I can barely keep up with the Donald Trump news. The New York Times identifies a woman who was mauled by Trump on a plane and another woman who was mauled by Trump in an elevator. The Palm Beach Post identifies another woman who says she was groped by Trump. A People magazine reporter says that Trump sexually assaulted her. A former Miss Washington says she was pawed by Trump. A former Miss Utah just gave an interview to the Today show in which she recounted a sexual assault by Trump. BuzzFeed and The Guardian identify women who say Trump walked in on them in their dressing rooms during beauty pageants. And CBS has a clip of Trump watching a 10-year-old on the escalator at Trump Tower and saying, "I am going to be dating her in 10 years."
Trump is a sick bastard -- but what the hell is wrong with the Republican Party? Couldn't the GOP have figured out that this guy is really bad news, and made more of an effort to prevent him from seizing the reins of the party?
Ross Douthat thinks the party didn't have much choice:
For the party to go full #NeverTrump after March would have required, in the best case, denying Trump the nomination even though he was likely to win a clear plurality of delegates. In the worst case, which the party faced once Trump dispatched Cruz and John Kasich in early May, it would have required stripping him of a nomination that he had won fairly under the Republican National Committee’s existing rules.
In the old days of smoke-filled rooms this would have been one thing, but in our age of mostly democratic primaries and “will of the people” expectations it would have been a nightmare. Chaos and protests and walkouts at the convention would have been only the beginning: ... Trump ... would have been on every cable channel railing against Paul Ryan and Reince Priebus and the Cruz-Kasich ticket from June till November, with the mainstream media egging him on delightedly and a large slice of the conservative media in his corner.
... His ire and his voters’ feelings of betrayal would have sent the official Republican ticket limping toward a likely November defeat, undercut every down-ballot Republican politician’s turnout effort, and extended the party’s civil war well into Hillary Clinton’s presidency.
But why couldn't the party have tried to head Trump off long before he was headed to a first-ballot victory at the convention? It was obvious last fall, well before the Iowa caucuses, that Trump might seriously win the nomination. I know nobody in the GOP wanted to believe that, but why wasn't there a "one percent doctrine" regarding Trump -- if there was a one percent chance Trump could win, the party needed to prevent that, because he's so awful? Shouldn't the party at least have done some digging into Trump's past, to prepare for what might come out if Trump won the nomination? And in that case, couldn't the party itself have leaked some of the information that's coming out now, to damage Trump before he could damage the party?
But I wonder how that would have worked out. Think of everything that's come out this week, and imagine it coming out sometime between the late fall of 2015 and Super Tuesday. The revelations really might have irreversibly tarnished Trump's reputation -- with everyone except Republican voters. The public might have known about Trump's sexual predation (and tax dodges, and business scandals) a year before the general election, yet he still might have won the Republican nomination.
Let's face it: Republican voters just don't believe any news that contradicts their worldview, especially if it comes from the hated "lamestream media" (but even Fox is suspect on the rare occasions when it contradicts what GOP voters want to believe). With regard to Trump's sexual behavior, it's not clear that the GOP base thinks that any harm was done. And that's not just because the base dimisses all of Trump's accusers as liars. (The hashtag #NextFakeTrumpVictim is trending on Twitter right now.) Consider this quote from the pope of conservatism, Rush Limbaugh:
If you don't even believe that lack of consent is what turns a sex act into a sex crime, and if you think raising the issue of consent is just introducing the jackbooted thuggery of "the rape police," then you very well might have voted for Trump even if all of this was known before the primary voting started.
So maybe the GOP establishment's failure to vet Trump (and, if necessary, leak embarrassing stories in order to damage him at the polls) didn't matter. Embarrassing stories might not have damaged him at the primary polls at all. The GOP could have been stuck with him anyway, with every non-base voter in America aware of his transgressions and most of us disgusted by them, while the base just shrugged them off.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog