Every new Trump endorsement is a story of profound moral collapse

The powerful people who endorsed Donald Trump right away were the true believers – MAGA through and through. If he speaks for you, he speaks for you. Not much of a story there.

But the powerful people who knew better — who are bending the knee to Trump only now — are hypocritical, craven opportunists going through a very public and newsworthy moral collapse.

That is how the media should be covering them. These people are forsaking the principles they had previously proclaimed — and why? Because they want something (mostly power and money) more than they care about those principles.

Every time that happens ought to be a major news story. Another person has sacrificed their self-respect to become an enabler of tyranny and chaos.

But I’m not seeing that.

I’m seeing reporters writing without any sense of shock or alarm about members of Congress, titans of industry, and others bending the knee as if it’s just a normal part of a normal presidential race.

It is, however, not remotely normal that a major-party nominee for president is an irrational impulsive lying rapist racist crime lord and would-be dictator.

Bending the knee to Trump is a break with core human values like empathy and decency – and democracy. It’s an expression of approval for lying, cheating, stealing, and attempted insurrection.

This is not simply expressing a preference between the two political parties. This is a far-reaching moral and political choice.

Every single new public figure who endorses Trump should be asked by reporters to explain how that squares with their moral beliefs. Do they consider Trump trustworthy? Reliable? Do they agree that the government should root out certain people like vermin? Do they condone his contempt for pluralism? Do they share his willingness to turn over parts of Europe to Vladimir Putin? Do they support setting up camps for the mass deportation of long-time U.S. residents who lack documentation? And if not, why are they so willing to abandon their principles? What exactly do they think makes that worth it?

Saying Biden is worse doesn’t cut it. How, exactly? What hideous values does he represent?

Anytime that anyone who has previously shown any sign they understood who Trump really is, but is now lining up behind him, should be publicly confronted with their hypocrisy. Every negative statement they made about Trump should be dredged up and presented to them for comment – and to the public, for context.

The press should demand to know why they overcame their understandable resistance. And if reporters don’t get answers, they should feel free to share informed speculation about obvious reasons.

Nobody who endorses Donald Trump should be immune from the stench of authoritarianism, corruption and lunacy that emanates from him.

Instead, I’m seeing reporters responding to these new endorsements as if they were a ho-hum thing, just business as usual.

At the Washington Post, for instance, reporter Mariana Alfaro wrote about Sen. John Thune’s recent decision to endorse Trump as a virtual non-event. Thune, the Senate minority whip, became the highest-ranking Republican in the Senate to endorse Trump’s presidential bid. (The only one higher is Mitch McConnell, who is said to be succumbing as well, despite the fact that Trump has called him a “piece of shit” and repeatedly used racist taunts against his wife, Elaine Chao.)

There was the obligatory quote:

“The choice before the American people is crystal clear: It’s Donald Trump or Joe Biden,” Thune said. “I support former president Trump’s campaign to win the presidency, and I intend to do everything I can to see that he has a Republican majority in the Senate working with him.”

The article mentions that Trump turned on Thune after Thune declined to support Trump’s attempts to steal the 2020 election. But “Thune’s decision to back Trump despite the animosity between the two” only interests Alfaro to the extent that it “adds pressure to McConnell.”

The Guardian at least headlined the fact that Thune had once called Trump “inexcusable” on account of his attempt to disrupt the peaceful transition of power. But even so, the closest that Martin Pengelly came to probing the root cause of Thune’s Faustian deal was to note that “Of three senior Republicans thought to be possible successors to McConnell as leader in the Senate, Thune was the last to back Trump. John Barrasso of Wyoming and John Cornyn of Texas had already bent the knee.”

Thune was not exactly a front-line Never-Trumper. But in December 2022, soon after winning his fourth term despite a Trump-endorsed primary challenge, Thune did tell reporters he “couldn’t disagree more” with Trump’s call to terminate parts of the Constitution and said such comments present “a golden opportunity” for Trump’s rivals in 2024. Doesn’t that matter to him anymore?

