Throughout the past two weeks, over 30 prominent Republican Party members have withdrawn support from their presidential nominee, Donald Trump. The most frequently cited reason for this wave of condemnation is the unearthed 2005 video where Trump makes light of groping women without their consent. Many Republicans, even those who were formerly supportive of him, have used this opportunity to denounce Trump for his blatant disrespect for women, arguing that he is unsuitable to hold the highest office of the land.
With such high stakes, these concerns are only natural. And yet, it is curious that so many Republicans have only just now withdrawn their support of Trump due to his derogatory statements about women, when these questionable opinions haven’t exactly been a well-guarded secret during his presidential campaign. The evidence of his disrespect for women has been well-documented and a consistent problem for his credibility.
The 2005 video is not an outlier to his previous statements, but rather fits neatly into the larger pattern of Trump’s degradation of women. So why have key public members of his own party only recently started disavowing Trump in larger numbers?
The answer likely lies in the fact that party loyalty takes precedence over the individual opinions of its representatives and the basic moral values they hold. While Trump’s inflammatory remarks have been remarkably consistent, his poll numbers have not. Many current predictions from nonpartisan sources now tend to forecast Hillary Clinton as the overwhelming winner. When Trump still had a substantial chance of gaining the presidency, most prominent Republican members continued to endorse him as they were expected to, albeit with varying degrees of enthusiasm.
The situation appears to have changed with an impending loss for Trump. If Clinton wins, she will have the opportunity to use her new, presidential platform to further demonize Trump and the GOP for putting forth a sexist (racist, islamophobic, etc.) nominee. If she wins by a landslide, the overall image of the GOP could be damaged and discredited. This explains why more than two dozen prominent Republicans have withdrawn their support at this opportune moment. It is a face-saving technique chosen to distance themselves and their party from their own nominee.
The Republicans who have only just now decided to reject Trump after the year-long evidence of his questionable values either a) do not care about moral vacuousness unless their own image and credibility are at stake, or b) have taken issue with him but felt the pressures of partisanship so strongly that they were afraid to speak up until now.
Both of these options are disconcerting. It’s understandable why die-hard conservatives would be reluctant to abandon their only real hope of having a Republican in the White House. But at what price? Do we really want politicians that pride their own party and conservative ideals over American values like equality? It’s disappointing that the structure of the two-party system has brought us to the point where it is acceptable to put party loyalty over fundamental American principles.