It is easy to treat the spectacle that is presidential politics in 2016 as though we were dismayed spectators, but we are not spectators at all. We are all participants. We are not watching a movie that contains a food fight in a junior high cafeteria; we are in the cafeteria. And if it is not too jarring to use the phrase casus belli about such a fracas, the causes for all of this lie deep within ourselves.
To change my metaphor, this whole thing is a three-layer hypocrite cake.
The First Layer
The bottom layer is the Donald himself, the least hypocritical in this entire business. He has never made much of a secret of the fact that he is a boorish pig, and that he likes being a boorish pig, and so he at least has the virtue of largely being himself, to whatever extent that might be called a virtue. Anybody who was surprised by this recent fiasco is a person who could probably have written Gullible’s Travels in one sitting. There are traces of hypocrisy in his behavior, but for the most part Trump gained the Republican nomination as a known quantity.
This is why the feckless Republican distancing from Trump is so grimly amusing. Republicans who were reluctant to endorse Trump in the first place because of what everybody already knew are now jumping overboard because somebody produced proof of what everybody already knew. “The pope is Catholic? Talk about a bridge too far. I’m outta here.”
Now I don’t mind qualified prophets speaking a word of righteousness to Trump. He needs it, and the religious hacks he has surrounded himself with do not appear to be interested in fulfilling that duty. And the political hacks are not rats deserting a sinking ship. They are rats deserting a ship that some polls indicate might be sinking sometime soon, but there is nothing here that a few polls running the other direction couldn’t fix. If the polls run the other way, so will the rats.
The Second Layer
The second layer is the high-indignation of the Hillary forces. How many bimbos has Bill Clinton—the Wilt Chamberlain of politics—actually been with? How many flights did he take to Underage Island on the Lolita Express with his good buddy Jeffrey Epstein? And when Bill Clinton behaved in exactly the way Trump talked, how did Hillary Clinton treat the resultant and plausible allegations made by women like Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, and Paula Jones? Right. She did whatever she could to destroy the victims of what might be called—but only after a fair trial that wasn’t going to happen—the Bill & Donald Entitlement Syndrome.
So we are now in the position where the most indefensible comments imaginable are going to be attacked by the most indefensible challenger imaginable. What we have is quite the spectacle—two lepers in a leper colony throwing contaminated bandages at one another.
The Third Layer
The third layer of hypocrisy is the monumental one. We have met the enemy, and he is us. Donald J. Trump is in big trouble (we think) because he acts like an accurate representative of the nation he is seeking to lead. I have said several times that Trump is a boorish pig, but that fits right in, because he is running for the presidency of what has pretty much become a sty.
The third group of hypocrites is that large bundle that we call the American public—simultaneously indignant and titillated. This is what it has come down to. We all pretend to be shocked, shocked, by something that we have allowed to become an acceptable mainstream standard. “I am sick of that reprehensible Trump on the news every night. What’s on HBO?”
I am not talking about the presence of double-standards—those have always been with us. That was the world that Trump tried to evoke when he said that this tape was “locker room banter.” There was a day when boors and pigs snuck off to certain designated places in order to talk the way boors and pigs like to do. That was a time when such hypocrisy was possible. You could go off and talk that way with your friends, and then go home and talk with your mother with that same mouth. But you had to pretend in order to be able to do it. You had to live a double life to do it. You had to keep two sets of books.
But that wall—let us call it the wall of public decency—has long since been battered down. Did we really think we could outlaw decency, and yet somehow still have decency? Did we really think that we could routinely entertain ourselves on the kind of vice-ridden fare that Hollywood churns out, and not have it make us vice-ridden? Did we really believe we could blow a hole in the hull of decent discourse and still have the ship stay on the surface?
This is the point where, once again, C.S. Lewis provides the much needed prophetic voice.
“And all the time—such is the tragi-comedy of our situation—we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive’, or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity’. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”
So Trump bragged about abusing his position as a man of power and influence, and said that he could just “grab them by the p***y” and they would let him get away with it because he was a star. A pretty grimy star, but a star. And the society that has for decades been hell-bent on glorifying just this kind of thing, all together now, puts on its shocked face.
