Years ago, Republicans bought tickets on the Donald Trump train to political self-destruction.
Now, following a jury’s determination that the former president was liable for sexually assaulting and defaming E. Jean Carroll, the only question that remains is how far they’ll travel before the train finally jumps the tracks.
The damage Trump already has done to the GOP and conservatives in general is immense.
Before Trump, Republicans vowed undying fealty to law and order. After Trump summoned the Proud Boys and other extremist groups to Washington, D.C., to try to stage a coup, many Republicans now condone and at times even seem to champion mob rule.
Before Trump, Republicans and conservatives swore unswerving loyalty to the U.S. Constitution. But when the former president said that maybe the Constitution should be set aside to reinstate him in the White House, Republicans either sat silent or murmured their assent.
Before Trump, Republicans venerated American institutions as the means of holding a vast nation together. Now, they attack the courts and even the entire judicial process just to placate the former president who throws a temper tantrum every time he’s forced to face the consequences of his own actions.
Before Trump, Republicans claimed to be the voice of the common man, the party of Main Street America. But now they belittle the judgment of a jury of six men and three women—all of whom had to be accepted and approved by Trump’s legal team—for arriving at a verdict that was inescapable.
Republicans’ attempts to excuse and embrace the former president’s ignoble conduct ignore one fundamental truth.
All of Trump’s troubles are of Trump’s own making.
That certainly was the case with the verdict just rendered in New York. While Carroll and her friends were compelling and persuasive witnesses, they were not the ones who sealed the former president’s fate.
No, Trump did that himself.
His deposition was damning. In it, he didn’t just acknowledge his guilt. He almost boasted about it.
When the “Access Hollywood” video broke late in the 2016 presidential campaign and almost derailed his candidacy, Trump dismissed its gloating admissions of sexually assaulting women as nothing more than “locker room talk”—just boys being boys, even though the “boy” doing the bragging was in his late 50s when the incident occurred.
But in his deposition, far from any locker room and now nearly 20 years older, he restated his belief that fame allows a man to assault women if he chooses, “fortunately or unfortunately.”
He also gratuitously insulted the female attorney questioning him—telling her that she wasn’t his type, either.
What’s more, to make his act of self-immolation complete, he misidentified a photograph of Carroll as a picture of his former wife Marla Maples. He did this after asserting that Carroll, who had been a cheerleader at Indiana University and once was Miss Indiana, wasn’t his type because she wasn’t physically attractive enough for him.
The more Trump talked, the more damage he did to his cause. He didn’t just fashion the noose Carroll’s lawyers used to hang him, he even bought the rope they needed.
But that is Trump’s pattern.
Again and again and again, he does things that are outrageous, stupid, unethical or illegal. Then, when he gets caught, he lies about what he’s done or searches for someone else to blame for his transgressions.
The curious thing about all this is the sheer volume of his offenses against decorum, decency and the law itself has come to serve as a kind of protective shield for him. Because he has done wrong in so many places and in so many ways, he tries to argue, less and less plausibly, that he is the victim of a vast campaign of persecution.
And he asks—no, he demands—that other Republicans support his whiny fantasy of perpetual victimhood.
Many, perhaps even most, of them do so.
Some do it because they’re true believers in Trump’s cause—because he and they hate all the same people. Some because they fear being the focus of the former president’s petulance. And some because they don’t know what else to do.
It doesn’t matter.
Whatever their motivation for doing so, they bought their tickets on the Trump train.
Now, they get to ride it to the end.
The smart ones should fasten their seatbelts.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. The views expressed are those of the author only and should not be attributed to Franklin College.