Many pundits in the UK are wondering why the latest scandal to have hit Donald Trump’s presidential campaign seems to have created such problems for him when previous horrible things he has said have had so little impact. Sure the “grab her pussy” stuff is vile, but no worse than a myriad of other choice Trump quotes, right? So then why has it led John McCain to finally say he won’t vote for Trump, while a chorus of other prominent Republican senators have also publicly disowned their candidate for president in the wake of the recordings being released?
What this comes down to is values. According to most people in this country’s values, even amongst conservatives, making racist comments towards Mexicans, mocking the disabled, alluding to the assassination of his political rival, and even previous sexist/misogynistic comments are in many ways worse than this latest set of comments about being sexually aggressive. But in American conservative circles, everything he has previously said has been relatively okay – borderline at times, but survivable. The problem with the 2005 recordings is that they directly contradict American conservative values in a way that is unavoidable.
For one, Trump had just got married before having uttered his comments – and the woman he was referring to being aggressive towards was a married woman as well. American conservatives are very focused on faith, family, flag – and the middle one is perhaps the most important. So Trump has demonstrated how this means nothing to him within these recordings.
But more importantly, the predatory angle of what he said has hit American conservative men in a very deep emotional way. They tend to have a proprietorial attitude towards their wives and daughters, and Trump’s aggressive outlook that all women are fair game to have their genitals grabbed has set off the protective, very male feeling within these Republican red blooded blokes now that their women folk are under direct threat from the Donald. And they have reacted, finally, against the man as a result.
So to clear up the confusion, it isn’t that Trump has said one sexist comment too many – it is that he’s finally crossed a line in the sand with right-wing men in that he has threatened their “territory”. I, like many, had figured there was nothing Trump could say that would sink him. But I hadn’t thought of this possibility – that he could threaten GOP male interests in such a visceral manner. Congratulations, Donald: you managed to find one of the few ways to do something bad enough that could make a bunch of people convinced to back you no matter what finally break.
Whether this is enough to derail his bid to become leader of the free world, we can only hope.