If the first year of the Trump presidency has taught us anything, it’s that playing a prevent defense is not a winning strategy against this guy.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Trying to hold the line is never a good way to stop authoritarians. People need to push back. It’s what revolutionaries call the “strategic offensive,” the idea that the best defense is a good offense. Because you can’t win the game if you remain in the backfield waiting for the clock to run out.
No disrespect to the fact-checkers and truth-tellers. The daily toil of journalists, activists, and opposition politicians—those defending our democracy and sanity against Trump’s incessant onslaught of bullshit— are doing methodical and important work. We need them to continue exposing this guy’s endless miles of lies, even after the odometer turns over.
But that alone won’t stop Trump’s relentless advance. It’ll barely slow his roll.
That’s why Stormy Daniels’ voice is suddenly so important. She’s playing a hurry-up offense that has put Trump on his heels. The White House and its traveling circus of Trump surrogates are now forced to deny and defend. The president’s lawyer, meanwhile, has tried to shield Trump behind hush money payments and a restraining order.
The whole affair has Trump off balance. He’s not in control of the events or the media narrative, and he can’t get Melania to ride in the limo with him anymore. It’s not a good look for a president who postures as the big bossman.
Stormy is clearly not the only person who has thrown Trump off his game. Lots of brave people are pushing back against the president on many fronts, with varying degrees of success. At the top of the list is Special Counsel (and offensive specialist) Robert Mueller, who’s in a league of his own.
But Stormy’s rebellion is important for a different reason. Simply put, Stormy is beating Trump at his own game—she’s controlling the media narrative, using fame and sex for leverage, picking a fight that’s both personal and salacious, peddling scandal to promote personal brand, and generating endless suspense by suggesting there’s more to come.
Stormy is out-trumping Trump. And it’s a beautiful thing to watch.
I don’t mean any disrespect to Stormy by comparing her to the president. While Trump has sullied the office of the presidency, Stormy is doing quite the opposite for the adult film industry. In fact, some porn stars say Stormy is helping to mainstream and humanize their industry like never before.
“What she’s doing is awesome because she doesn’t owe this to anyone; she doesn’t owe it to porn performers or to any other Americans who are appalled by their president,” porn star Ela Darling told me in a phone conversation this week. “I can’t say why she is doing it, but it’s something that a lot of people get to benefit from. I think it’s f**king awesome.”
Darling says Stormy is recognized as a leading professional in the porn industry, and is widely respected for her work as a director of high-budget adult films. Darling says she worked on one of Stormy’s sets before, but has no personal relationship with her and no insight into her motives. (“I’m just another American who happens to be naked on camera and is applauding Stormy from the sidelines.”)
Darling doesn’t deny that Stormy is benefiting financially from the situation, but says that’s not a bad thing. “Maybe it is bank for her, and maybe that’s a good thing because I can’t imagine the emotional toll this would take on someone—to stand up like this against the leader of your f**king country.”
The important thing, Darling says, is that Stormy is using her position, her voice and her unique story to stand up to a powerful bully, and doing so in a way that embraces her femininity and sexuality.
“She has an undeniable agency that can’t be taken away from her,” Darling said. “She is being slut-shamed, but it matters less to her. With other women it could be weaponized against them in a much more daunting way. But I don’t think Stormy is going to lose her job as a performer and a director because she’s standing up and saying these things. And I think that’s important.”
“Trump can’t fire her. This is someone who is speaking up from a position of knowledge and power that he can’t take away from her.”- Ela Darling
Predictably, the ride-or-die Trumpistas are unmoved by Stormy’s story. There’s a core group that has stuck by their president through all his lies, sexual abuse scandals, unabashed racism, and Russian weirdness. At this point, what’s one more lascivious allegation of adultery and coverup? Stormy won’t rain on their parade.
But this isn’t about convincing those people. This is about speaking aggressive truths. It’s about challenging the fabricated narrative of officialdom, and being radically honest with ourselves and about ourselves. This is America without her makeup on.
While the porn director’s final act has yet to be written, for the moment she’s emerging as a strong voice calling out from the crowd to inform everyone around her that the emperor is not wearing any clothes…and she may have the pics to prove it.