Zachary Toussaint, Johns Hopkins University:
In a video released late last week, Donald J. Trump, Republican nominee for President, is heard discussing groping, kissing, and otherwise sexually assaulting women with Billy Bush, Access Hollywood’s host at the time. In the conversation, Trump discusses the power that being famous carries when it comes to seducing women: “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.” He also chronicles his failed seduction of a married woman and talks about his inability to stop himself from kissing pretty women. This disgusting, candid conversation was recorded by a hot microphone while Trump was on his way to film a cameo on the show “Days of our Lives.”
The backlash from this video has been enormous. In a statement regarding the incident, Trump has dismissed the conversation as being merely “locker-room banter… that took place many years ago.” He has also accused former President Bill Clinton of saying “far worse” to him in private. Despite his “apology” for his comments, Trump has begun to lose the support of Republican leaders. Many have denounced his remarks, retracting their support for the candidate. Several Republicans have asked him to step down and allow Mike Pence take his place as the Republican Presidential nominee. Some of them have even spoken about their longing to support their party’s nominee, but say that after seeing the video, they are no longer able to do so. Speaker Paul Ryan has decided to end all campaigning for Trump and focus on maintaining the Republican majority in congress for the upcoming election.
Trump’s response to the loss of support from Republican leaders is one of the most troubling political outcomes from this video’s release. Following the denouncements, Trump—already famous for his twitter attacks—sent a barrage of tweets against the Republican leadership, primarily Paul Ryan and John McCain, showering them with insults and making his disgust at their lack of support for his presidency clear. He tweeted that “the shackles have been taken off,” and that he is now free from the restraints of Republican leadership in running his campaign. Now, the issue at hand is figuring how Trump will interact with his own party’s leadership if he can manage to overcome the damage caused by this video and get himself elected. In a political system already bursting at the seams with the tension between the two parties, it is troublesome to imagine a commander in chief that lacks the support of either party. Unfortunately, it appears that would be the case in a Donald Trump presidency.
First, however, Trump will need to get to the White House. Overcoming the outrage from this video will be the Trump campaign’s biggest challenge yet. Already incredibly controversial for his past comments about women, minorities, Muslims, etc., Trump’s remarks in this video have elicited the strongest response so far. However, by refusing to humbly apologize and beg for forgiveness, he has let his hubris stand in the way of moving forward from this incident. A great many politicians have scandals, but most will take steps to overcome their slip ups and retain their supporters. Trump, on the other hand, has continued to make vulgar comments about women and has refused to make a grand apology because he has based so much of his persona on his pride and strength.
Is this really what we want from a leader? Regardless of policy, do we want a President who could step out of line when interacting with foreign diplomats and refuse to repent for his misdoings? I would argue that the lesser of two evils would be having a president who I may not agree with completely on policy decisions, but who I would trust to interact with foreign leaders without (at best) embarrassing America or (at worst) irreparably damaging America’s foreign standing because they are too proud to know when they are wrong.
The choice is ours, America. Can we stand to forgive a man who has made disgusting comments about women and alienated himself from the party that he claims to represent and elect him our President? Or has this video condemned the Trump campaign to merely be a footnote in American history books yet to be written? Ready or not, we will find out who the American people elect on November 8 when we all do our civic duty and vote.