Last November in the Washington Post, Jonathan Capehart quoted the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s phrase, “defining deviancy down,” by which he meant that if society tolerates some bad behavior, it eventually becomes the norm and standards across the board get lowered. Capehart was aiming that charge at Donald Trump for his politically-incorrect campaign rhetoric. He thought that for a presidential candidate, voicing controversial opinions or words was “defining deviancy down” to an unacceptable level.
So what should we make of a presidential candidate who has actually defined deviancy down to the point where felony indictments are no longer considered a disqualification for the most powerful office on Earth?
According to a new Rasmussen survey, 50 percent of likely U.S. voters think that even if Hillary Clinton were indicted on felony charges over her private State Department email server, she should keep running for President until a court finds her guilty or innocent. That includes a staggering 71 percent of Democrats. They didn’t ask how many Democrats think she should keep running from prison even if she’s found guilty, a stat that Hillary might be curious about (I assume many voters would be OK with that, since 65 percent think it’s likely she broke the law, and some of them must support her anyway.) She’s been casting around repeatedly for a good campaign slogan; maybe that would inspire one: “Elect Hillary So She Can Pardon Herself.”
Richard Nixon’s famous quote, “I am not a crook,” seems almost quaint by comparison. Today, it would be, “So what if I am a crook?”
Many of us complained during the 1990s that it was the Clintons who were “defining deviancy down” by acclimating voters to accept lower and lower standards of behavior from politicians. We were dismissed by the media intelligentsia as fusty old fuddy-duddies. But if anything vindicates that criticism, it’s this poll.
I’ve been criticized myself for supporting Donald Trump despite his campaign rhetoric, even though I’ve made it clear that I think he needs to be more cautious with his words. Still, they’re only words. Despite the herculean efforts of the PC speech police, blunt language is not yet a felony. But even if saying the wrong words became a felony offense, the Clintons have now defined deviancy so far down that at this point, what difference does a felony make?