The first tape dropped exactly one month to the day prior to the General Election. That recording featured Donald Trump describing in explicit detail his habit of sexually assaulting women. A few days later, after an absolutely catastrophic performance in the second debate, snippets of Trump’s appearances on Howard Stern’s show started to dribble out into news media.
From the first of the Stern releases we learn that Trump draws the line sexually at women over age 12. Helpful, I guess. In another clip he makes lewd sexual comments about his daughter. Then we hear him describe how he treats contestants in his beauty pageants. Finally, after a flood of media attention has provided a sense of safety, victims of Trump’s lifestyle start pouring out to share their stories.
This sequence of revelations emerged into a carefully constructed narrative pattern, exactly the technique deployed by a trial attorney laying out a case. Republicans are crying foul, hinting that the Clinton campaign is manipulating the media. So what? That’s what credible, competent campaign professionals do. And ‘manipulating the media’ was what Trump was doing before he blundered into the buzzsaw of the Clinton machine.
It may be years before we learn the whole story of how this media firestorm was launched, but one thing is clear. Nothing about the Republican primary process prepared the party’s candidates to square off against a professional campaign run by adults. No one could have been surprised by the allegations against Trump. He’s been talking about his behavior in public for decades. The fact that this candidate survived the Republican primary demonstrates that the party’s voters, not Donald Trump, are at the core the GOP’s illness.
A few Republicans have had the temerity to whine that “no one mentioned this in the primaries.” That’s bullshit. Donald Trump did face scrutiny over his treatment of women in the GOP primary. The ugly fact is that Republican voters didn’t care. They still don’t.
In the very first Republican debate, the very first question Donald Trump faced specifically called out his abuse of women. Predictably enough, his response was vile, abusive, creepy and juvenile. How did Republicans respond? With cheers. They cheered that miserable cretin like a hero. Watch the video and tell me you were surprised by what we learned last week:
After the debate, he went on the attack against Kelly herself with a series of crude, ugly comments. Republicans responded by rallying around Trump. Meanwhile the leadership of Kelly’s network was being dismantled by their own sexual harassment scandal. Republicans didn’t care about that either, continuing to tune into a network built from the ground up around a sick culture of abuse.
Let’s be honest – none of these revelations about Donald Trump, if they had emerged in February instead of October, would have changed the outcome of the primary. Republicans wanted a racist, sexist pig as their champion. They got exactly what they wanted.
Even if some Republicans did care about Trump’s horrendous flaws, the process itself was so degraded that none of the campaigns could have effectively investigated or pressed the matter. Real vetting in the GOP primary was non-existent. It was a circus run by the monkeys themselves. Nothing left in the Republican infrastructure can restore any element of professionalism.
Why are Republican campaigns so consistently incompetent? Because Republican candidates and officials are no longer permitted to traffic in facts.
A Republican candidate who acknowledges that climate change is real, illegal immigration is declining, Benghazi was a tragic mistake rather than a deliberate conspiracy, Obama is not a Muslim, and black people have some legitimate concerns about police abuse, would be booed off the debate stage and hounded into oblivion. If you cannot use facts, then you are left to fly blind. Everything you do will at best be clumsy until it eventually tumbles into disaster.
Whichever unfortunate goofball happened to win the Republican nomination was ultimately doomed to face one of the most expert political machines in the country’s modern history. Naive Republicans who insist that Trump was just a bad candidate who doesn’t reflect on the party itself should never have to discover what the Clinton campaign would have revealed about Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, or (God help us all) Ted Cruz.
These allegations are only emerging now because a broken political party, stripped of competent professionals, was incapable of staging a real primary. This is what happens when your party rejects facts. The GOP isn’t going to restore its ability to compete nationally without a painful reassessment of the party’s relationship to reality. Nothing happening now suggests that any sort of reform is on the horizon. The GOP has become, as Republican Governor Bobby Jindal explained, “the stupid party,” and so it shall remain until its delicate members develop the courage to face some facts.