When the dust settles over the 2016 presidential election, the question that would no doubt come back to haunt Americans is how did someone like Donald Trump ever come within such striking distance of the White House. He was going neck and neck with Hillary Clinton when the two went for the first presidential debate on September 26 with the momentum in favour of Donald Trump.
Then came first his disastrous debate performance. It was followed by the bombshell over his tax returns when New York Times released three pages of his 1995 tax returns that showed that year he had lost close to a billion in bad investments and used that bankruptcy not to pay even a cent in taxes for 18 years. Finally, the video released two days ago showed in graphic details the character of the man. He was seen nonchalantly describing his sexual escapades including one on a married woman in which he did not leave to anyone's imagination the fact that he is a sexual predator of the kind from whom people keep their wives and daughters at a safe distance.
In fact, the married woman that he tried to seduce and failed had a perfectly legal case to send Donald Trump to jail on the ground of sexual harassment. The video, in fact, has been a political tsunami for Donald Trump. It is proving to be particularly disastrous for the Republican Party. There is an avalanche of endorsement withdrawals from Republicans who are in the Senate and House election races as they thought that an endorsement for Donald Trump after the release of the video would be the surest way for them to lose.
The gravity of the video is something not seen henceforth in US politics in the context of any presidential election in its history. Donald Trump's running mate Mike Pence came close to withdrawing himself from the ticket. In a statement on October 08, he said: "As a husband and father, I was offended by the words and actions described by Donald Trump in the eleven-year-old video released yesterday. I do not condone his remarks and cannot defend them. I am grateful that he has expressed remorse and apologised to the American people. We pray for his family and look forward to the opportunity he has to show what is in his heart when he goes before the nation tomorrow night."
House Speaker Paul Ryan did something equally serious. He had a major event in Wisconsin, his home state, to introduce Donald Trump the day after the video was released. He withdrew that invitation and let the media know about it. Instead, he invited Mike Pence to stand for him that the latter regretted. These developments were accompanied by calls and statements from senior leaders in the Republican Party to Donald Trump to stand down.
Donald Trump instead defended himself in a video released to the media saying that the Donald Trump in the video is not who he really is. He stated further that since the video taken in 2005, he has changed from his experiences and that the US voters have trust in him, as one who would stand against the evil that Hillary Clinton would bring to the country if she is elected the President. He apologised for what he had said in the video but left no one in doubt that first, he was not withdrawing, and second, he was getting ready to throw the kitchen sink at Hillary Clinton in the second presidential debate.
His own party rejected the apology. In fact, except for the supporters that had backed him to win the Republican primaries, groups from the alt right of the Republican Party, there was almost no other group in the country willing to support him after the destructive video was released. His supporters in the primaries, even if every single one of them were to stand behind Donald Trump now, would not be able to carry him anywhere near the number he would need to win.
In fact, Donald Trump was trailing in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa and Pennsylvania even before voters had seen the toxic video. He would need to win all these states while Hillary Clinton would win the election if she won in Pennsylvania alone where she had a 12 per cent lead over Donald Trump before the release of the video. The video will push Donald Trump even further down in the already very slippery slope he is trying to climb.
Thus realistically, the race is mathematically as good as over. The second presidential debate, even if he were to do beyond his wildest dreams, would only charge his base that does not want him to quit. The critical question before the Republican Party leadership is whether they should replace Donald Trump. There is a provision in the Republican Party under Rule 9 that would permit it to replace a candidate in the event he was incapacitated in any manner. However, early voting under which 20 per cent people vote has already started. This together with the fact that Rule 9 that has never been put into action in a presidential election is fraught with a wide array of issues, legal as well as procedural, that such a course of action seems very unlikely.
Therefore the Republican Party and the country will have Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton to choose with the two other minor candidates. The video with Donald Trump's taxes and his all other failings should end the Republican Party's candidate's campaign unless Hillary Clinton does something so unimaginable that would in one brush make voters forget Donald Trump's problems totally. In fact, the media is suspecting that instead, there could be more damaging things that could come about Donald Trump in the 30 days remaining keeping in perspective that the tax returns that have been released in the media are from just one year.
His party, the media and the nation knew that Donald Trump is a toxic candidate all along. Therefore while one cannot have any sympathy for Donald Trump's current predicament, one must seriously question why the Republican Party, the media and Americans outside Donald Trump's alt right supporters remained silent and made no efforts to highlight the utter inappropriateness of someone like Donald Trump coming so close to winning a presidential election.
The media paved the way for Donald Trump to come as far as he did. Donald Trump said he is no politician inferring that politicians lie and trick for their interests against those of the people. He has now established himself as much worse than the worst politicians on the campaign trail thus far. The way he caricatured NYT's disabled journalist and Hillary Clinton for the way she fell after her pneumonia in front of live TV said something so utterly disgusting about the man that in any other civilised society, he would have been made an instant pariah.
For those following the 2016 US presidential election from outside the country, Donald Trump has exposed to them an ugly face of America as a country where millions live with the mindset that would make them worthy citizens of the worst countries of the world. Perhaps his contribution to the future welfare of his country could be if the next President takes lessons on how to deal with this ugly face with some humility and understanding towards the rest of the world.
POSTSCRIPT: The article was written before the 2nd presidential debate that is now over. CNN has given 57 per cent to Hillary Clinton while 34 per cent to Donald Trump. Notwithstanding the CNN verdict which is also shared by most reports in the media, Donald Trump did better than his disastrous performance in the 1st debate that is going to help him against the chorus from his party that is asking him to stand down to save the party being dumped in the Congressional elections. As for the ultimate end of the presidential election, the sexually toxic and explicit video shows all the potential to end his race.
The writer is a retired Ambassador.