For the past few weeks on “Real Time with Bill Maher,” Bill has come out in his opening monologue with the statement of “Yes,this is really happening,” incredulous at the latest thing that Donald Trump has said. It’s not surprising in the sense that Trump has been saying things like this all along, in addition to lying about having said it and then turning around and saying it again. It is surprising that up until this Friday, it hasn’t shaken his support in the least, and that his polling numbers are where they are.
Back in 2012, one of the things that amazed me about Mitt Romney’s campaign was the number of unforced blunders he made, and inability to consider that anything in his past – and in particular, his public record – would be fair game. Given that he had been a candidate for office several times in the past, it was astonishing that he – and the Republican Party – couldn’t see some of the things that were used against him coming from a mile away.
Last year at this time, Donald Trump was considered a “joke,” not to be taken seriously, just someone who was following in the footsteps of any number of wannabe candidates, running a vanity campaign. Outrageous statement followed outrageous statement and instead of torpedoing his chances of taking the nomination, which would have been the case in any other election year, they carried him to the Republican nomination. Since becoming the nominee, he hasn’t stopped. Any hopes the Republicans had that he’d pivot towards being a more “normal candidate” behavior were quickly dashed.
Despite that, party officials lined up behind him, endorsing him and making excuses for him. Attack Gold Star parents? Hey, they’re Muslim, not a problem. Attack a former Miss Universe? She’s Latina. Say things like banning all Muslims, creating a deportation force, building a wall across the border? No big deal, just “Trump being Trump.” Wrote off over 900 million dollars as a business loss so he could avoid paying taxes? He’s “a genius.” You see, everything that he was saying was something they’d been saying in more diplomatic language for years, something their base absolutely believed.
That’s why despite all of that, the things that should have long since torpedoed Trump as a candidate, his polling numbers remained fairly steady. He was the candidate who was saying what many Republican voters believe. It doesn’t matter to them that it wasn’t true, it was what they believe, and as I pointed out a while back, it fit right into the cult-like behavior conservatives have. It wasn’t until yesterday’s release of a tape of his talking about trying to seduce a married woman, and what “a star” could get away with women – and what he does or could do, that suddenly Republican officials couldn’t run away from him fast enough. What that will do his polling numbers remains to be seen, but I doubt he’ll drop below a floor number he has had in the past.
The “shocked, shocked!” reaction of those officials strikes me as being self-serving. Am I shocked that Donald Trump said these things? No, not really. Yes, what he said was disgusting, but it’s just another example in a pattern long evident. He’s made plenty of those over the years and in this campaign. Anyone paying attention, and in particular anyone doing standard “opposition research” would have expected something like this to happen sooner or later.
That’s why I said the Republican officials reaction struck me as being self-serving, and more than a little hypocritical. If they expected something different, they were only fooling themselves. If they think he’s not “representative of the party’s values,” well, I hate to break it to them, but he is. They should look in the mirror sometime. They’ve been pandering to this, encouraging this sort of rhetoric for years, and the only fig leaf they had was that it wasn’t blatantly out in public. That can change in the future, but it won’t happen anytime soon. Maybe if they keep getting their asses kicked in elections – and Democratic voters and “independents” start turning out in mid-terms – they’ll change. But until then, well, Trump is their candidate, and if they don’t like it, well, it sucks to be them. They’re stuck with him, because yes, this is really happening, and I’m enjoying their fall.