How exquisitely fitting that Donald Trump is going down because of a tape shot by a celebrity-TV show. And make no mistake, Trump is going down. What remains to be seen is how fiery his crash and burn will be, how lopsided his defeat will be—landslide, anyone?—and how much of the rest of the Republican slate he takes with him. If the fallout is far-reaching enough, and everyone who opposes Trump gets out and votes, Democrats might regain a majority in the US Senate and even the House of Representatives, dramatically recasting the political terrain facing a President Hillary Clinton.
When even Fox News is talking about the crisis nonstop, and Fox’s favorite pollster, Frank Luntz, is openly saying that 44 percent of his respondents want Trump to drop out, and Luntz himself then all but begs the Republican National Committee to replace Trump with vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence, you know that this ship is sinking fast. Trump’s only hope, Luntz added, is an absolutely dominating defeat of Clinton in the town hall–style debate Sunday night, an outcome the pollster clearly did not expect.
Trump’s path to an Electoral College victory was always uphill, but now the crest of that hill is curling backward onto the real-estate blowhard, crushing him and threatening all but the safest Republican incumbents as well. Credit this turn of events to the most powerful, if sickening, October Surprise in presidential history. Savor the moment, notwithstanding the criminal nature of Trump’s boasts about physically forcing himself on women and the frat boy vulgarity of the five words that are sealing his doom: his giddy declaration that the best way to approach a desirable female is to “grab them by the pussy!”
Yes, Trump has said lots of disgusting, stupid, or hateful things before and gotten away with it. Yes, polls still show him even or within striking distance of Hillary Clinton in many states (though those polls, unlike Luntz’s, did not measure public opinion after the news broke). But this scandal is not going to go away. This time really is different, for two reasons—one demographic, one rooted in the nature of celebrity television.
First, this time Trump is not insulting Mexicans or Muslims or the disabled or immigrants—groups that much of Middle America still sees as “other”—he is insulting women in general. Women are, of course, half the population, and they are anything but “other.” Everyone has a mother, and many if not most of us, men and women alike, also have a daughter, sister, wife, or girlfriend. This tape and its ghastly boasting about engaging in what amounts to criminal sexual assault hits home with Middle Americans in a way Trump’s previous insults of “others” did not. There is not a woman I can think of, not even my two dear sisters who always vote Republican, who could watch this tape, hear Trump brag about his freedom to “grab them by the pussy,” and not feel revolted or worse.