WASHINGTON — “You can do anything,” Donald Trump once boasted, speaking of groping and kissing unsuspecting women.
Maybe he could, but not everyone can.
The candidate who openly bragged about grabbing women’s private parts — but denied he really did so — was elected president months before the cascading sexual harassment allegations that have been toppling the careers of powerful men in Hollywood, business, the media and politics. He won even though more than a dozen women accused him of sexual misconduct, and roughly half of all voters said they were bothered by his treatment of women, according to exit polls.
Now, as one prominent figure after another takes a dive, the question remains: Why not Trump?
“A lot of people who voted for him recognized that he was what he was, but wanted a change and so they were willing to go along,” theorizes Jessica Leeds, one of the first women to step forward and accuse Trump of groping her, decades ago on an airplane.
The charges leveled against him emerged in the supercharged thick of the 2016 campaign, when there was so much noise and chaos that they were just another episode for gobsmacked voters to try to absorb — or tune out. “When you have a Mount Everest of allegations, any particular allegation is very hard to get traction on,” says political psychologist Stanley Renshon.
And Trump’s unconventional candidacy created an entirely different set of rules.
“Trump is immune to the laws of political physics because it’s not his job to be a politician, it’s his job to burn down the system,” says Eric Dezenhall, a crisis management expert in Washington.
Now Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, accused of assaulting teenage girls when he was in his 30s, is waving that same alternative rulebook.
Long a bane to establishment Republicans, Moore is thumbing his nose at calls by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other GOP members of Congress to drop out of the campaign, and accusing them of trying to “steal” the race from his loyal insurgents.