Wake up already, Iowa Republican leaders: this election is over.
Donald Trump will never recover from the revelation of the 2005 tape that shows his abhorrent views on women and sexual assault. Yes, we’ve all thought any number of his earlier outrageous, sexist and racist comments would have done him in, only to be proven wrong. But this is different. It simply is. Your presidential nominee bragged about sexually assaulting women.
“I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married,” Trump said in the tape. “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”
There is no clear-thinking person in the world who can legitimately explain this away as locker room banter or a one-off mistake from Trump. And if you and your male friends have similar conversations in private where you not simply say lewd things about a woman’s body, but boast about sexually assaulting them, then please resign immediately from whichever leadership role you hold. This was not a thing all men talk about – only the perverts and rapists do.
Why is this so important to what Iowa Republican leaders decide to do next? Because you are nationally recognized as the staunchest group of Republican defenders of Donald Trump in the entire country. There were no major holdouts from Iowa elected officials, Terry Branstad’s son is running Trump’s state operation, Joni Ernst embraced him as her headline speaker at her Roast and Ride and Chuck Grassley is holding open a Supreme Court seat just for him. The Republican Party of Iowa is the Trump Party of Iowa, now and forever, if you do not move to immediately denounce Trump and withdraw your support. (And, yes, you should have done this for any number of his previous comments, but hey, here we are.)
Yes, it all seemed so smart at the time, that unifying around a controversial nominee actually helped to bolster the party’s chances in Iowa up and down the ballot. And for a while it did work, tamping down the local press stories of division within the GOP and getting your activists working on the campaign. But Trump will cripple your party on Election Day and in the years to come.
Even if you personally believe Trump can survive this episode, what will happen tomorrow? And the day after that? Trump has more stored-away videotapes and audio recordings than any other nominee in history. You can bet every producer in the country is going through their archives right now. And you know this is the person Trump is. He certainly made more comments like this.
Honestly, would you really be all that surprised if one or several women came out with personal stories over the next week of how Trump raped them? Would you? Because plenty of other reports sure make him sound like the kind of guy who would have done that at some point.
Right after the 2005 tape report hit on Friday, the New York Times published an article of how Trump groped a beauty pageant contestant in his daughter Ivanka’s bedroom, and made creepy nighttime visits into the women’s rooms. CNN’s Erin Burnett described on air how her friend just called her and told her about Trump forcing himself on her in his office.
You can easily imagine how, just like the Bill Cosby rape stories, a flood of women will come out with their experiences of Trump sexually assaulting them.
And then where will Iowa Republicans be? Standing by Trump is no longer the smart option, and really, it never was. This day was always coming. And it will only get worse. You know it will. Every day you stick with him you will get tied to worse and worse comments that Democrats will use against you for years to come.
Because this controversy is not one that will go away. This is your nominee that Iowa Republicans have steadfastly defended. When Joni Ernst holds a press conference in the future about her work on sexual assault in the military, there will be protesters standing behind her with a sign that reads “Grab Them By The Pussy” and a blow-up photo of Ernst next to Trump at her fundraiser. When Kim Reynolds runs for governor, her potential support among female Republicans will be undermined as her opponents relentlessly hound her over her closeness with Trump.
Hell, AJ Spiker might come out of this looking like the smarter of him and Jeff Kaufmann. Both Branstad and Kaufmann are responsible for the unified Republican front for Trump in Iowa. Both of their judgements will be very severely questioned if Trump goes down in a blowout, wiping out down-ballot Iowa Republicans as well. It’s hard to see how Kaufmann could continue running the party in such a scenario – a huge part of his leadership has been around enforcing Trump unity.
So far there has been radio silence from nearly all Iowa Republican leaders. David Young gets a tiny bit of credit for being out first with a statement, saying, “What Donald Trump said was disgusting and indefensible then and it is disgusting and indefensible now.” But it’s not enough. He and Rod Blum need to denounce and withdraw support from Trump if they hope to not get swept out of office with Trump’s implosion. [Update: Jason Noble has compiled most of their responses.]
Of course, feel free to keep doing what you’re doing. As a Democrat, I wouldn’t mind it. As a human being, it’d be nice to see the people I’ve gotten to know while covering them over the past two years not abandon all their principles for such a disgusting monster.
But for the issues I care about, I suppose it’s helpful. Because just the other day I was getting severely worried about the future of Iowa Democrats and whether we had any hope of not turning into a red state. Today? Not so much.
by Pat Rynard