How Donald Trump Taught Conservatives to Defend Roy Moore

In early 2016, at a campaign rally in Iowa, Donald Trump famously said, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” Much of the rest of Trump’s campaign, and his subsequent Presidency, has seemed like a test of that declaration.

  • He talked on tape about sexually assaulting women and won the general election.
  • He fired the F.B.I. director, who was investigating him and his campaign for potentially criminal conduct, and Republicans yawned.
  • He has used Twitter to escalate a standoff with a renegade nuclear state, and his supporters have defended it as a brilliant strategy.

.. a sign that the partisan rationalization of even the most abhorrent behavior is not exclusive to Trumpism

.. Moore conceded that he knew two of the women who told the Post that he had sought relationships with them when they were teen-agers, but he denied knowing the woman who said that he had abused her when she was fourteen.

.. The Covington County G.O.P. chairman, William Blocker, was blunter, telling Daniel Dale, of the Toronto Star, “There is NO option to support Doug Jones, the Democratic nominee. When you do that, you are supporting the entire Democrat party.”

.. from 2011 to 2016, the percentage of white evangelical Protestants who believe that “an elected official who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life” shot up, from thirty to seventy-two per cent.

.. Evangelicals went from being the least forgiving religious group to being the most forgiving religious group. “What happened in the interim?” Edsall asks. “The answer is obvious: the advent of Donald Trump.”

To justify their support of Trump, evangelicals apparently reassessed the importance they place on a politician’s personal morality.

.. In other words: Americans identify with a party the way they do with a sports team or tribe. Often, one’s hatred of an opposing tribe—what political scientists call “negative partisanship”—is enough to overcome any doubts about one’s own.