The American news media has been having a field day sifting through the fallout from leaked video footage of the admission of routine sexual assault made by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Filmed behind the scenes of Access Hollywood and sitting on their shelves since 2005, the video exposes Trump saying—to put it bluntly—some pretty gross things, such as, “when you’re a star, they let you do it,” and bragging about “grabbing” women by their “pussy”. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the word “pussy” displayed throughout public spaces and daytime television in my entire life. This incident has opened up a can of worms. It has inspired feminist dialogues surrounding consent and has prompted Trump supporters to defend his words as “some stupid male braggadocio about a woman” and “locker room talk” amidst a public, albeit insincere apology from Trump. This has led to yet another slew of “he said-she said” between Trump and and Secretary Clinton. This election, there was already a dangerous tendency to ignore the actual issues facing citizens in favour of focusing on the reputations of these candidates. These developments threaten to spiral the entire proceedings into an all-out war of attrition between two monolithic, cartoonish personalities.
If you’re wondering why I’m taking up space writing about American politics right now, it’s because I’m baffled at why anyone is at all surprised by the statements made in the Access Hollywood video. Senators John McCain, Jon Huntsman and Gary Herbert, who called Trump’s comments “beyond offensive and despicable” are among the many Republican leaders who have withdrawn their endorsements from Trump. It seems that their candidate’s blatant bigotry, narcissism, and lack of a coherent policy had not been enough to shake them. They had to go public when Trump was caught using a potty-mouth.
When the well-being of voters, not to mention the many populations across the world who are affected by American policy, takes back-seat to a two-dimensional assessment of the “temperament” or “political correctness” of the candidates, what kind of expectations are being set for future politics? For many young Americans, this is the very first election that they have participated in, and what a circus to behold.
This entire affair represents a serious ideological and moral problem within the Republican movement. When Trump was a Republican nominee neck-and-neck with Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, he made candid claims about his plans to ban all Muslims from the United States, accused Mexicans of being rapists, called Rosie O’Donnell a “slob” and “disgusting” and called protesters in the aftermath of the death of Freddie Gray “thugs”. I mean, we’re talking about the man who proudly proclaimed that he would bring back “waterboarding, and a lot worse.” We’re talking about the man who doesn’t understand that the nation literally cannot function without a certain influx of immigrant populations arriving to the United States every year. We are talking about the man whose literal solution to everything is a lawsuit.
The fact that it took an 11 year old video that simply reiterates and confirms that he is a misogynist pig for Republicans to reconsider their endorsements and speak out against Trump speaks to the complacency the majority of the party feels towards those who would spread hate towards and threaten the lives of minority populations. The dominant narrative of appalled reaction to Trump’s comments are riddled with phrases such as “I have a wife, a mother, a daughter…” as an attempt to relate to the women Trump slights and admonishing his behaviour. To these men and women I would ask, have you never known a Muslim, a Mexican, or a black American? How can voters put their faith in a party that has swept so much under the rug? It is frankly insulting and undermines the legitimacy of so many American citizens that this is the pinnacle moment in which the Republicans are backing away from Trump. The nation is a month away from its federal elections; a little late in the game to realize the nominee you’ve put in place is a clown, I’d say.
A certain desensitization leads to lackluster reactions for what should be shocking comments brimming with bigotry, racism, and xenophobia. It is troublesome that calling an entire demographic of people rapists and advocating for the ban of an entire group of people following a certain religion is not worthy of retracting ones endorsement. In selectively conveying outrage at a specific controversy, the Republican movement has unwittingly displayed what they are willing to accept, and even support. The voting public should not, and will not, forget this in elections to come.