dismissed the allegations as inconsequential, and many of the other half were uncomfortable upholding principles in which they still believed. We have a representative democracy, and America has determined, for our current moment, that being such a person is not a disqualification from office.
The second conclusion is more important: We have no alternative. When it came down to it, the presidential election came down to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. As moral emblems of our nation, neither is worthy, but by their policies and the directions in which they’d take our country, a President Trump is incalculably preferable.
So, we pray for his true conversion, and that our ability to expand our moral beliefs under a more-friendly policy regime proves to outweigh the complexity of having to work with his like. But when the same people who want to prevent us from living according to our own beliefs and expressing them as full citizens want us to help take down a president who is more on our side than theirs on the grounds that he doesn’t live according to our beliefs, we should decline.