This piece discusses sexual assault; we advise caution to readers who may be sensitive to this topic.
An embattled Trump campaign seemed to reach its breaking point last Friday, Oct. 7, when The Washington Post released a 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape showing Trump boasting about sexually assaulting women. Politicians on both sides of the aisle were quick to denounce Trump, and by the second presidential debate on Sunday, Oct. 9, as many as fifty Congressional Republicans announced that they would no longer support him. The fallout only seemed to intensify in the ensuing week, as even more Republicans abandoned Trump–including John McCain, who withdrew his endorsement, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, who will reportedly no longer campaign on Trump’s behalf.
The Campanil staff were immediately shocked and disgusted by the video, which captured Trump in a moment of unfiltered candor, when he apparently did not know he was being recorded. This fact is particularly unsettling to us, as it suggests Trump was not ashamed of the language he used to discuss women, making it likely that the behavior he described was something he acted upon. This is also bolstered by a New York Times article published Wednesday, Oct. 12 giving the accounts of two women who say Trump sexually assaulted them.
While Trump’s comments were certainly reprehensible, we have to wonder why it is this particular instance that seems to be the death knell for his candidacy. After all, this is a man who referred to Mexican immigrants as “rapists” on the day that he launched his presidential campaign, publicly defamed a Gold Star family because of their Muslim faith, and made explicit sexual remarks about his own daughter. The white actress Trump was speaking about on the tape, Arianne Zucker, seems to have elicited greater sympathy from Congressional Republicans, and Americans at large, because she represents a demographic that is easier for many to view as delicate and in need of protection.
In a video statement posted to his Twitter account on Saturday, Oct. 8, Trump accused his opponent, Hillary Clinton, of having “bullied, attacked, shamed, and intimidated” women who have accused her husband of sexual harassment and assault. Many of us feel Trump’s attempts to deflect responsibility by dredging up these allegations is as transparent as it is ineffective; Bill Clinton is not running for President, and his actions do not reflect on the character or service record of his wife. As there is not enough evidence to substantiate Trump’s assertions that Hillary Clinton enabled her husband’s alleged abuse, we feel it is unfair to hold her accountable, and that any attempt to tie Hillary Clinton directly to her husband’s indiscretions is rooted in patriarchal notions that women are inextricably linked to their husbands. One editor pointed out that Clinton would always be associated with her husband’s reputation, regardless of whether she stayed with him. However, several editors believe it is valid to question Hillary Clinton’s commitment to protecting victims of sexual assault, as she has continued to support her husband through multiple allegations of harassment and assault.
One editor put forth that these schoolyard-like attacks treat the extremely important and sensitive topic of sexual assault as a commodity to be used in a political smear campaign. It seems to have been reduced to nothing more than a political token, used either to garner the critically important “women vote,” or to assert that an opposing candidate is unfit to hold office. Of course, given the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct that have been made against Donald Trump, we feel his grandstanding on the issue of sexual assault is disingenuous at worst.
Ultimately, the 2016 presidential campaign has certainly been the most bizarre and consistently unbelievable in modern political history. We feel that, if there is any silver lining to this latest Trump incident, it is that women voters have been empowered to share their stories of sexual assault–an issue whose near-universal consequences are finally being acknowledged.