Jason Chaffetz says he pulled his endorsement of Donald Trump so he’d be able to look his 15-year-old daughter in the eye. Mitch McConnell’s denunciation of Trump begins with a reference to his own three daughters.
I have a message for both of them, and for the other male Republicans who say they’re appalled by Trump because they have daughters of their own: Anyone with a basic sense of decency ought to be horrified by Trump’s casual talk of groping women, not just fathers of girls. Implying others should somehow feel less disgusted is a troubling message to send — and an even more troubling thing to believe.
It’s part of a broader problem with the initial wave of GOP responses to the leaked Trump videotape. Many Republicans are speaking of women not as equals inherently deserving of respect, but instead as people deserving and requiring the protection of men.
It’s 2016. Why isn’t it obvious to Republicans that women are equals?
Take House Speaker Paul Ryan, who told Trump not to attend a planned campaign event in his home state of Wisconsin. Ryan’s reasoning: “Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified.”
Even Mitt Romney, who has spent months publicly arguing that Trump is unfit to be president, used similar language in his condemnation of the GOP nominee’s comments.
“Hitting on married women? Condoning assault? Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America's face to the world,” he tweeted.
I don’t doubt that Ryan and Romney are genuinely horrified by the leaked videotape of Trump boasting about how being a star means he can kiss women without their consent and even “grab them by the pussy.” The two men, like other Republicans stepping forward to condemn Trump, are by all accounts loving husbands and fathers.
But I do wonder why they and other male Republicans leaders seem most comfortable talking about women as wives, mothers, and daughters — by, in other words, defining women primarily by their relationships to men.
One day Ryan and many of his fellow Republicans will have to explain to the daughters they talk about so frequently why they continued to support Trump despite his crude misogyny, flippant talk of what my colleague Emily Crockett accurately describes as sexual assault, and refusal to issue an even remotely persuasive apology.
For now, though, it would be good if they would take a much smaller step: make clear that Trump’s comments should rightly disgust everyone who hears them, not just those with daughters. It’s a test of their character and integrity not just as politicians, but as people.