Baby boomers now running our country, or seeking to run it, came of age during the hubris of the 1960s and 70s. That era shaped them for well or ill, and we’re seeing more evidence of the latter as this unprecedented campaign unfolds. Being a teenager and young adult at the time, I recall quite vividly that societal norms governing sexual behavior were thrown to the wind. The ethos of the age was such that religious and cultural strictures around sex were considered repressive and unnatural. They were shredded so we could be “liberated.” People should “do their own thing” regardless of millennia-old exemplars. The principle that sex is best confined to marriage sex produced children who were best raised in nuclear families was widely accepted Though violations were frequent, they were stigmatized. Since the sixties, however, we’ve been “defining deviancy down,” to borrow a phrase from Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY), and here we are, like it or not. Sex isn’t for procreation anymore. It’s recreation. Babies are more a problem than a blessing.
Much of today’s media has been pornified, but remember that the sixties began with John F. Kennedy’s presidency. His White House promiscuity has become widely known but few knew at the time. Media knew but chose to ignore it. Public scandals were confined to politics: Watergate in the Nixon presidency and Iran-Contra in Reagan’s. Clinton’s scandals were sexual but Obama’s returned to the political. Now, however, Clinton’s sexual escapades have been resurrected by Trump after his own were widely publicized. And now, bizarrely, those of the former congressman with the unfortunate name are back in the news. Sex, especially its misuse, dominates America’s attention as we approach election day. The FBI is investigating former Democrat Congressman Anthony Weiner after he was caught for the third time sending unwanted pictures of his genitalia — this time to a 15-year-old girl. The probe turned up something unexpected which may determine who becomes our next president. Exactly what that is, we don’t yet know, but it’s evidently important enough to make its existence public at this critical time.
Sex has so dominated public discussion of the biggest election campaign in years that other issues get little attention. An hour before the first big Wikileaks email dump on Friday, October 7th, NBC released the now-famous Trump remarks on the bus in which he claimed women let him grope them because he was famous. Before that, he had been talking about world and national issues and cutting into Hillary’s lead. Some polls even showed him ahead, but he slid behind again after his prurient 2005 remarks went public. They consumed so much media oxygen that few Americans learned about Wikileaks emails showing that Hillary lied even more often, about even more things, than we already knew. Suddenly it was all about sex again.
|Bill Clinton at 2nd debate as Trump fingered him|
In their second debate two days later on October 9th, Trump turned the sexual focus back onto the Clintons, claiming he only talked about groping women while Bill Clinton actually did it. He brought several women into the debate hall who alleged President Clinton had groped or even raped them while he was Arkansas Attorney General, Governor, and president. Then, for days after, about a dozen women claimed that Trump had groped them over the last three decades. Trump’s denied their allegations, threatened to sue them, and continued his slide in the polls. Americans felt soiled by sordid charges thrown back and forth and looked forward to the election being over.
Trump finally went back to talking about issues and began creeping back up in the polls. Continued release of Wikileaks emails and FOIA (Freedom Of Information Act) documents pried out of the State Department continued damaging Hillary. The biggest bombshell dropped last Friday when FBI Director James Comey notified Congress that he was reopening his investigation into Hillary Clinton’s unsecured, classified emails. At least it didn’t involve sex, we thought. Only hours later, however, we learned that Comey’s investigatory turnaround was prompted by information found as the FBI gathered evidence on Weiner — the estranged husband of Hillary’s closest aid, Huma Abedin, who evidently left thousands of emails on his computer. It was back in the cesspool again for all of us.
This is the third presidential election during which I’ve been able to interview candidates — seven this year including Hillary Clinton. For me that makes the process more interesting, but this cycle has focused more Americans than any other. It’s forcing us to look at ourselves. Our votes — Democrat and Republican — gave us these candidates. Why, then, are we disgusted with them? To answer that, we have to look at the culture in which we’re swimming. Lying and sexual misdeeds don’t seem to matter much anymore. Everybody does it, right?
Next Tuesday we’ll know who will occupy the White House in January. We’d like it to, but it won’t be over next week, I’m afraid. It’ll just be the beginning of another chapter.