What Can We Learn from 47 Seconds of Rudy Giuliani in Drag, Getting Sniffed by Donald Trump?

July 19, 2016

If you caught Fox News commentator Rudy Giuliani’s frothing rhetoric on Monday Night Raw the first night of the Republican National Convention, then you might be wondering when to expect the galloping four horsemen of the apocalypse, or asking yourself how long before the stomping hooves of Satan’s legions becomes audible as their march reaches the gates of modern civilization. (The answer, according to Giuliani and most of yesterday’s reality TV stars/RNC speakers, it would seem, is YESTERDAY.)

But given all this conservative doomsaying, and the Republican Party’s general descent into xenophobia over the last several months, there is a clip going around that might surprise you. It features a former New York City Mayor, dressed in drag, being sexually harassed by a leering Donald Trump.

The clip itself is problematic in the way it mocks drag, gender performance, and unwanted sexual advances, but I would like to put that aside for a moment and discuss why it made me yearn for the Republican Party of days gone by.

For a long time, moderate Republicans—often from the Northeast—could be counted on to advocate for a certain brand of social and fiscal conservatism. I disagree with these policies (and whether they can accurately be described as “conservatism”), but there was at least a moderateness there, which you could rely on to keep things civil, and which has now disappeared completely into the snarling, chanting, antagonistic-at-any-cost, Tea Party abyss.

It’s hard to imagine, in this world, where we have a national uproar over bathroom selection and birth control availability, a conservative being so laid back over questions of sexual identity as to dress like a woman for laughs. If you think I am painting with too broad a brush, you might be right, but let me remind you that Giuliani is the same guy who, scarcely six months ago, lambasted Beyoncé and Bruno Mars for dancing while they sang.

The juxtaposition is nothing short of shocking. And lest you think “Mrs. Giuliani” was an aberration, in no way indicative of a different social attitude, then I would like to respond by saying: This wasn’t even the only time Giuliani donned evening wear for a public appearance!

These videos are silly and insensitive, but they also suggest a level of humor and openness that was completely absent from the frothing lunatic, pounding his fists against the Ohio air on Monday night, and I for one miss that sassy old lady Rudy, as disastrous as his broken windows police policies were for New York City.

Even as the GOP prepares to nominate an irreligious, philandering casino owner as its standard-bearer, Republicans are voicing a level of social conservatism that is nearly unprecedented in its intensity and uniformity. And it is hard to say who or what is to blame. Is it a fearful reaction to rapidly shifting social norms? An expression of economic frustration channeled with classic scapegoating?

These are questions worth exploring so we can move forward as a unified society, but in the meantime, it is incumbent on progressives to present the inclusive voice of opposition to this new, hateful vision of the world.

Maybe this artifact of more reasonable times can help.