In the wake of hearing Donald Trump’s 2005 hot-mic declaration that he tried to “fuck” a married woman, and that, as a “star,” he could do what he wanted to his intended conquests – even “grab them by the pussy” – dozens of Republican politicians have condemned him or withdrawn their endorsements, with several calling for him to step aside as the GOP nominee.
The question is: Why now?
Trump’s abhorrent behavior as a human being and a politician has been showcased on national television, largely without interruption, since he declared for the presidency in June 2015. He has called Mexicans “rapists,” insulted POWs and Gold Star families, degraded women and the disabled. Last month, Rolling Stone catalogued Trump’s disqualifying declarations from his presidential bid – literally from A-to-Z, “abortion” to “Zika.” It was not a challenging assignment.
Is it the object of Trump’s dehumanizing comments that makes this time different?
For the Republican electorate, attractive, married white women are certainly a privileged class. But even with this group, Trump’s grotesqueries have been front-and-center. During the primary, Trump declared that married Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly was biased against him because there was blood “coming out of her wherever.”
Is it the lewd sexual context?
Again, we’ve seen this before: Footage had already surfaced of Trump sexually harassing a married female contestant in the boardroom of The Apprentice. He twisted a mental image of groveling into an evocation of oral sex when he told Baywatch actor Brande Roderick that it: “must be a pretty picture, you dropping to your knees.”
By October 2016, ignorance of Trump’s flamboyant hatred of women is not a plausible excuse. Back in April, a Republican super PAC had cut an ad with the worst of Trump’s insults to women, including “bimbo,” “dog” and “fat pig.” Even former rival for the nomination Carly Fiorina – whose face had been on the business end of Trump’s misogyny – boarded the Trump train in September, insisting, “We must have President Trump.” And Ted Cruz, whose own wife had similarly been mistreated by Trump, also endorsed the Donald in September.
So why is this 11-year-old tape suddenly a game-changer?
It’s the poll numbers, stupid.
National Republicans were happy to hug Donald Trump when it looked like he had a plausible shot at the White House. He had the backing of the same electorate that they and their fellow partisans depend on to secure political power; their electoral success appeared yoked to his.
But in recent days – prior to the release of the rapey 2005 Access Hollywood tape – the Trump train had already jumped the rails. Trump got his clock cleaned in his first debate with Hillary Clinton, a defeat that he compounded by proceeding to spar in the media with Alicia Machado, the former Miss Universe and newly minted American citizen whose weight gain Trump had cruelly criticized, once calling her “Miss Piggy.”
Trump’s support in the battleground states was cratering. For GOP pols, illusions of riding Trump’s coattails to victory in November were vanishing. Trump was now becoming an albatross, from whom Republicans were desperate to cut free.
So when you read Republican statements, larded with pieties about Trump’s abominable comments to women, understand that what is really unconscionable about Trump in this moment is his threat to Republican elections.
This weekend, Arizona Sen. John McCain denounced Trump, saying “there are no excuses for Donald Trump’s offensive and demeaning comments in the just released video … He alone bears the burden of his conduct and alone should suffer the consequences.”
Edited for honesty, it should read:
“There are no excuses for Donald Trump’s offensive [poll numbers] … He alone bears the burden of his [impending defeat] and alone should suffer the consequences.”