Matt Gaetz: The bearer of Trump’s legacy

Elena Roe, Contributing Writer

In recent days, allegations against Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz have taken a central position in the media circuit. Though Gaetz vehemently denies the legitimacy of a recent Justice Department probe, accusations that the Representative violated federal sex trafficking laws by engaging in a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl — and paying for her to travel with him across state lines — are both angering and disturbing.

The 38-year-old Republican lawmaker, who has collected his fair share of peripheral Trump notoriety, claims that the accusations are tied to an elaborate extortion scheme, despite the fact that the investigation began under the Trump-appointed Attorney General William Barr, and is directly linked to the recent indictment of Gaetz’ political ally Joel Greenberg on related charges. Recent developments have revealed that the two engaged in sexual relationships with many of the same women, whom they allegedly met online via sites such as Seeking Arrangements. The DOJ has collected text messages involving meeting places and cash amounts, as well as mobile payment receipts from both men to the involved women.

Gaetz’s supporters have tied these allegations to what they perceive as an effort to tear down any sympathizers to the Trump administration. They view Gaetz as an outspoken freedom-fighter in the same vein as the former President, and the two are very much alike: Gaetz invited a right-wing Holocaust denier to the 2018 State of the Union address, and was one of several Republicans who broke into secure briefing rooms during Trump’s first impeachment. He continued to uphold the former President’s mantle by defending his baseless claims of voter fraud, and was an inflammatory agent to the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6. As such, Trump’s most fanatic supporters view Gaetz as a hero, and cite the recent allegations against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as evidence of a double-standard. This blind support indicates a major issue that has outlived the previous administration: the influence of Trump-made lawmakers remains a stain on due process in the American political system. Instead of considering the underage girl Gaetz allegedly assaulted or the other women involved, the focus remains on Gaetz and his status as a victim in a “deep-state conspiracy.” This self-victimization is, at its core, an extension of the narcissism and entitlement that are the remnants of Trump’s loss. Once misogynistic violence is politicized, and allegations are seen as smear campaigns on perpetrators rather than chilling accounts of real victims, it is forever desensitized to the societal mind. The Trump entity has adopted a victim mentality, and thus every accusation is part of a master plan to derail what they see as real patriotism. Reason would dictate, however, that a nation in which exploitation and assault are normalized and justified can never fulfill this goal.

It is crucial to remember that Gaetz is not a victim, just as Cuomo, Brett Kavanaugh and Trump are not victims. For too long, crimes against women and exploitation of their bodies have become political instruments rather than what they are: the result of a violently misogynistic society in which vile character is excused and equality has never existed. The Trump mindset and its deification of bigotry is threatening to the lives and autonomy of women and minorities, and will continue as long as it lingers in the minds of those whose prejudice is legitimized by a populist celebrity and the breakdown of factual reasoning.

As far as the progression of the DOJ’s investigation, there is certainly ground to be covered in the coming days. It is important to note, however, that Gaetz was never keen on promoting justice; in 2017, he was the only member of Congress to vote against an anti-sex trafficking bill, citing concerns over governmental centralization. While logic would determine that the government is the perfect entity to fight the illegal sexual exploitation of women and children, Gaetz continues to victimize himself, to the point of roping in his allies.

In an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson, Gaetz claimed that he and a “friend” had gone to dinner with Carlson and his wife about two years ago — within the timeframe of the allegations being brought against the Congressman. Gaetz continued on to admit to providing hotel rooms and travel for sexual partners, whom he insisted were of legal age. While the result of this admission remains to be seen, one fact is resoundingly clear: if Democrats are trying to rake such an upstanding patriot through the mud, they may want to check their resource allocation, as it appears Gaetz is fully capable of destroying his own unremarkable career.

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