Yes, this really is the end of Donald Trump – but what comes next from the Republicans could be even more terrifying

The unsheathed racism and retrograde sexism, deliberate cruelty and sheer viciousness, did not emanate from him. These forces created him. And they will now try to get a more self-controlled, plausible, equally poisonous person into the Oval Office

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The Independent Online

Yet again, for what feels like the 173rd time during the recent months of mayhem, the question is asked: is Donald Trump finished?

The answer, this time, is unequivocally yes.

I know, I know, you’ve read all this before. You read it when he hinted at menstrual bleeding to explain Megyn Kelly’s line of questioning; appeared to goad “the Second Amendment people” towards assassinating Hillary Clinton; claimed to have seen “thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey publicly celebrating 9/11.

Donald Trump caught on tape talking about sexually assaulting women

The list of Times The Last Rites Were Prematurely Read For The Trump Candidacy goes on. But this time is different in various ways, any of which might be lethal on its own, but together spell certain death to the prospect of this limitlessly revolting overgrown toddler getting those sticky little fingers of his on the levers of ultimate power. 

Neither the overtly criminal confession nor the nauseating yuckiness of the language used to express it needs any underlining. What Trump and his fast dwindling gaggle of public defenders dismiss as the locker-room banter of the red-blooded male was the celebration of criminal sexual assault.

The fact that his 2005 chat with presidential cousin Billy Bush can be viewed and heard is another distinction. It’s no surprise that Donald Trump speaks about women like this. The surprise would be if he didn’t. Yet it’s still a shocking thing to see and hear.

Voters are willing to ignore all manner of nastiness from a candidate whose sensibilities chime with their own, as long as there is no physical evidence to yank their ostrich heads from the sands. But what brand of undecided voter could do anything but recoil from this? And Trump needed undecideds as desperately as white women.

In fact, it is quite possible that this race, in hindsight, is seen to have ended during and in the days after the first presidential debate of 26 September, and that “Pussygate” was merely the moment the life support machine was turned off.

Trump went into that debate effectively tied with Clinton by every measure. After unveiling the range of his ignorance, vulgarity and emotional incontinence, and then tweet-fat-shaming a beauty queen in the middle of the night, he trailed Clinton nationally by a solid four to five points and in every swing state he needs other than Ohio.

Even before the release of what it feels indelicate, in the context, to call the Bush tape, he’d drifted to a 25 per cent chance in the odds. He would probably have needed a crushing win in Sunday night’s second debate, another in the third, to have had any chance.

Now the question is not whether he can win, but whether he can stand. Even the association of professional cowards known as the Republican establishment, which let itself be taken hostage by a virulently racist base after the election of a black President eight years ago, has disowned him. Shrugging off the Stockholm Syndrome, it admits he is unfit for any elected office yet conceived, including deputy sheriff of Trumpton.

Trump insists he will not quit. “I have never withdrawn in my life,” he says. Passing over any sexual imagery suggested by that, we will take him this once at his word. Besides, early voting forms have already gone out. Even by the standards of a bewilderingly unprecedented campaign, a candidate’s resignation within a month of election day might be a foray into uncharted territory too far.

Then again, another inept debate performance on Sunday night and further revelations about abuse of women could create enough pressure to force him out. That is not unimaginable.

Either way, Donald Trump will not be US President, and to that limited extent it is over.

But in another sense, borrowing from the late political commentator Karen Carpenter, it’s only just begun. The end of Trump is not the end of what he represents. The unsheathed racism and retrograde sexism, deliberate cruelty and sheer viciousness, did not emanate from him. These forces created him.

They came, and will still come, from the tens upon tens of millions of Americans who will vote for him on 8 November (if he has withdrawn, they will write in his name); and then scream that the election was rigged by the mainstream media and/ or stolen by electoral fraud.

It is not Trump who made these deluded nebbishes what they are. It is they and their miserable grievances who made Trump what he is. These suckers offered an opening no opportunistic grifter could refuse. He seized it by transforming himself from a centrist (anti-guns, pro-choice and so on) into the mini-Mussolini who might well have won if he could have kept the pressure cooker lid on his boiling inadequacies.

Those tens of millions won’t shrug resignedly at his downfall and relinquish their alternate reality cocoon, in which it’s white folks like them who are wickedly persecuted and black people, like the affirmative action beneficiary Barack Obama, who have it so easy.

Howard Stern calls Ivanka Trump a 'piece of a**' in interview with Donald Trump

Angrier and more embittered than ever, they will be available to a more self-controlled, plausible version of Trump. If that version has the political skill to build a coalition between them, more traditional Republicans and disaffected Democrats, their poisonous beliefs have every chance of infecting the Oval Office.

In the imperium of Reddit, 4chan and Twitter, the trend of conspiracy theorising replacing knowledge seems irreversible. In those echo chambers of hurt pride and entitlement denied, where the truth is no longer an objective entity but a commodity you choose for yourself from all the different brands on the shelf, the livid resentment becomes more deafening by the day.

From such a swampy, foul-smelling breeding ground came the candidacy of Donald Trump. He is done, and for this relief much thanks. But the breeding ground will only get stinkier and swampier, and the next monster to emerge from it might be convincingly disguised in human form.

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