BY THE time Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton took the stage at last night's debate in St. Louis, the number of Republican officeholders abandoning their candidate was surging. Dozens of them were urging Trump to resign from the ticket. Trump, of course, refused.
More than a few observers noted just how long it has taken these so-called leaders to stand up for decency and how many disgusting things Trump said and did that they excused. They continued to support him when he insulted Mexicans, African Americans, women, the disabled, a prisoner of war and a Gold Star family. They managed to overlook Trump's history of pathological misogyny.
In May, the New York Times published a front-page story based on interviews with 50 women who had worked with Trump. Several of them revealed "unwelcome romantic advances, unending commentary on the female form and unsettling workplace conduct," which sounds a lot like the behavior Trump was bragging about in what he dismissed as "locker room talk."
The response from the Republican leadership? Crickets.
Most party leaders also were not bothered by their Trump's astonishing ignorance, arrogance, laziness and lack of self-control, not to mention an inability to admit error and a sensitivity to slights, real and imagined, that would be dangerous in a world leader.
Now many Republican Party leaders say that maybe this crazy man should not be given the power to end life on this planet. (Not surprisingly, they face the ire of an overwhelming majority of Republican voters who still support Trump and who, it's clear, would continue to support him no matter what. The monster they have created over decades of demonization and dog whistles has turned on them.)
At the same time, though, Republicans want you to vote for other candidates from their party. Elect them, they say, so they can continue the insanity that they have pursued for the past eight years, bringing the democratic process almost to a halt.
Republican candidates for Congress are many of the same people who, from the first moments of the administration of President Obama, plotted to obstruct every good thing he tried to do, starting with averting economic catastrophe due to the economic meltdown that began on President Bush's watch. They have attempted to block attempts to deal with the most serious risk to the future by refusing to admit that climate change even exists. They risked a collapse of the global economy in 2011 when they refused to extend the debt ceiling - and are ready to do it again.
Even when huge majorities of the American people have told pollsters they support background checks for guns, they blocked it. They have consistently worked to limit the voting rights of racial minorities and to deny women autonomy over their own bodies.
They blocked President Obama's attempts to fill positions in the agencies of government as well as federal judges. They have refused to even hold hearings for Merrick Garland, his nominee for the Supreme Court.
And they're ready and raring to do the same should Hillary Clinton become president. Some of them already are talking about impeaching her. Why wait for her to actually do something?
If voters expected an explosive change last night, it didn't happen. But neither, really, did anything else.