The Republican National Convention and the constellation of right-wing events scheduled during and around the official gathering included plenty of downright disturbing examples of racism, misogyny, religious bigotry, and Mussolini-wannabe-ism. It also included some intensely awkward moments, not all of them caught on television cameras.
Picture Sen. Jeff Sessions sitting on stage with four other speakers on a panel organized by the American Conservative Union Foundation to address the question, “Will conservatives support Trump?”
OK, now picture Sen. Sessions’ face as he tries to remain calm and composed while fellow panelist Heather Higgins, head of Independent Women’s Voice and a Wall Street Journal contributor, tells this joke:
There was a man who was lying in his hospital bed, quite sick, oxygen mask on his nose and mouth. And a young nurse comes in … to give him a sponge bath. And she hears him mumble through his mask, “Nurse, can you check, are my testicles black?”
She is embarrassed at this and kind of horrified, and she says, “Sir, all I’m supposed to do is wash your upper body and your feet.” And he tries again, and says, “Please, please can you check, are my testicles black?”
And so she decides that she doesn’t want his blood pressure to go up and him to be agitated by worrying about this, so she just steels herself for the embarrassment, pulls back the bed clothes, lifts up his hospital gown, takes him in one hand and checks, and she says, ‘Sir, you’re fine. You’re magnificent…
And he takes off his oxygen mask and he says, “Thank you, that was wonderful, nurse. But let me say this again slowly: are my test results back?”
Higgins was trying to make a humorous point about messaging, and people not hearing what you’re trying to say. But she also seemed to be demonstrating the gleeful contempt for “political correctness” that was on display all last week in Cleveland. The attitude seems to be that people should just “have a sense of humor” rather than take offense when something inappropriate or offensive has been said.
As others have noted, conservatives who complain about “political correctness” often seem to be longing for a time when it was acceptable to openly traffic in stereotypes or worse – or in the words of comedian Samantha Bee, to be free of the “cruel shackles of empathy and mutual respect.”
Back to Higgins. In response to a question about Trump’s promise to build a wall on the border with Mexico, Higgins reminded people that Trump has said his wall would have a big door. “Who else would run the golf courses?” she snarked. That comment drew some groans and a loud “whoa” from fellow panelist KT McFarland, and someone else chimed in, “I think it’s Eric Trump, actually.” Rather than letting it go, Higgins added, “No, I meant manage the day-to-day maintenance.”
Higgins said that some conservatives oppose Trump because they don’t genuinely believe him to be conservative; others she described as “ever snob” – people who have a “social discomfort” with the way Trump talks and presents himself and “can’t see themselves or their friends every finding it socially acceptable to say that they’re for Trump.”
She said that those snobby people might never tell a pollster they are a Trump “supporter,” but that if a pollster asks whether they are thinking about voting for Trump they will get a much higher number, because in the end it comes down to a binary choice between him and Hillary Clinton. While many conservatives who backed other candidates are still working their way through the stages of grief, Higgins said, by October and November they’ll get to “acceptance” and vote for Trump.