You think I overstate things? A multi-million dollar hip hop industry revolves around boasting of exactly the same kind of misogynistic bile that Trump brags about—only much filthier than Trump. That explains all the accolades and awards. The porn industry is mainstreamed—every hotel chain sells you porn if you want it, every gas station sells you porn if you want it, your phone delivers porn to your pocket if you want it. And Fifty Shades of Grey was a mega-bestseller, creating the new mommy porn genre, selling million after million at a pretty rapid clip.
Suppose we lined up every last person online who is demanding that Trump step down now, pronto, and then we required anyone to depart from the discussion if they had used porn within the last year, how much of a firestorm would there still be? There was a reason why the Lord said that the one without complicity in the sin under discussion should cast the first stone. “And they all, beginning with the eldest, remembering their own browser history, crept quietly away.”
You cannot create a society where standards of common decency are laughed to scorn, but because you have to have some standards, substitute in the insane, contradictory, and impossible standards of political correctness, and then arbitrarily keep the corruptions from creeping into the lives of all our candidates for the presidency. That is like allowing black mold to grow up all the walls of your house, and then show the first signs of alarm when it threatens to get into the attic. Oh, no, not the attic!
If the standards are not the standards grounded ultimately in the nature and character of God, then the standards are not standards of common decency at all, but rather arbitrary rules made by arrogant and hypocritical relativists—bureaucrats at the Bureau of Weights and Measures who change the length of the yardstick every few days.
So it turns out that when we finally get God out of the public square, the end result is not a quiet academic seminar moderated by John Stuart Mill. When we get Christ banished from all public consideration, the end result is not a multi-ethnic and diverse crowd holding hands and singing, imagining there’s no heaven. When we banish the ten standards that God graciously wrote for us in stone, the end result is not a bunch of cheerful people looking out on us from a warm and accepting United Colors of Benetton ad. I hate to break it to you, but that’s not what happens. What happens is . . . what is happening.
No, what we get is a vile woman running against a vile man, and we must choose between them, God says, because we are a vile people. We get a presidential campaign between a corruptocrat and a clown, and this is because God has now narrowed our choice down to what would best represent this stiff-necked generation.
A couple hours after the Entirely Predictable dropped, Wikileaks released some of Hillary’s musings behind closed bank doors. She has, and I quote, “both a public and a private position” on her coziness with the banks. I bring this up, not as an instance of her being a hypocrite, although she is, but to point out that we the people are doing exactly the same thing. We, the American people, have a private position on morality and a public position on morality, and we are just now starting to notice that the two together are incoherent.
We want a private position on sex and sexuality, where your private wishes dictate what pronouns may be applied to you, and where rappers can brag about slapping their bitches all they want, and alpha CEOs can grab what they want, and at the same time we want a public position where the marble colonnades of Washington retain all their Augustan shine, polished with that special kind of bright marble wax made out of integrity, honor, and core values. Of course, integrity, honor and core values are not backed by gold anymore, but rather are pegged to the wild fluctuations of the world currency markets. Today’s integrity might not look very much like your grandfather’s integrity. Today’s integrity might want to grab some p***y.
There is no God. Or, if there is, He may not be invoked in any matter involving the public square. You demanded it—and so now you have it. God’s existence, if there is such existence, gives us no direction whatever on the differences that may exist between Donald Trump and Lil Wayne. We have to figure that out for ourselves, which means that we are entirely nonplussed.
Why is Trump in our doghouse when Lil Wayne is in our playlists? The answer is that this presidential election is our dumpster fire. Hypocrisy is flammable, and this is what it smells like when burning.
One other thing should be mentioned, which I hope to get to tomorrow. Russell Moore has declared that this entire debacle means the end of the religious right. In this he is partially correct—but there is an important qualification to be made.
 C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man or Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools (HarperOne, 2001), 26.