Donald Trump has made an indecent proposal.
He’s actually made many over the years towards women and has bragged about it in books, radio interviews, and hot mic moments. It appears that he views women as possessions to be acquired by seduction, negotiation, or (as his own words attest) by force if the situation presents itself.
However, the indecent proposal I’m talking about today is not sexual. It’s not one he’s made in beauty pageant dressing rooms, airplanes, or hotel rooms. It’s a proposal he has made to you, the American voter. Particularly, it’s one he has made to conservatives.
Donald Trump has proposed that he be your President, our nation’s standard bearer. His history, character, and temperament disqualify him from that lofty position yet here we are facing his name on the ballot. Many of us are incredulous as to how we arrived at this point. I can’t help but to think of parallels between our situation and a morally disturbing movie from a few decades ago.
In 1993, Indecent Proposal hit theaters and the ethical dilemma it portrayed became the topic of conversation in coffee breakrooms and talk shows.
Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson play the roles of Diana and David Murphy, a California couple in their mid to late twenties who face financial ruin. He is an up and coming architect and she, a realtor. When the real estate market tanks, he is let go from his firm and she is unable to make a sale for six months. All their money is invested in a property where David is building a custom house. When the bank calls in their overdue loan they face foreclosure on the house in progress as well as their own small home.
David swallows his pride and borrows money from his father but it’s not enough. Desperate, they take their last remaining funds and head to Las Vegas. At first, luck is on their side and they win big. They’re halfway to the sum needed to pay back the overdue mortgage. Then luck turns against them and they dip further below where they started. In a last ditch gamble, they bet their last four thousand on a spin at the roulette table and come up losers. They’re now completely broke.
Enter billionaire, John Gage, played by Robert Redford. He first notices the beautiful Diana in a hotel gift store, where she subtly empties a platter of complimentary chocolates in her bag. Gage smiles, no doubt calculating she is financially vulnerable. He strikes up a conversation with Diana while she admires a dress in the shop. He offers to pay for it but she declines, explaining that the dress is for sale but she isn’t.
Later, he notices the couple near the gaming tables. He asks David if he could borrow his wife as a sort of good luck charm at his high stakes game. Seeing nothing improper in the request, David encourages Diana who reluctantly agrees. Gage wins big and invites the couple to be his guests that evening at his suite.
Over a game of billiards, a discussion ensues about what money can or cannot buy. Gage’s view is that there’s not much that money can’t buy, including people. When David and Diana disagree, Gage makes a radical suggestion. “What would you say if I offered you a million dollars for one night with your wife?”
Let me interject here that the analogy I see is that Donald Trump is like John Gage, minus Redford’s good looks and charm. A portion of ‘right of center’ America is like David and Diana Murphy. People who have gone through a series of unfortunate circumstances and now feel desperate. They are filled with angst that has grown steadily over several years. An angst ridden people are prey to a manipulator with deep pockets who promises to solve all their problems. Just as foreclosure papers and threats of bankruptcy pushed the Murphys toward John Gage, healthcare crisis, unaffordable premiums, terrorist massacres, and threats to our freedoms have pushed some toward Donald Trump.
In normal times when there was food in the fridge and life was good, David and Diana would never have considered such an outrageous suggestion. But they felt desperate.
In normal times when Americans had steady, good paying jobs and felt reasonably safe, we would have never considered such an outrageous presidential candidate – vulgar, ignorant, narcissistic, dangerously dictatorial, and a proud, admitted sexual predator. But too many voters feel desperate.
So, back to David and Diana. What was their response? At first, they were appalled and said, “no”. They were #nevergage. But then they went back to their room and after a restless night, they started theorizing. Justifying. Succumbing.
Diana postulated that spending the night with Gage wouldn’t really impact their marriage because it was just her body. Gage wouldn’t have her heart or her mind. Those things belonged to her soul mate, David. Their love was indestructable and would survive one night. Though deep down she knew better, she tried to convince herself and David that sex could just be a cold, calculated physical act. A mere interlinking of body parts. Meaningless.
