Colbie Holderness, the first wife of disgraced ex-White House staff secretary Rob Porter, takes presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway to task for suggesting that “strong” women such as Hope Hicks have nothing to fear from abusive spouses. “Being strong — with excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts — does not inoculate a person against abuse,” she explains. “It doesn’t prevent her from entering into a relationship with an abuser. Abuse often doesn’t manifest itself early on — only later, when you’re in deep and behind closed doors. The really ugly side of Rob’s abuse only came out after we married, following three years of dating.”
Conway’s statements were made as she was trying to address the good wishes that President Trump sent to Rob, along with his tweets seeming to call into question the allegations and the #MeToo movement overall. Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders again declined to say whether the president believes [Jennifer] Willoughby and me. While I cannot say I am surprised, I expected a woman to do better. But Conway and I definitely agree on one thing she said during that interview: “There’s a stigma and a silence surrounding all these issues. … Those who are in a position to do something about it ought to.”
Her hope that women would be better than that may be well-founded in the aggregate. Trump is hemorrhaging support from women, both college- and non-college-educated ones. However, in the particular case of those women — Conway, Sanders, Concerned Women for America, Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel, the Fox News female hosts — who work for, rationalize and sacrifice integrity to defend the indefensible, we should expect them to be just as clueless, disingenuous and morally vacant as the men who have chosen to tie themselves to Trump’s mast.
This smacks of the same thinking that supposes that Ivanka Trump will defy her father, speak up on behalf of those he smears and rebuke racism and xenophobia. Surely we’ve learned by now that whatever she claims to say privately to Trump, she’s all-in with his defense. She isn’t “better” than her brothers or male advisers to the president; in fact, she’s less likely to be critical because she has so much to lose by breaking with her father and his financial empire.
The same is true of Trump’s Jewish advisers. We realize in retrospect that we should not have expected Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and senior adviser Gary Cohn to behave any more admirably in the context of Trump’s responses to Charlottesville neo-Nazis than Trump’s non-Jewish advisers. Sure, as a group American Jews are overwhelmingly Democratic and anti-Trump, but if you’ve gone to work for a man who called Mexican immigrants murderers, bragged about sexually assaulting women, sought to demonize an entire religion and ridiculed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for being a POW during the Vietnam War, you probably don’t place social justice and Torah-based values at the top of your concerns. You have rejected or been oblivious to a slew of principles in order to go work for him in the first place.
In short, too much time has been wasted on the soft bigotry of high expectations for Trump’s Jewish, female and non-white enablers. It is not just men or evangelicals or whites who have the capacity for self-delusion, a yen for power, a capacity for intellectual corruption or a dearth of compassion. Just as there are good, decent and courageous evangelicals who stand up to Trump, there are deplorable Jews, women and minorities who will defend the indefensible, give a wink to the alt-right and tell themselves it’s all worthwhile because of corporate tax reform or because they hate Democrats or “But Gorsuch!”
It’s human nature to think that those from the same groups whom Trump insults and abuses would identify with the victims, or that members of any minority group with a history of persecution would feel the sting of bigotry and spot the dangers of destroying democratic norms. And in general, that is true. But lest we think all women, Jews and minorities are angels, one need only look at the cringe-worthy, daily performances of press secretary Sanders, the toadyism of Mnuchin and the presence of Ben Carson in Trump’s Cabinet. What we should expect is that anyone who has sacrificed principle, integrity and humanity to defend this president will keep on defending him, no matter how horrendous his rhetoric and his actions.