(Content Note: mention of sexual violence)
In October 2016, a videotape was released of Donald Trump bragging to Billy Bush about committing sexual assault. As a result, Trump’s poll numbers have been plummeting, and there has been large abandonment from Republicans who are getting off the Trump train.
For some people, Trump’s downfall may have seemed sudden. But if you’ve been paying attention, you know that this downfall was inevitable, because many people – especially women – have had enough of our pervasively sexist culture.
Trump happens to be the embodiment of a misogynistic society, but he couldn’t have done all this damage by himself. His fervent supporters are not helping his cause.
In fact, they have likely driven away new and undecided voters with their vitriol, as well as their continued rhetoric pushing against so-called “political correctness,” which has devolved into claiming that anything showing others respect is “PC run amok.” It’s gotten to the point where “consent” is considered “politically correct.”
To be clear, the main focus of this article will be on Trump’s misogyny, since it has recently caused the most damage to his campaign. However, Trump has had a long history of insulting marginalized groups, in addition to women. That’s been blatantly clear since the beginning of his run, and his despicable words and behaviors have been inexcusable throughout.
He should have been disqualified from running at the very outset, and it is somewhat disheartening and problematic that it took this long for so many people to pull their support. But that’s what happened, and that’s what I’ll primarily discuss here.
It seems that Trump’s campaign and his supporters believe that they can continue using tactics that had loosely worked for a long time, gaslighting their ways through life. However, in recent years, there has been a noticeable pushback against rape culture, and anybody who hasn’t noticed this pushback is either in denial or hasn’t been paying attention.
Trump’s downward spiral will likely not stop anytime soon. There are too many people who have been too angry for too long at his type of rhetoric, and they can see through his transparent attempts to sweep his words and actions under the rug.
Here are three reasons why Donald Trump’s downfall has been a long time coming.
1. Bullying Everybody Doesn’t Work Long-Term
For the first several months of Trump’s campaign, his bombastic style of insulting all of his opposition bode very well for him. He received millions of votes and developed a fervent fan base, and many of his supporters are still with him to this day.
He insulted everybody. He didn’t care about your party affiliation, sexual orientation, race, or gender. If you had a slight criticism for Trump, he was going to hit you back.
When you bully everybody, there are short-term gains. Some people really love the brashness. Some people find it refreshing that somebody is quote “telling it like it is” and shaking up things up.
However, there comes a point when you’ve bullied so many people that the people you’ve mistreated, and offended, will begin to outnumber the people who support you. You further isolate yourself from outside observers.
For Trump, the same tactics that made him so successful are starting to become his hindrances. Sure, when he tweets something nasty about former Miss Universe Alicia Machado and asks his followers to check out her (non-existent) sex tape, his supporters will eat it up. They think it’s funny. They still love his explosiveness and boldness.
But what Trump may not realize is that while he’s energizing his base, he isn’t creating new support. He isn’t gaining new followers or fans. He’s actually creating an even further divide between himself and people who are either undecided voters or people who haven’t been paying close attention to this election cycle.
I’ve seen this happen to several bullies in my life, where all of the people they’ve mistreated will begin to talk amongst themselves and share stories about the horrible things the bullies have done. These stories become more widespread, and the bullies become developing well-deserved bad reputations.
This what seems to be happening to Trump.
He’s made so many enemies that his dissenters have become less afraid to speak out against him, because if Trump attacks them, they know that there are many others who will offer support, and sometimes, will even join in with criticisms of Trump.
And he’s not only going after people from opposing ideologies or political parties. He has gone after powerful people within his own party. His behavior has gotten to the best of him to the point where even prominent Republicans like Condoleezza Rice have spoken out against him.
When you make an enemy with every person who you feel has attacked you, even people who are supposed to be on the same side, eventually, you will have made enemies with just about every group. Before you know it, you’ve been so divisive that you’ll find yourself alone with only your most fierce loyalists, and you’ll all be screaming in an echo chamber about how everybody else is wrong.
And while you’re screaming amongst yourselves, the rest of the world will continue to pass you by.
2. Gaslighting On a Public Level Is Less Effective in the Age of Social Media
Donald Trump has repeatedly tried to downplay the awfulness of the Access Hollywood videotape. “They’re just words, folks,” he said at the second presidential debate. “It’s locker room talk.”
Not only does this promote rape culture, but this is also a prime example of gaslighting.
By persistently insisting that the videotape is a “distraction,” he has dismissed rape culture as an unimportant issue.
“Boys will be boys,” his supporters will say. “This is just how men talk.”
Trump and his supporters keep on repeating “boys will be boys” because in their circles, this rhetoric stops people from bringing up rape culture as an important issue. Many people are shamed and bullied out of feeling publicly disgusted by the blatant misogyny. Even if somebody does feel disgusted, the gaslighting insistence that “boys will be boys” basically translates to “you’re overreacting.”
It’s much more difficult to challenge the prevailing narrative interpersonally when you’re being outnumbered, whether it’s at work, at a party, or any public space.
