Election 2016

After Disgusting 'P*ssy' Comments, Will the Republican Party Dump Trump?

Trump's lewd remarks reveal GOP as the party of sexual assault and violence against women.

Photo Credit: screen shot / Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.

The Republican Party is in a panic. When your presidential nominee has been shown to be the pro-sexual assault candidate, boasting of his ability to “grab 'em [women] by the pussy” because he’s famous, you’ve got a pretty big problem. When the revelations are made a month before the election, you’re screwed.

Today, as Trump campaign leaders expected to be playing “gotcha” with the Wikileaks release of the text of one of Hillary Clinton’s speeches to the captains of Wall Street, the GOP is dealing with the fallout from the Washington Post’s report of hot-mic comments made by Donald Trump in 2005 to Billy Bush (then a host of Access Hollywood), in which the future presidential candidate talked of “moving on” a married woman he referred to as a "bitch," according to a transcript prepared by the New York Times:

Trump: I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

Bush: Whatever you want.

Trump: Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.

With the video’s release, Republican leaders feigned outrage, taking to their fainting couches. House Speaker Paul Ryan disinvited Trump from a campaign event at which the two were scheduled to appear today in Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin (where Ryan is up for re-election to his congressional seat). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed consternation. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) withdrew his endorsement of Trump. U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, also a Utah Republican, called for Trump to step aside. And vice presidential nominee and extremely pious Christian Mike Pence said nothing, dodging reporters’ questions at a rally rope line in Toledo, Ohio, a battleground state.

In 2013, McConnell, Chaffetz and Lee all voted against the reauthorization of the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act. At the time the vote was taken, the reauthorization of VAWA had already been held up in the Republican-majority House for more than a year, because the new version of the law extended its protections to people in Native American nations, undocumented immigrants and people in LGBT relationships. (In order to achieve passage, those extended provisions were stripped out.)

Neither Ryan nor Pence are exactly friends to women. As governor of Indiana, Pence signed into law a bill containing some of the nation’s most draconian restrictions on abortion, forbidding a woman to terminate her pregnancy if her reason for doing so was because the fetus was severely damaged. (The law’s implementation is currently held up in the courts.) Ryan has long advocated an anti-choice policy with only the narrowest of exceptions. Both men oppose most meaningful measures to create a viable social safety net for vulnerable women and children.

The misogynist policies advanced by these men so offended (or in Pence’s case, rendered silent) by Trump’s remarks are typically done so in the language of morality crafted by the religious right. Trump’s forthright lewdness rips the scab off the GOP’s festering wound of misogyny. There’s a reason Trump won the Republican nomination: It’s the misogyny, stupid—misogyny the GOP has been stoking since its right flank mustered its forces to defeat the Equal Rights Act in 1982.

Since pundits' postmortem of Tuesday night’s vice-presidential debate, Republican operatives and politicians have been anonymously quoted as wishing Pence were at the top of the ticket. Now you can bet on more talk of that kind, perhaps even pressure to make it happen. But it probably won’t.

First of all, voting has already begun in many states, and no one knows how the Electoral College would work in assessing the ballots cast for a major-party nominee who is no longer on the ticket come Election Day. Second, even though Republican Party rules have something of an escape clause for appointing a new candidate in a circumstance in which, post-nomination, the presidential slot is vacated, the wording suggests Trump would have to voluntarily leave the ticket, and given the candidate’s response to the Access Hollywood revelations, that seems unlikely.

In a video statement, Trump expressed regret for his remarks, and says he’s changed in the 11 years since he spoke that way to Billy Bush. Really, it’s much ado about nothing, he says. “This is nothing more than a distraction from the important issues we’re living with today,” Trump asserts.

Then he doubles down, implying that his words (“grab ‘em by the pussy,” “move in like a bitch,” “big, phony tits,” etc.) were nothing more than words, and that they're nothing compared to former President Bill Clinton’s history with women. He continues: “And Hillary has attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims. We will discuss this more in the coming days. See you at the debate on Sunday.”

You might want to put the kids to bed first.

Adele M. Stan is a weekly columnist for The American Prospect. Follow her on Twitter @addiestan.

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