Donald Trump Turned the GOP Into Matt Gaetz’s Freak-Flag Party 1

It may feel like the walls are closing in on Matt Gaetz, but a recent survey of GOPers in his heavily Republican district shows that fewer than 19 percent think he should resign. These numbers, however, flip if he is proven guilty of sex trafficking.

Regular readers of this column will spot a couple of recurring trends: Republican voters have become less religious and more partisan, and politicians have learned it’s better to ride out the storm. As a result, the only effective way of policing or deterring behavior is via the legal (rather than the political or the electoral) process.

Meanwhile, another trend has emerged in recent years: Donald Trump attracted rabid boosters who had a vested interest in lowering the bar on ethical and moral standards (see Gaetz), and he created a permission structure that spawned other imitators (see Marjorie Taylor Greene). If you don’t believe me, you can take their word for it. “We’ve got a president now who doesn’t care for puritanical grandstanding or moralistic preening,” Gaetz boasted to Vanity Fair last September. “This is a good time to be a fun-loving politician instead of a stick-in-the-mud,” he continued. “I have an active social life, and it’s probably easier in the era of Trump.”

If Gaetz survives, the lesson will be that preemptively telegraphing your vice is a sort of get-out-of-jail free card.