Every time some bombshell story comes out about Donald Trump’s past, and after every single lewd and useless fight he is too undisciplined to avoid, I always jump to the same old conclusion: well, at least it couldn’t get any worse for him.
And every single time, Donald Trump proves me wrong — it not only gets worse, but more disturbing, disgusting and morally repugnant. What other words can one use to describe the twenty-four hours since the 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape reared its ugly head, where Trump brags about sexually assaulting women and getting away with it because he’s a famous man with billions of dollars in the bank?
There may be one silver lining in all of this, however. The comments that Trump made towards women to television host Billy Bush are so horrific, so obscene and so predatory that down-ballot Republicans running for election or re-election may have finally been given the justification they were looking for all along to separate themselves from the candidate.
Calling Mexicans rapists, Muslims a threat to American society, Alicia Machado “Miss Piggy,” Ghazala Khan silenced by her religion, John McCain a glorified, fake war-hero, Ted Cruz’s father a conspirator of JFK’s assassination, and Hillary Clinton a weak and bumbling politician with terrible health weren’t grotesque enough for Republican senators running for re-election in purple or blue states to jump off the Trump Train for good. The exception has been Sen. Mark Kirk, who said as far back as June that he would never support Trump as the Republican nominee. Everybody else, from Kelly Ayotte and Mitch McConnell to Paul Ryan and Richard Burr, were either grudgingly supportive of Trump’s candidacy or were leaving the door open to an endorsement when Trump officially claimed the GOP nomination.
The last twenty-four hours, comments about groping and all, appears to be the straw that broke the camel’s back for many of these politicians. A day after the audio was released and first reported on by the Washington Post, the list of GOP senators or members of Congress scurrying away from Trump has grown exponentially. The Huffington Post has a running tally of the defections — as of 5:00 pm today, nineteen have put out statements that they will no longer be casting a ballot for him on November 8. Some of the names on this list, like Gov. Robert Bentley, Sen. John Thune, Sen. Mike Crapo and Rep. Martha Roby are doing so despite occupying safe seats in red districts or red states.
However, it’s people like Kelly Ayotte, Pat Toomey, Richard Burr, Joe Heck, Mike Coffman, Barbara Comstock and Ron Johnson — all of whom are either in dead-heat races or are behind in the polls to their Democratic challengers —who may ironically benefit the most from Trump’s meltdown. Throughout the year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan have been advising their vulnerable members to run state or local races, but to do so without antagonizing the Trump supporters who will be critical votes on election day. In effect, what politicians like Ayotte and Johnson were being asked to do was equivalent to dancing on the head of a pin; focus on how you will work for the residents of your states, hit Trump when he says something stupid or derogatory, but don’t hit him so hard that it would offend or turn off Trump’s diehard supporters. It was an increasingly difficult thing to pull off, and one can imagine that Republican incumbents in many of these toss-up races weren’t at all pleased that they had to perform a high-wire balancing act in order to their save their jobs.
Trump, however, has given each one of these people an exit ramp. His comments about groping women and kissing them without their consent are so indefensible that Republicans down-ballot really have no choice but to save themselves while they still can. No longer will they have to perform that balancing act, get heartburn whenever the GOP nominee utters something disrespectful, hide from reporters during campaign events or avoid their Trump questions like the plague. They can now free themselves from a sinking ship.