Today, Donald Trump tweeted that Senator Kirsten Gillibrand “would come to my office ‘begging’ for campaign contributions… (and would do anything for them).”
He ended his rant with “USED!”
Everyone who has been alive longer than twelve years understands that when Trump said the senator would “do anything” for contributions, he was suggesting she would offer sexual favors. It’s a long-standing tactic to use against women, the subtle smear, the suggestion of impropriety. We’ve all been hearing it since the high school locker room, about this girl or that, the one who bucks the system and is a tad too loud or too friendly or too full of her own ideas.
But that wasn’t what bothered me. I mean, it bothered me, but I’m past being shocked by him. No, it was when his press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, came out into the White House briefing room and suggested that anyone who saw that tweet as sexist innuendo has their “mind in the gutter.”
Sarah Sanders has an enthusiasm for calling the moon cheese and anyone who disagrees a filthy cheese-hater. I have not seen its like in my lifetime. In fact, she sounds more to me like the translations of Nazi propaganda, or broadcasts by Tokyo Rose. Nothing Dear Leader says is ever wrong, or can ever be questioned in her world. And she is not alone among his supporters.
What’s happening under this administration is something different from normal partisan spin. Sure, press secretaries bend the truth to make the boss look better. Sure, members of a leader’s party forgive slips in service to putting up a united front. But this systematic, unified assault on the institutions that keep our government in check is like a sledge hammer to load-bearing beams.
When the very mechanisms of checking power are attacked, that should concern us all. Now it’s not just, “I disagree with that report,” but “All reporters lie.” Now it’s not just, “I’m disappointed by the court’s findings, but respect the rule of law,” but, “That judge can’t be fair because he’s a Mexican.” (Never mind if he’s not). Now it’s not, “Let’s wait for the investigation to be over,” but, “The FBI needs to be investigated and people need to be taken out in handcuffs.”
People who are on the “side” of the current administration gleefully participate now that their team is on top but fail to see (or care?) that the institutions being attacked for expedience may be permanently damaged when it comes time to check someone they feel less aligned with. There should be things we can all agree on: all power should be checked, information should flow freely, that truth and accuracy matter. When we fail to believe those things, we are in the hands of the merchants of lies and the murky world they would create for their profit.