Trump gets away with stuff because he does
"I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters, OK?" President Donald Trump said at an Iowa campaign rally in January of 2016. That remark gets quoted a lot, mostly by liberals bemoaning the unquestioning loyalty of the president's stupid supporters.
But there's another, more interesting, facet of that meme: Trump, it's clear, can get away with just about anything -- impeachment included. He will be impeached without turning a single voter against him.
Nothing has ever been less deniable than the president's imperviousness to, well, everything. Trump's haters hate it; his fans love it; everyone accepts it. A month ago, Trump's lawyers for real argued in open court that if their client actually were to go on a shooting spree in midtown Manhattan, he couldn't be charged with a crime until he was no longer president.
Without enumerating Trump's rhetorical offenses and deviations from cultural and political norms, I wonder: How does he get away with so much? Why doesn't he lose his base of electoral support or any of his senatorial allies?
It's because of framing and branding. Trump isn't held accountable because he has never been held accountable. He has never been held accountable because he has never allowed himself to be held accountable.
Hitler believed that, in a confrontation, the combatant with the strongest inner will had an innate advantage over his opponent. Audacity, tenacity and the ability to keep your nerve under pressure were essential character traits, especially for an individual up against stronger adversaries. Trump never read "Mein Kampf," but he follows the Fuhrer's prescription for success. He never apologizes. He never admits fault or defeat. He lies his failures into fake successes, reframing history into the narrative that he prefers. It's all attitude: Because I am me, I can do no wrong.
I'm not a billionaire real estate grifter turned billionaire presidential con man.
But I get this.
When I began my career as an editorial cartoonist, I staked out ideological territory far to the left of my older, established colleagues, most of whom were ordinary Democrats. In the alternative weeklies, other cartoonists were as far left as me. But they weren't syndicated. I went after mainstream daily newspapers. My first two syndication clients were the Philadelphia Daily News and the Los Angeles Times.
My status as an ideological outlier reduced the number of newspapers willing to publish my work. But the editors who did take a chance on me knew what they were getting, so they were able to defend me against ideological attacks. Once they saw that braver papers were publishing my cartoons, moderate publications picked them up, too.