Steven Biel: Turn out the lights. The election is over. If there was any question left before the “grab ’em by the p***y” video came out yesterday, there’s none now. Hillary Clinton will be the next President of the United States. You gonna give me any argument?
Lance Dutson: If we were in a normal universe, you’d be absolutely correct. But this is an electorate that so far has forgiven “Mexicans are rapists,” comments about women being “fat disgusting pigs,” naked pictures of the prospective First Lady, criticism of a POW for getting caught, attacks on the parents of a fallen soldier, etc., etc., etc. In this new world of garbage politics, who knows what the ramifications of this tape will be?
Steven: This is one of the great myths of the election. Yes, a plurality of GOP primary voters “forgave” these scandals (or perhaps liked him because of them). And most gutless Republican elected officials like Bruce Poliquin have fallen in line. But the rest of the country concluded long ago that Trump is deeply unfit to be president. It’s not just Democrats, but independents, college-educated Republicans, Republican women–Trump has been hemorrhaging support among key groups like this all along. Now the bottom is falling out and we’re seeing Republicans flee like rats off a sinking ship.
Lance: Republicans really cooked their own goose on this one. Who didn’t see this coming? I guess the beauty pageants, gilded jets, Trump Steaks, and gold-plated baby carriage photo shoots weren’t strong enough indicators that we were dealing with a grotesque manifestation of the most bilious traits of Western Civilization. Honestly, support for Trump has to cast serious doubt on the fitness of any of these folks to hold office. We elect people because we trust their judgment. What on Earth were the Republicans supporting Trump thinking?
Steven: Clearly I agree, but you know I think if Trump had come out Friday and immediately given a heartfelt, contrite apology, he would have held onto most of his establishment Republican support. But his statements have been so tone deaf, dismissing outrage over what’s essentially him admitting to repeated sexual assaults, that the floodgates finally burst open. Then again, from a pure political perspective, I wonder if the GOP didn’t make the situation worse for themselves by pulling the rug out from under Trump. Morally, it’s a no-brainer. But if the “deplorables” refuse to vote, the Republicans will lose the House and Senate, not just the presidency.
Lance: The most entertaining thing about this whole situation was the line from Trump’s fake apology that said “Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am.” I mean, that’s it right there–the punchline to the Trump joke. All of us who have come to know him over the last 18 months know this is EXACTLY who he is. If you are surprised by these revelations, you have either been on a retreat in the mountains of Tibet for two years, or you’ve got some serious perception issues.
Steven: Going forward, the great unknown now is how big a wipeout this will be for Republicans. Dozens of Republican members of Congress and governors are now calling on him to pull out of the race, including one of your old bosses, Kelly Ayotte–apparently an attempt to sever themselves from the top of the ticket and hope they can get enough people to split tickets to save the House and Senate. I’m not sure that’s going to work–in fact I bet Trump’s next move will be to explicitly tell his supporters not to vote for Republicans in tight races like Sen. Ayotte and Sen. John McCain.
Lance: The GOP is in for a civil war like never before within the party, and it’s a shame we waited so long to have this fight. There is simply no room in a party that follows Trump and LePage for people who follow Ronald Reagan and Mitt Romney. It’s too bad this waited till the final stretch of a presidential year.
Steven: Actually, I think even you as a Never Trump stalwart are missing the point. The roots of Trumpism are in Ronald Reagan kicking off his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three civil rights workers were murdered by the KKK. It’s in Reagan’s post-truth supply-side economics, telling people that we can cut taxes, increase spending, and balance the budget at the same time. It’s in the Willie Horton ad and Paul Ryan’s attacks on “takers” and the anti-science global warming denial that has become GOP orthodoxy. If you want to rid your party of Trumpian ignorance and bigotry, you have a lot more work to do than expelling Trump.
Lance: That’s not true at all. You’re basically saying you can’t have civil politics if fiscal conservatism is involved, and that’s just wrong. Conservatives have a long and proud history of standing up for civil liberties and pushing back against a government that stifles economic growth. The problem is in the lure of populist anger as a means to attain political power. Inciting anger and fear (as Democrats did so successfully in 2008 with their anti-war mania) is a very effective political tactic. But it’s a cynical move that comes at a price, and we’re seeing that in real time right now.
Steven: We’ll have to agree to disagree on that one. So let’s finish with predictions. First, dozens of Republicans are now calling on Trump to drop out. I think this is ludicrous but I think he will go down to a historic defeat. Agree?
Lance: I agree. There’s no real other plausible scenario.
Steven: And I think this will cost the Republicans their Senate majority by putting races like New Hampshire and Nevada out of reach–but the GOP firewall is just too strong in the House. You?
Lance: The Republican majority in the House is definitely safe, and I actually think the movement we’re seeing against Trump from leaders in the Senate might be enough to hold things in place there.
Steven: How about the impact here in Maine? Is this the perfect storm that allows Emily Cain to finally defeat Bruce Poliquin? Poliquin put out a really weak statement Saturday copying Trump’s strategy of trying to change the subject to Bill Clinton, which will not play well with women. So I’m cautiously optimistic this could put Cain over the top, but she’ll need to take advantage by really holding his feet to the fire over the final four weeks.
Lance: This Trump issue is no help to Bruce, especially since Emily’s thin-as-paper campaign message just happens to mesh perfectly with this misogynist apocalypse. But Bruce is working hard and he’s not endorsed Trump, so I think as long as he speaks out strongly against him in the coming days, he’ll retain his seat.
Steven: Then one last question: As a Bush family backer, is Billy Bush permanently banned from Kennebunkport for failing to share these tapes with his cousin Jeb!’s campaign?
Lance: A friend remarked to me earlier today that this may be the first time a Bush takes down a Trump. Better late than never I suppose.