Of coarse the fact they were wrestling with the question and had initially refused adamantly, betrayed the truth that they knew that sex couldn’t be parsed out as a single, inconsequential exercise. Even unbelievers who don’t have a full theological understanding of why God created sex as a divine bonding between husband and wife, nevertheless know there is a power and a mystery to a sexual union even if they can’t explain the source of it.
It is frequently theorized that voting for Trump is also a cold, calculated exercise. A mechanistic act that takes place at a voting machine. It’s just a check mark on a ballot. Trump won’t have your heart or your mind. For some that may be true. A simple vote for particular positions you think Trump holds, but in no way an affirmation for Trump himself. And yet, it’s hard for me to see how that plays out because we are voting for an individual, not political positions, to sit in the Oval Office.
It would have been difficult for Diana Murphy to participate in cold, mechanistic sex with Gage without at some level, responding to the man. An embrace of him, even as her heart and mind was torn over it. Similarly, the cadre of conservative leaders (so called) who have flooded the airwaves in defense of Trump and rationalizing his sexual predatory ways, further illustrate the difficulty of endorsing Trump without engaging one’s heart and mind as well.
Gage didn’t just want something for himself – a beautiful woman. He wanted to steal something away- their marital intimacy. Why? Because he is wealthy, powerful, and he could.
Trump doesn’t just want something for himself – the presidency. He wants to steal something away – the integrity and principles of conservatism. Why? Because he is wealthy, powerful, and apparently, he can.
There are even parallels in the closing arguments that lead to the respective choices. Gage seduces the couple by saying, “The night will come and go. But the money could last for a lifetime.” Similarly, conservatives and even Christian leaders croon, “A Trump presidency will come and go. But the effects from the Supreme Court Justices will last for a generation.”
In the end, the Murphys capitulate. Diana goes to the penthouse while David commiserates with his lawyer, Jeremy (played by Oliver Platt), who is also a close friend. Of course if he were a true friend he would have dissuaded David from such a marriage havoc wreaking decision. Instead, he seeks to cheer up David by reminding him that he is a million dollars richer and after all, Diana agreed to it. Besides all that, Jeremy drew up the contract and in exchange got a lucrative five percent fee.
The lawyer is like a parody of the media. If journalists were truly concerned with informing the citizenry, they would have highlighted Trump’s easily researched scandals months ago, thereby dissuading viewers from such a havoc wreaking candidate. Instead, pundits seek to cheer up the country by reminding us all that Trumpism is going to Make America Great Again and after all, the primary voters agreed to it. In exchange, the networks got the Trump/Clinton cage match they craved and lucrative ad revenues.
David finally snaps. He jumps from the table, leaves Jeremy, and races to the penthouse to stop Diana from what he realizes is a disastrous mistake. He’s too late. Gage has whisked Diana away by helicopter off toward his yacht. David is left waving his arms in frantic anguish on the roof as the helicopter disappears.
Have conservatives had their rooftop moment yet? If Reince Priebus is flapping his arms wildly somewhere, no one has spotted him. What of the rank and file? Have we reached that moment of anguish and sober realization and asked, “What in the world have we done?”
I hope so. If conservatives aren’t having that moment now, in light of all we have learned and Trump has admitted the past few weeks, I doubt that moment will ever come. The “But Hillary…” fear is too powerful, just as the “But bankruptcy…” fear was too powerful for David and Diana.
In the end, the million dollars turned out to be inconsequential. As suspicions and loss lead to the Murphys’ separation and approaching divorce, David was willing to do anything, give up all the money if only he could have his first love back.
Will Trump promoting conservatives reach a point where they are willing to do anything to have their principles and integrity back?
John Gage wooed Diana away but in a surprising concession he ultimately encouraged Diana to return to David. Though Gage was instrumental in destroying their marriage, he admits defeat and explains to his driver, “She would have never looked at me the way she looks at him.”
When Trump’s foray into seducing America has run it’s course and Trump destroys the GOP, will he admit to any such defeat? Will he muse wistfully that Paul Ryan will never look at him the way he looked at Mitt Romney?
No. He’ll just continue to ‘hit back twice as hard’ and search out his next conquest.