Why Paul Ryan's Refusal to Defend Donald Trump Is Not Enough - Especially Following Brutal Debate

Editor's Note: This article has been updated since Monday's news that House Speaker Paul Ryan said he would no longer defend Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and told House Republicans, “you all need to do what’s best for you in your district." However, Ryan did not revoke his endorsement of Trump.

When news broke of Donald Trump’s crude boast of his self-proclaimed right to sexually assault women in specific and explicit ways (“grab ‘em by the pussy”), the pooh-bahs of the Republican National Committee demanded he issue an apology—perhaps the first he’s ever made in his life.

Screw that. I want an apology from the Republican Party for giving us Donald Trump as their presidential nominee.

Soon after the Washington Post reported the contents of that infamous 2005 video of Trump on a hot mic schmoozing with Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush, party leaders such as House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus denounced Trump’s remarks and behavior. Then there are the 150 Republican candidates and has-beens demanding Trump pull out of the race, all in a bid to cleanse their own souls (and for some, save their seats). Now comes word of Ryan's announcement to House Republicans (via conference call) that he would no longer defend the party's presidential nominee.

I couldn't give a crap. Apologize for subjecting us to endless hours of Trump harangues smearing immigrants and Muslims and African Americans with his slime. Think of the Mexican-American kids and the black kids and the Muslim kids and the girls of all kinds, left to absorb those psychic body blows, day after day. You did that, Republican leaders. He’s your guy.

But oh, you say, Trump’s nomination was the will of the people, the Republican primary electorate? Well, sure. But it’s an electorate whose composition was created by the GOP out of the rage of whites angered by desegregation and the growing racial and religious diversity of the American population, and most pointedly built on the fears of white men unnerved by the changing role of women in American society.

With the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, signed into law by Democrat Lyndon Johnson, the Republican Party coalesced around those fears and hatreds, yielding civil rights opponent Barry Goldwater as its doomed nominee. (It’s worth noting that in addition to prohibiting certain forms of discrimination on the basis of race, creed or color, the act also prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex.) But Goldwater’s defeat at the hands of the broader electorate was no great loss for those who promoted his candidacy; the Goldwater campaign was the organizing platform for the hatemongering right, giving it the footing to ultimately take over the GOP in 1980.

After the faction known as the New Right came together with the Goldwater campaign, its members soon realized there weren’t enough fellow-traveling foot-soldiers in the GOP to elect a truly right-wing candidate, so they turned their attention to the segregationists of the South who found their faith homes in white evangelical churches. To head the movement they called the Moral Majority, they enticed the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who had headed one of the so-called “Christian academies” white segregationists organized after the Supreme Court outlawed racial segregation in public schools in the landmark case, Brown v. Board of Education. With Falwell as the Moral Majority’s public face, the white churches of the South and “socially conservative” white churches elsewhere in the nation became get-out-the-vote operations for the Republican Party, and were instrumental in delivering the White House to Ronald Reagan.

It's noteworthy that Reagan kicked off his campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where in 1965, civil rights activists Michael Schwerner, James Earl Chaney and Andrew Goodman were beaten and slain by members of Ku Klux Klan, including the county sheriff and his deputy. Political observers viewed Reagan’s choice of locale as symbolic of continuing resistance to civil rights for black people.

The Republican electorate that gave Trump the party’s presidential nomination hails from the same party whose activists organized to successfully defeat, in 1982, the Equal Rights Amendment, which would simply have granted American women rights equal to those enjoyed by men. Here’s the wording of the Amendment: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” Phyllis Schlafly, the Republican activist who spearheaded the opposition to the ERA would, some 14 years later, be handed control of the Republican Party platform. Presidential nominee Bob Dole went along with it.

This is the Republican Party whose 2012 candidate for the U.S. Senate seat for Missouri made a distinction between “legitimate rape” and other kinds of rape, and who claimed that a woman could not be made pregnant during a rape of the kind he deemed legitimate.

This is the Republican Party that twists research to the point of dishonesty in order to claim rights for a fetus that outstrip those of the woman whose body carries it.

This is the Republican Party whose members voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which allows a woman to bring suit against an employer who has systematically paid her less than a male colleague performing the exact same job. 

This is the Republican Party that seeks to revoke public funding for poor women to get basic health screenings for breast cancer, cervical cancer and sexually transmitted diseases (and whose vice presidential nominee has already done so in his own state) and which uses deceptively edited “sting” videos to smear the organization, Planned Parenthood, which provides those services, as well as birth control, to women throughout the nation.

Essentially, this is the Republican Party that has made contempt for and control of women part of its brand ever since the Supreme Court afforded women a modicum of agency over their own bodies with its 1972 decision in Roe v. Wade.

The truth is, for at least the last 36 years, the Republican Party has been the grab-em-by-the-pussy party. Donald Trump simply made it plain.

Spare us the consternation, all of you breast-beating Republican candidates. You own this; you allowed it to happen. The women of America await your contrition.

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