Here's Why So Many Republicans Deserted Trump This Time Around

Donald Trump outside Trump Towers in Manhattan Saturday. Spencer Platt/Getty Images hide caption

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Spencer Platt/Getty Images

As Republican notables denounce or distance themselves from Donald Trump in the wake of his latest controversy, the world watches and asks, “Why now?”

Put another way: Why is this incident different? What is it about this latest evidence of Trump’s nature and views that’s truly more unacceptable than all the preceding information on the subject? How can the Republican nominee, who has been his party’s front-runner for nearly a year, suddenly be regarded as utterly beyond the pale?

Blame the substance, the tape, the timing or the “tipping point,” but the surge of Republican desertions happened because Trump’s offense hit them where they live — both personally and politically.

Language, Timing, And The Power of Video

Questions about “why now” have already prompted an array of responses. We all know about the straw that broke the camel’s back; but this particular camel’s back has proved remarkably durable. Most of us want more of an explanation than this.

Some point to the power of videotape. Released Friday by the Washington Post, the 2005 tape shows Trump telling TV host Billy Bush how he tried to seduce Bush’s Access Hollywood co-host — and bragging in the crudest language about other sexual forays. If you have not heard or seen it, there is little point in further discussion. If you have, you are altered by it. This is not just another gotcha report, another media yarn. It becomes part of everyone’s own lived experience of Trump.

Others note the distinction between mere words about sex and the nature of the deeds in question. Although Trump is bragging about his behavior, the aggressive sexual encounters he describes amount to a level of sexual assault. In many states, they could be punishable with imprisonment. For many Republican officials and other notables, this is not a tipping point but a breaking point.

There is also the matter of timing. The audio came out just days before Sunday’s pivotal debate between Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at Washington University in St. Louis.

Even before the Friday night release of the videotape, this second in the series of three debates was regarded as crucial for Trump. While he disputes the notion, scientific polls and commentators have been nearly unanimous in saying he did poorly in the first debate on Sept. 27. That event and the events of the following 10 days restored Clinton’s clear lead in the average of national polls and in the swing states. The emergence of this tape at this time could scarcely be more portentous.

All these explanations have some validity, but they do not tell the whole story. It’s also about politics and empathy.

The Politics

In offices, schools and homes all over the country, women seeing the videotape gasped, jumped, cried out, lost their composure. It seemed to matter on a level all its own.

But there is a cooler calculation involved here as well. And it is important to note. Others Trump may have offended in the past have tended to be voting groups where he has had little appeal. They are not especially fertile fields for Republican politicking. Even when Trump has gone to black churches or “reached out” to minorities, the gesture has been seen primarily as an appeal to someone other than those minorities themselves.

The real object of the outreach has been the swing votes of white moderates, especially the highly prized demographic of white non-Hispanic women in childbearing and child-rearing years. They were first called “soccer moms” in the 1990s, then “security moms” in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 2001. They have often been called “working moms,” too, whether they had jobs outside the home or not.

They were seen as crucial to the popular-vote victories of Bill Clinton and Al Gore, then to the re-election of George W. Bush in 2004. They were a key for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. In the current election cycle, the shorthand for their bloc has shifted to “suburban white women.” But whatever they are called, Trump needs them desperately.

Trump’s rock-bottom numbers among nonwhite voters mean he must do better among white voters than Mitt Romney did in 2012 (59 percent according to exit polls). Trump may need 65 percent or more of the white vote to win. He does better than that among white men, but he needs to break even (at least) among white women.

Right now, younger white women are trending to Clinton, their older counterparts to Trump. The battle is in the middle.

It is Trump’s battle for this election in this moment. But it is the Republican Party’s battle for every other office this fall and every election hereafter.

That is why more Republican senators came out against Trump in the last 48 hours than in the six months since he became their party’s standard-bearer. Not just female senators, such as Deb Fischer in Nebraska and Lisa Murkowski in Alaska, but several of the men who had been holding out as well.

Principal among them was John McCain, seeking a sixth term in the Senate at age 80. McCain was personally insulted by Trump in the summer of 2015, yet had maintained a strained neutrality toward him ever since. Despite all the slings and arrows of this campaign year, McCain refused to say he wouldn’t vote for Trump.

On Saturday, he did so. He knows perfectly well it will cost him some votes next month among Trump supporters. But he also knows his party has been alienating Hispanics (30 percent of Arizona’s population) and cannot afford to add more Anglo women to the list.

It is a dilemma the GOP cannot wish along so long as Donald Trump stands as their champion.

The Personal

Trump knows that getting personal is an effective political tactic. When he wanted to hammer home his anti-immigration message, he brought onstage parents of people killed by immigrants in the country illegally. They put a human face on the anger he expressed when he promised to “build the wall.”

But getting personal has also gotten him in a lot of trouble. Trump’s Muslim ban alarmed some of his fellow Republicans, but he drew some of his sharpest rebukes when he feuded with the Khan family. Trump’s rhetoric had already upset many Hispanic voters, but Paul Ryan called it “racist” when Trump said that Judge Gonzalo Curiel couldn’t be an impartial judge because he was of Hispanic heritage. There was always evidence of Trump objectifying women in the past, but people took extra notice when he specifically referred to Megyn Kelly, saying there was “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever,” as well as when they were reminded of his past comments about former Miss Universe Alicia Machado’s weight.