But with social media playing such a prevalent part in society, gaslighting is proving to be a much less effective tool that abusers can wield. Even though gaslighting still happens, there are thousands, if not millions, of people on social media who are quick to point out instances when gaslighting is being used.
Nowadays, strangers from all over the country can share their stories of being gaslighted, and these people have a community that didn’t exist before social media. They aren’t outnumbered anymore like they’ve been countless times at male-dominated functions. They can share their experiences and identify the abusive tactics that were used on them.
In fact, marginalized voices are some of the most powerful on social media, since people of color, the LGBTQIA+ community, and fat activists have been vigilant in holding people accountable for their words and actions.
By identifying these abusive tactics, many people have become more vigilant in not letting people get away with it anymore. Trump’s numbers continue to plummet as he refuses to acknowledge and validate other people’s pain (his non-apology “apology” does not count).
Every time he tries to utilize the same abusive gaslighting tactics, thousands of people now call him out. He continues to dig his own hole instead of showing an ounce of genuine remorse or compassion.
He has no idea that holding bullies accountable is becoming the new normal, and he just happens to be the most public casualty for now.
3. Trump’s Recent Tape Provides Hard Evidence for Women’s Experiences
Michelle Obama recently gave a speech about Trump’s tape and how it shook her to her core. She describes that feeling that women experience when somebody stares for too long or stands a little too close.
Politicians like Mike Pence have said that they don’t understand Michelle Obama’s critique of Donald Trump, and the reason he doesn’t understand is because she was describing thousands of instances of microaggressions that accumulate to a lifetime of harassment.
According to the wide gender gap for this election (the largest in history), it seems that many men don’t realize how triggering that tape was for many women. Many men have tried to put forth a false equivalency by bringing up Bill Clinton’s history of alleged sexual assault, blaming Hillary Clinton for her husband’s infidelities, indiscretions, and abuses. Other men have conflated sexual assault with consensual sex.
But one thing is clear: Many of these men are not taking women’s concerns and anger over this tape seriously.
They don’t realize that this tape goes deeper than just Donald Trump. This tape represents every time a man has inappropriately treated, touched, or groped a woman. It represents all of the men who get away with so much abuse just because they’re powerful or rich.
This tape represents rape culture.
And for all the times women have been disbelieved, abused, and gaslighted, all they had were their experiences to share, experiences that should’ve been believed all along.
This tape is hard evidence of something that many women have been trying to articulate and prove for years. This tape was not a transcript. It wasn’t secondhand accounts of what Trump has done or would like to do.
This tape was visual and audio firsthand proof coming from Trump himself admitting that he has – and enjoys – kissing and groping women without their consent. He is openly admitting to sexual assault. And for anybody who denies or tries to defend what he was saying, they are defending the indefensible, because that tape speaks for itself.
This tape was also vindication for all the women who’ve spoken out about harassment and assault for years only to receive skeptical and victim-blaming responses.
Trump, with all of his misogyny mixed with arrogance, has created a rallying cry for millions of women to vote against him. From all of the sexual assault allegations against Trump, to his recent stance on appointing pro-life justices to the Supreme Court, as well calling his opponent a “nasty woman,” only serve to further drive a wedge between himself and women voters.
There would be a lot of symbolism in a Trump defeat that goes beyond the election and even goes beyond Trump himself. A Trump loss would represent a victory for women who’ve had to endure loud, overconfident, and less qualified men who’ve talked over and condescended to them. It would be a victory for women who’ve ever been insulted just because of the way they look.
And while it pales in comparison to the horrors they’ve experienced, it would be at least a small victory for all the women who’ve had traumatic experiences because of powerful men.
An ongoing narrative this election season is that Trump supporters have “had enough” – however, Trump supporters do not have a monopoly on being fed up. They don’t get to own outrage. Their anger is not worth more, nor is it more powerful, than the anger of the people who are against him. Their anger is not more valid, and their sense of righteousness is not more universal or more righteous than anybody else.
And Trump supporters are not the only people who vote, and they seem to have underestimated how angry the people who oppose them are.
After years of thinking of nobody but themselves, they have ignored the fact that this overwhelming anger towards Trump, and towards misogyny in general, has been a long time coming.
Donald Trump represents the worst qualities of a human being in our society. He’s a self-centered and toxic misogynist, unwilling to admit fault or responsibility for any of his actions. He runs roughshod over anybody and everybody with bullying tactics, and he does so thinking that he will never face any consequences.
But this election season, perhaps for the first time in his life, he has begun to feel the wrath of so many people, and he’s starting to face the consequences of his words and actions.
Being a bully can only work for so long. But eventually, for some people, their past will come back to haunt them, and the more people they’ve hurt, the more drastic the downfall is.
And hopefully for Trump, because of all the people he’s hurt, it seems like his downfall will continue for quite a long time.
Robin Tran is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. She is a standup comedian and blogger, and she holds a BA in English from UC Irvine. In early 2015, Robin came out as transgender woman and has written about her firsthand experiences ever since. She has performed at the Improv, Mad House Comedy Club, and the Comedy Palace, and her articles have been published in xoJane and Time.com.