Thune announced his endorsement on Fox News, ensuring that he would not be asked any tough questions. But any reporter given the chance should demand Thune explain how he can support someone who he obviously has such contempt for. Was it a hard decision? Why now? They should demand to know how he overcame his concerns – and what Trump could do that he wouldn’t support, if anything.

Bloomberg reporters Laura Davison and Jennifer A Dlouhy recently wrote, as if it were a routine thing, that “Donald Trump is the oil and gas industry’s undisputed top pick for the Republican presidential nomination as energy sector donors shower his candidacy with nearly 10 times the amount of money as they gave his challenger Nikki Haley.”

That makes sense, of course, for purely financial motives. But endorsing Trump isn’t just an endorsement of his oil-drilling policies, it’s an endorsement of the potential end of democracy. No industry should get a bye on that one.

New York Times reporter Michael C. Bender wrote a strong story recently about how “Donald J. Trump is stamping out the final flashes of independence inside Republican institutions with astonishing speed, demonstrating that his power continues to expand over the new party establishment he has created.”

Bender noted that “Only a rapidly dwindling minority inside the party remains worried about Mr. Trump’s intentions.”

But he should have written “remains publicly worried” — and he should have explored the moral and political calculations being made.

Politico reporter Alex Isenstadt wrote recently about how “Trump and the Club for Growth appear to have made peace.” This after “a Club for Growth-affiliated outside group waged an unsuccessful multi-million-dollar TV ad campaign aimed at sinking Trump in early primary states.”

Isenstadt noted some previous ugliness between Trump and the Club, but overall seemed unsurprised, simply focusing on how this was “another indication of how the GOP is consolidating around Trump.”

What of the Club for Growth’s previous commitments to a balanced budget and free trade? Are those no longer operative? What made backing Trump feel like a good bargain for them?

Mark Leibovich at the Atlantic noticed that when “the GOP’s second- and third-ranking members, John Cornyn of Texas and John Barrasso of Wyoming, along with Trump’s long-ago rivals Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida” endorsed Trump recently, “None of their endorsements caused much of a ripple.”

That’s because, as Leibovich concluded,  “the Republican Party now appears to have entered a new level of capitulation to Trump: a kind of ho-hum acceptance phase, where slavish devotion has become almost mundane, like joining a grocery line.”

But that doesn’t mean it should be ho-hum to the media.

Leibovich snarked that “Full acquiescence to Trump is now the most essential Republican ‘ethic,’ such as it is.” But the whole point here is that endorsing Trump is an abandonment of anything reasonably called “ethics.” Yet nobody seems to take much notice when yet another Member of Congress falls.

Wall Street is also succumbing to Trump, despite his insurrectionist ways. As Jeff Stein reported in the Washington Post in January, “some business titans have publicly softened their opposition in recent days, potentially signaling a desire to work with Trump if he lands back in the White House.”

Consider Stein’s blasé description of the “broader challenge” facing these titans: “Executives and wealthy backers alike are torn between what they see as the pro-growth economic policies of Republicans and what they regard as the potential dangers of another Trump term, including massive new immigration restrictions, a global trade war and the destabilization of democratic institutions.”

My italics.

That should have been the lede right there: “Wall Street executives are warming to Donald Trump, prioritizing low taxes over the destabilization of democratic institutions.”

(Actually, it may not be lower taxes.  As Adam Serwer wrote in the Atlantic — and I paraphrase liberally — in Wall Street’s eyes it is Biden who has committed the truly unpardonable sin by contributing to a resurgence of labor organizing. Interesting theory!)

The fact is that in all these decisions to endorse Trump, there is some reason that people who knew better have now decided to submit to Trump. It’s not a good reason. And it’s journalism’s obligation to figure out that reason and make sure everyone understands.


  1. Excellent analysis. The fact that ur article examines the bifurcation of the repugnican party is one of the mysteries that frustrates me the most. I can understand the ( “burn it down” ) revenge motivation of the uneducated lower classes. We see that throughout history in revolutions. But the fact that the so called elite are buying into this insanity is virtually inexplicable. I was a republican for 45 years and switched parties in 2020. But friends, neighbors and family, who should know better, still remember the grand ole party. I also agree that security is a new motivation for the upper class. Tax relief was always a factor.


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