A confession: Almost all my close friends as an adult have been women. I haven't spent much time in locker rooms, much less engaged in "locker-room talk," as the Republican presidential nominee excused his language about grabbing pussies. On the ambulance, contrary to the dialogue on the television series Emergency, we talked about only two things: calls and sex. This was even true of the female paramedics. Get two guys as partners and the talk could turn quite bawdy in assessing our lusts-of-the-moment. But it was never what Trump was saying, which was about sexual assault. It gives a sinister meaning to "binders full of women."
Anyone with a passing knowledge of Donald Trump knows he's a pig. If it takes the now infamous tape to bring him down, so be it. So many other statements, actions, and positions should have already done this, including his pledge to imprison his opponent if elected. Like so much else, it is unprecedented in American presidential politics. We're way beyond the need for a Godwin's Law warning when discussing Trump — he is on a Hitlerian path.
It's important to understand that little of the recent Republican abandonment of Trump is based on principle. Wealthy Republican John Sidney McCain III was apparently fine with draft-dodger Trump calling him a coward for being imprisoned and tortured by the North Vietnamese. With the primary behind him and Hillary Clinton potentially winning Arizona, suddenly it's OK for McCain to denounce him. And so it goes. They are acting strategically, to prevent losing control of the Senate or even the House.
Another critical fact is that Trump now embodies the GOP after decades of drift into extremism, slaughter of RINOs, and flight from reality ("We create our own reality."). With or without Trump, the party denies mainstream science on climate change, wants to privatize or give to the states our public lands, privatize Social Security and destroy the social safety net, pursue ruinous austerity, appoint activist judges and Supreme Court justices, suppress voting rights, carry on a war against cities, deny women reproductive choice, cut taxes on the richest, "starve the beast" to show "gub'ment is the problem," turn us into a fascist theocracy. Behold the Party of Lincoln. The basic policies would have been the same under nominees Rubio, Kasich, Cruz, Fiorina, Carson, Bush, Jindal, Graham, Perry, Walker, or the strangely still respected Paul Ryan. Remember this. Burn it in your brain.
I've heard friends wonder why the two parties can't get together and act for the good of the country. But the list above explains why the old compromises and deal-making are impossible. Republicans were essential to passage of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act of 1964 — but that was when Republicans were a mass political party, with conservatives, centrists, and liberals. Now we are joined in a Cold Civil War and the red side will not compromise. It won't stop. Republicans believe only they have the right to govern. And they live in a parallel universe. Don't believe for a moment that Trump's rape talk has alienated the base — no wonder the abandonment of Trump by GOP officeholders appears over after 48 hours.
Also remember that all the big scoops about this campaign have come from serious newspaper journalism, even though newsroom staffs have been cut by 40 percent. Not from blogs, or "citizen journalists," or crowd sourcing, not from vaunted social media, much less from television. Indeed, NBC had the rape-talk story but sat on it. The Washington Post broke the story. Turn off your television. Subscribe to a good newspaper and read it. This should be a basic of citizenship.
Now it's important to realize that the president is the head of only one branch of our federated governments. Powerful enough to make a Donald Trump and his successors dangerous. But, as President Obama showed, not able to bring enough constructive policies to bear in the face of disciplined, robotic GOP opposition. It would have been true had St. Bernie become the nominee. It will certainly be Hillary's fate. If Republicans retain control of Congress, they will not only stymie her but attempt to impeach her. It doesn't matter how much the left wins the language and culture skirmishes — the right has a commanding control of policy. So now the action must move downticket.
Democrats must take back the Senate, one hopes the House, then push deep into the states. It's in the statehouses, the governorships and especially the legislatures where Trump's downdraft presents the great opportunity — if the Democrats can seize it. Unlike the Republicans, their inclination is to form a circular firing squad, trip up on assorted thought crimes, try to take each other down in minor factional and purity disputes. If this doesn't change, don't expect more than a momentary pause in the rush to national suicide. The Party That Wrecked America learned nothing from the 2000s, or from the defeat of Mitt Romney. Each time, there was supposed to be soul-searching and re-orientation. Instead, the GOP became even more deranged and extreme.
Is it possible to make inroads in the New Confederacy? Not in the reddest states. And don't pin your hopes on demographic change — there's plenty of right-wingers to carry on. The challenge is for Democrats to re-learn the retail politics and state organization power at which they once excelled.
Clinton supporters shouldn't be complacent. Everyone should vote, even if polls show her with a commanding lead. Turnout will be critical, especially for down-ballot races.