On Tuesday morning, as Alabamans headed to the polls to vote in a special Senate election, the president tweeted his displeasure at Kirsten Gillibrand, the U.S. senator from New York, who the previous day had called for Donald Trump to resign over sexual assault allegations from more than a dozen women. Calling her a “lightweight” and a “flunky for Chuck Schumer,” Trump tweeted that Gillibrand “would come to my office ‘begging’ for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them).”
It should come as no surprise that when taking aim at a woman’s credibility, the president just can’t resist calling her a whore. As we approach the one-year anniversary of Trump’s first, somehow-worse-than-we-could-even-have-imagined year in office, many of us are beyond shock when it comes to the lows to which this man will stoop to prove (to himself? to his dead dad?) that he’s “winning.” When the Republican National Committee took its cue from Trump earlier this month and threw its full support behind Alabama’s Senate hopeful/child molester Roy Moore, it looked like we could finally rest assured that there is no bottom.
And yet, in a race that was much, much closer than it should have been, Democrat Doug Jones pulled through last night, winning the seat and cutting the GOP’s Senate majority down to just one. (As many pointed out on Twitter, we have black voters to thank for Moore’s defeat.) Jones’s victory isn’t just a good omen for Democrats hoping to take control of Congress in 2018; combined with the momentum of the #MeToo movement over the past two months, last night was an indication that Trump’s own history of sexual misconduct might be the biggest crack in his so-far impenetrable armor.
To recap: Moore lost in the wake of a November 9 Washington Post article in which four women came forward with credible claims that Moore pursued sexual or romantic relationships with them when they were eighteen or under — and he was an assistant district attorney in his thirties. One of them, Leigh Corfman, said Moore tried to pick her up when she was fourteen, outside a courtroom where her mother was in a custody hearing; later, he drove her to his home in the woods and took off her clothes, touching her over her underwear. Five more women came forward with similar stories in the days after the original article was published.
But none of these stories should have been necessary for voters to absorb long-standing, well-documented evidence that Moore is totally unfit for office. He’s said that “homosexual conduct should be illegal,” that America was “great” during the era of slavery, and that Muslims should be barred from Congress. In 2011, he co-authored a textbook that argues that women should not hold political office.
Still, it’s hard to imagine this race turning out the way it did, in a solid red state like Alabama, had it not been for the spectacle of a bigoted pedophile shamelessly campaigning with the full backing of a president whose own campaign was nearly derailed by a series of sexual assault allegations.
A Moore win would have had consequences beyond allowing the Republicans to retain a Senate seat. A victory despite the reports of Moore’s misconduct could have led party leadership to consider the claims of sexual assault settled once and for all — as if winning an election would have absolved Moore of his sins. It’s certainly the stance the White House has taken with regard to the allegations against the president himself, who by all accounts believes his electoral college victory rendered all accusations against him null and void.
Moore’s defeat was another reason to feel a smidgen of hope that those accusations may eventually lead to Trump’s downfall. Last week, a New York Supreme Court judge heard the president’s lawyer Marc Kasowitz argue for the dismissal of a lawsuit brought against his client by one of sixteen women who have accused Trump of assault. Summer Zervos, a former Apprentice contestant who says Trump forcibly kissed and groped her during what she thought were business meetings, is suing the president for defamation after he repeatedly called the accusations “lies” and forcefully denigrated the accusers on Twitter and at campaign rallies. If the judge allows the suit to go forward, Trump may have to testify and produce potentially incriminating documents — and the decision would also open the door to the 75 other lawsuits that were filed against him before he took office.
A similar maneuver led to Bill Clinton being brought up for impeachment in 1998, on the grounds that he lied under oath about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. And the recent flood of stories about men wielding their power to sexually assault, and then discredit, their subordinates — and the fact that many of these men are actually, finally, feeling the consequences of their actions — has many feeling as if Trump may finally be held accountable, too.
It’s not, to my mind, an ideal scenario. As much as I believe Senator Gillibrand is right to call on Trump to resign over the allegations — and as hideous as it is to see a man who’s bragged on tape about assaulting women sit in the Oval Office day after day — I’m not thrilled at the prospect of Trump, or any number of mediocre but powerful men, losing their positions in this particular way. I’m glad Matt Lauer no longer works at NBC, but why did it take disturbing stories about secret desk buttons to do the job? Why did this man take home tens of millions of dollars a year while conducting grossly sexist interviews and badly botching a crucial presidential debate?
Likewise, I wish it were easier to fire the president simply for being a terrible, unfit, dangerous leader who risks inciting nuclear war via Twitter. If the sexual assault allegations are what finally brings Trump down, well, dayenu. But it’s hard to imagine, say, Mike Pence — who won’t allow himself to be alone with a woman other than his wife — being felled by a “sex scandal.” For many voters, I suspect the ultra-conservative, ultra-religious Pence would be a blessing in the wake of Trump. Though for many others, that would go double for Kirsten Gillibrand.