What may have happened this time is that it got too personal. True, Trump didn’t list the names of women he seemed to be bragging about kissing and grabbing. However, he seemed to be talking about personally violating other living, breathing people with his own hands — something that goes beyond words or policies potentially affecting someone.

(And while it may have been “locker room talk,” as his campaign put it, and we can’t be sure he has acted on those words, women have come forward alleging that he did these exact things — one beauty pageant contestant says he kissed her unwantedly, and a former business partner said he touched her crotch, again unwantedly.)

And this seems to be turning many top Republicans away from him, as evidenced by the fact that many Republicans’ statements denouncing him mention mothers and sisters and daughters. Suddenly, Trump’s words became hyperreal, and people imagined themselves or the women they knew being groped.

There’s potentially something to be gleaned here from the famous trolley thought experiment, in which a trolley is hurtling towards five people on the tracks, but has the option of diverting onto a separate track on which there is only one person. Given the choice to pull a lever and divert the trolley, killing that one person, many people say yes.

However, there is a different variant, in which the only way to stop the trolley is to push a large man in front of it. To many people who would pull the lever, this nevertheless feels wrong, even though it would make for the same body count.

To be clear, the analogy is not fully applicable; there’s no person on the tracks in the Trump situation. But the point is purely that once he crossed the barrier of talking about physically violating people, that is when his peers suddenly decided he had crossed a red line.

“This is the kind of action that typically provokes a strong emotional response, and for reasons similar to those at work in trolley dilemmas,” Joshua Greene, a Harvard professor of psychology who has studied how people answer the trolley problem, told NPR. According to him, there are four different reasons why people usually refuse to shove the man onto the tracks, and the kissing-and-grabbing scenario Trump described fulfilled all four.

“It’s an active, direct, specifically intended, bad thing” that Trump seemed to be bragging about doing, Greene said.

Then again, this may be overanalyzing a pretty simple truth, as Greene also noted: If indeed Trump has kissed and groped women unwantedly, his comments amounted to an admission of committing a violent crime.

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A Brief History Of Juanita Broaddrick, The Woman Accusing Bill Clinton Of Rape

Juanita Broaddrick, right, says she met Bill Clinton, center left, then attorney general of Arkansas, in 1978 at the nursing home where she worked in Van Buren, Ark. Getty Images hide caption

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In the middle of a maelstrom of criticism over remarks where he boasted about sexual assault, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is trying to turn the tables on his opponent.

On Twitter Saturday, he repeatedly referenced and retweeted Juanita Broaddrick, a now 73-year-old retired nurse, who alleges former President Bill Clinton raped her nearly 40 years ago and Hillary Clinton helped him cover it up.

“Hillary calls Trump’s remarks ‘horrific’ while she lives with and protects a ‘Rapist,'” Broaddrick tweeted Saturday. “Her actions are horrific.”

Broaddrick’s story is not new. Her allegations first surfaced as Bill Clinton was running for president in 1992. But it wasn’t until 1999, and after recanting sworn testimony to the contrary, that Broaddrick went public. Now that she’s back in the news, here’s a brief rundown of Broaddrick’s story:

How they met

In interviews, Broaddrick said she first met Bill Clinton around 1978. She was 35 and Clinton, who was the Arkansas attorney general at the time, made a campaign stop at the nursing home where Broaddrick worked.

In interviews with the Washington Post, Broaddrick said Clinton encouraged her to call his campaign office when she was in Little Rock. She did that and she set up a coffee meeting with Clinton at her hotel. According to Broaddrick, Clinton told her there were too many reporters in the lobby of the hotel so they should have coffee in her room.

She said she ordered coffee and let him in her room. This is what she told the Post back in 1999:

As she tells the story, they spent only a few minutes chatting by the window — Clinton pointed to an old jail he wanted to renovate if he became governor — before he began kissing her. She resisted his advances, she said, but soon he pulled her back onto the bed and forcibly had sex with her. She said she did not scream because everything happened so quickly. Her upper lip was bruised and swollen after the encounter because, she said, he had grabbed onto it with his mouth.

“The last thing he said to me was, ‘You better get some ice for that.’ And he put on his sunglasses and walked out the door,” she recalled.

Telling her story

Broaddrick was reluctant to tell her story. She declined opportunities to be interviewed for years and when investigators for Paula Jones, who also accused Clinton of sexual harassment, approached, she rebuffed them.

On Jan. 2, 1998, she provided those investigators with a sworn affidavit.

YouTube

“During the 1992 Presidential campaign there were unfounded rumors and stories circulated that Mr. Clinton had made unwelcome sexual advances toward me in the late seventies,” she said. “Newspaper and tabloid reporters hounded me and my family, seeking corroboration of these tales. I repeatedly denied the allegations and requested that my family’s privacy be respected. These allegations are untrue and I had hoped that they would no longer haunt me, or cause further disruption to my family.”

