The Republican party, concerned about the outsize presence of Donald trump in their presidential primary race, is reduced to seizing on every gaffe that he or his campaign makes in the hope that it will sink his candidacy. The latest is a news report where Trump’s lawyer blasts a report that claims that ex-wife Ivana accused Trump of raping her during their period of acrimonious splitting up. In the process, the lawyer claims (wrongly) that a man cannot be accused of raping his wife.
The Republican establishment is dreaming if they think that this will dent Trump’s support.
This hoped-for disaffection will not happen whatever Trump may say or do as long as he sticks to his core message because Republicans are very loyal to their candidates as long as they do not deviate from the things that attracted them to the candidate in the first place and will find excuses for whatever stumbles they may make.
I first noticed this remarkable single-mindedness back in September 2008 with Sarah Palin when various negative stories emerged just after she was announced as John McCain’s running mate. I will just reproduce what I wrote then because it remains valid.
By now, there cannot be a single person in the country who is not aware of the intimate details of the Palin family. We now know about Palin’s unwed daughter’s pregnancy, that this news was released by the McCain campaign to counter the rumor that this same daughter is the real mother of Palin’s youngest child who was born in April with Down’s syndrome, her husband’s DUI conviction a long time ago, the messiness of her sister’s divorce and their involvement with it, and other problems with the law. It has become a tabloid-style soap opera, putting things that should be private into the full glare of the national media spotlight, with promises of more lurid details to come.
It is important to keep in mind that none of these things reflect on Palin’s ability to govern, though how she handled them in the context of her official duties is relevant and will reveal a lot about her.
What amazes me is the claim of Palin’s supporters that all revelations about her is positive news and a cause for celebration because it shows ‘family values’ and her strong opposition to abortion.
I have been impressed by the ability of some of the Republican party and its conservative Christian base to pivot so quickly, suddenly celebrating things like teenage parenthood that they would have normally been swift to condemn as incontrovertible evidence of the increasing sinfulness of the nation as a result of taking prayer out of the school and teaching evolution (see this cartoon). Now because the person whom they like has these things going on in her family, we are hearing paeans for them as being ‘real people’, that such things show that the Palins represent ‘heartland values’.
I suspect that had McCain nominated someone who later was revealed to be a serial killer but who said he loved Jesus, opposed abortion, and favored policies that favored the wealthy, these same people would suddenly say that ‘real Americans’ have prison records and the ability to kill without compunction is just the kind of toughness we need in a national leader in order to deal with terrorists. They would also decry as wimps the Democratic candidates because neither had the gumption to shoot a man, just to watch him die.
The only thing that will cause Trump’s supporters to leave him is if he departs from the message that has brought him to this position as the front-runner.
The same is true of Mike Huckabee’s ridiculous Holocaust comparison statement that with the Iran deal, president Obama was effectively marching Israelis to “the door of the oven”. Sure other politicians and some Jewish leaders have criticized him but his supporters will not care because for them Jews are merely a prop, people who serve the greater goal of creating the conditions in the Middle East that herald the Apocalypse that will bring back Jesus.
Similarly Louisiana senator David Vitter won re-election easily and revelations that he visited high-end prostitutes to indulge his fetishes did not dent his ‘family values’ credibility and support among religious voters. He is now considered the favorite to win the election to replace Bobby Jindal as governor of the state.
Jersey York congressman Michael Grimm also easily won re-election despite being indicted for felony tax-evasion and also being caught on video threatening to throw a reporter over a balcony and break him “like a boy”. He only reluctantly resigned after being sentenced to prison.
Contrast that with six-term South Carolina congressman Bob Inglis who, despite being a solid conservative, made the cardinal mistake of going off-script on climate change . That was unforgivable and voters deserted him in droves.
So ignore any scandals that merely titillate the chattering classes and evoke tut-tutting by the pearl-clutchers in the media. These will just slide off Republican voters’ backs. Only take seriously any deviations by a candidate from party dogma on the key GRAGGS (guns, race, abortion, gays, god, sex) issues. Any sign of going wobbly on those is the real kiss of death.