The news Friday of presidential candidate Donald Trump’s vulgar view of women and his conceivably criminal activity toward them wasn’t an October surprise, because it wasn’t a surprise. This is the real Donald Trump, as evidenced repeatedly during 16 months of attacks on Hispanics, Muslims, women, the disabled, women again, veterans, and women some more.
For the sake of the Republican Party and the nation — for god’s sake — enough. Enough altogether. Trump should immediately relinquish his nomination and allow, for a short month at least, the country to have a campaign that’s closer to representing its legitimate interests and actual divisions.
No nation should toy with electing a leader who beholds more than half of its population with disrespect. No party should be represented by a candidate whose ersatz positions bear such little coherence with its own. And no one should countenance a man who declares that, because he’s a star, he can prey on women, regardless of their consent, and speak of grabbing them by the genitalia.
We’re choosing, for the sake of taste, not to repeat Trump’s actual words, which come from a 2005 conversation between the billionaire and television personality Billy Bush, a recording of which was obtained by the Washington Post. Trump first waved off the disclosure as “locker room banter,” claimed (without evidence) that former President Bill Clinton has said much worse, expressed regret “if anyone was offended” — if! — and later released a video stating that his comments “don’t reflect who I am.” But of course they did reflect who he was at the moment he said them, and voters have scant persuasive evidence that he has changed.
Republicans leaders have a choice to make. It is unclear whether they can force Trump to step aside; the Republican National Committee reportedly is exploring its options. Even if they can, tens of thousands of early ballots have been cast, and millions more have been printed with Trump’s name. Nevertheless, they should try. Failing that, they should come together and demand, with one voice, that he step aside. On Saturday, a growing number of nationally prominent Republicans were doing so. In Minnesota, House Speaker Kurt Daudt was the first. Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty added his condemnation, calling Trump “unsound, uninformed, unhinged and unfit to be president of the United States.” The Star Tribune Editorial Board would hope that every Republican candidate would follow their example. Denouncing Trump’s remarks without withdrawing support, as U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and others have attempted, is an attempt to have it both ways.
If Trump remains in the race, as he insisted Saturday that he will do, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton almost certainly will win. To many, this is easily a favorable outcome. However, it would be achieved at the expense of the nation’s credibility in the world and without the clear mandate that bettering a legitimate opponent would provide.
If Trump exits the race, and if his running mate, Mike Pence, or even Ryan were to take his place, the significant portion of the electorate that holds conservative views would be represented, and others who hold doubts about Clinton’s probity would have a realistic alternative. Despite the political and logistic turmoil, the election would likely be closer than it now promises to be.
The one legitimate issue that Trump has given voice to during this race — in his inimical, insufferable way — is the perception of American masses downtrodden by the elite. The truth of this matter is complex, but the frustration is authentic and should not be dismissed along with the candidate.
The next presidential debate is scheduled for Sunday night. Trump should not be there. Indeed, the debate should be postponed for one week as the Republican Party regroups. Then, the nation should spend the remaining 23 days of the campaign engaged in the kind of constructive dialogue an event as momentous as a leadership transition deserves.