When Kenneth Starr was investigating Bill Clinton, in the late ’90s, he approached Broaddrick and offered her immunity. She told Buzzfeed in an August interview that’s when she decided it “was time to tell the full truth.”

Her story became fully public with this 1999 Dateline NBC interview:

In it, she explained that she had not come forward with the story because she worried that no one would believe her.

Broaddrick had no witnesses but a friend of hers told reporters Broaddrick told her about the assault at the time.

Bill Clinton’s lawyers’ response

At the time, Bill Clinton’s lawyers denied the allegations. And, according to the Washington Post‘s account, Starr decided he would not need Broaddrick’s testimony because she told him that Clinton did not try to influence her.

As this election season came into full swing, Broaddrick’s story came back into the spotlight. And Broaddrick alleged that Hillary Clinton tried to intimidate her.

Allegedly meeting Hillary Clinton

In an interview given to the right-wing website Breitbart, Broaddrick said that weeks after the alleged rape, she met Hillary Clinton at a fundraiser for Bill Clinton.

Hillary Clinton allegedly thanked her for “everything you are doing in Bill’s campaign.” As Broaddrick tells it, she tried to leave the event but Hillary Clinton grabbed her arm and told her, “Do you understand everything you do?”

Broaddrick took that as a threat that implied she should keep quiet.

What the Clinton campaign has said

The Clinton campaign has not specifically addressed Broaddrick’s story, but they have tried to discredit attempts to tie Hillary Clinton to Bill Clinton’s scandals.

Back in January, Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon told the New York Times that those were attempts to “draw Hillary Clinton into decades-old allegations through recent fabrications that are unsubstantiated.” He added that Clinton “has spent her whole life standing up for women, and charges to the contrary are grossly unfair and untrue.”

A Republican state representative told CNN she tried to get Clinton to address the Broaddrick allegations during a town hall in January. Clinton refused to take her question because she said Katherine Prudhomme was “very rude.”

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Obama: Comments From Trump About Women Show He's 'Insecure'

President Obama speaking Sunday in Chicago. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Reacting to the recent release of audio of Donald Trump making vulgar comments about women, President Obama called the candidate “insecure” and said he “pumps himself up by putting other people down – not a character trait I would advise for somebody in the Oval Office.”

Obama spoke about Trump at a planned event Sunday in Chicago for Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth, who running for an Illinois Seante seat. Trump and Hillary Clinton debate tonight in St. Louis for the first time after the audio was released.

“One of the most disturbing things about this election is just the unbelievable rhetoric coming from the top of the Republican ticket,” he said. “I don’t need to repeat it. There are children in the room.”

“But, demeaning women, degrading women, but also minorities, immigrants, people of other faiths. Mocking the disabled. Insulting our troops. Insulting our veterans. That tells you a couple of things,” Obama continued.

In addition to revealing an insecurity, Obama said, “it tells you that he doesn’t care much about the basic values that we try to impart to our kids. It tells you he’d be careless with the civility and the respect that a real, vibrant democracy requires. And it sure as heck tells you he’s never met somebody as tough or smart or patriotic as Tammy Duckworth.”

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NPR Battleground Map: Trump In Crisis

Ahead of the second presidential debate Sunday night, the secret Donald Trump audio tape of him bragging about groping and kissing women — and let’s be clear, if he did what he’s bragging that he did, it would be assault — has shaken the presidential race and is reshaping the presidential map.

Yes, the majority of Trump’s supporters will likely stay with him, but any chance he had at winning over those persuadable voters might very well be gone.

Dozens of Republicans have called on him to drop out of the race — something Trump said there’s “zero chance” of happening, but it’s hard to see how that doesn’t have an effect on the race.

So, we are making some significant moves in the NPR Battleground Map. To begin with, we are moving Ohio, Iowa, Georgia and two electoral votes in congressional districts in Nebraska and Maine from Lean Republican, where they looked like they were heading last week, back to Tossup. We will be watching them and other tossups closely to see if they begin to lean toward Clinton.

What’s more, after both Utah Republican Sens. Mike Lee and Jason Chaffetz and the state’s governor, Gary Herbert, called on Trump to resign, we are moving Utah from Likely Republican to Lean Republican — and we will be watching it to see if it goes to tossup.

The result of this new map — at present — is taking 42 electoral votes off the board from Trump that that were leaning in his direction and puts them all up for grabs.

There could be more changes, too. Other places to watch, for example, include Missouri, which before 2008 was a battleground.

This is all especially possible if reports are true that the Republican National Committee is considering halting organizing operations for the Trump campaign and redirecting to Senate and House races. RNC Chief Strategist Sean Spicer, however, has been tweeting that reports of any abandonment of Trump by the national committee are “false.”

Not true. False @reidepstein reporting. https://t.co/RZshcuwm4t

— Sean Spicer (@seanspicer) October 9, 2016

We won’t know for a week at least from polling how exactly all this sets in. How Trump performs Sunday night could either tamp down the flames — or, if Trump brings up Bill Clinton’s past infidelities and attacks Hillary Clinton for them, cause a backdraft never seen before in presidential politics.

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