As accusations and anger escalate in the last month of the 2016 presidential campaign, the nation seems divided as never before, or at least more deeply divided than we've seen it in a very long time. It's this division that sustains two of the most miserable excuses for major-party candidates the country has ever seen. It's easy to say that only hatred for Clinton keeps Trump alive as a candidate, and vice versa, but this apparent loop of codependency may not entirely explain the invulnerability of each candidate with his or her base. That is, it doesn't account for what each camp sees as a lack of appropriate moral outrage in the other over the other candidate's failings. What amounts to a cultural divide is most apparent in the controversy over Trump's macho banter captured on a 2005 recording. I don't think that it's just because they hate Hillary Clinton that Trump's real fans have failed to show the outrage the Clinton camp seems to consider obligatory following the revelation. There is, instead, a rejection of the premise that Trump's banter disqualifies him from public office, not just because Bill Clinton is assumed to have said or done the same or worse, but because the Trump people, or many of them, are simply indifferent to it. Media people have been scratching their heads over this phenomenon because that indifference seems utterly alien to them. Only two different cultural mindsets -- products of age and perhaps education more than anything else --could hear the same things and respond so differently.
The outraged response is what might be expected from a culture identified with "political correctness" and concerned with a social etiquette based on unconditional respect for fellow citizens. According to that etiquette Trump is irredeemably disrespectful, and while consistency might require a retroactive disqualification of Bill Clinton, liberals will remind you that he's not running this year and that his wife is not responsible for his libido. While the other side is happy to call the Clintons and Clintonites out for hypocrisy, by their own standards Trump's utterances or inferred deeds are not a big deal. The consistent line of defense I've heard from female Trump supporters is that all men talk that way in private, or that all people do so, and that such talk is irrelevant to public life. That's just part of what we can call a ballbusting culture to accentuate the contrast with p.c. culture. These people do not spare each other in their banter, confident in the assumption that those in their own culture can take it and disturbed when p.c. outsiders refuse to accept it. While p.c. culture seeks to carve out ever more "safe space" where people's self-esteem isn't threatened by perceived insults or suspicious gazes, the ballbusters have never sought a society founded on unconditional respect, much less unconditional love -- there's not a lot of tribal solidarity among white people, after all -- and pride themselves on their thick skins and overall toughness. To them, to take offense as easily as p.c. does is an admission of weakness that should be cured -- by shock therapy of some sort if necessary -- rather than catered to. Unfortunately, liberals' defense of Clinton can't be explained in terms of their p.c. culture. Something else explains their indifference to the email scandals that have so horrified and nauseated the Trump camp -- perhaps an assumption that, contrary to the Trumpist belief, some ordinary person doing the same things would not be fired or arrested but ignored. Maybe it does come back to p.c. if Clintonites assume that something is being made up of nothing only because their candidate is a woman. In any event, it does seem obvious that p.c. Clintonites feel that ballbusting Trumpists have blown the email issue out of all proportion, just as the Clintonites appear to the Trumpists to have blown Trump's sex talk out of all proportion. We're left with perceptions, possibly culturally determined, that Clinton either gets away with stuff because she's a privileged elitist -- and it may be that ballbusting culture limits what people can "get away with" -- or else is singled out unfairly for special abuse because of who or what she is or represents. Consider these speculations just the beginning of an idea that can stand more work. For now, let me note in closing that the exception that may prove the rule for ballbusters is how whiny they get when their whole culture is challenged, as it seems to be now.