Stormy Daniels could be final straw for Trump faithful

Evangelical pulpit-thumping fanboys unlikely to be too impressed

Stormy Daniels at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles recently. Evangelical Christian supporters of Donald Trump are unlikely to be too happy about allegations. Photograph: Matt Sayles/AP

Stormy Daniels at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles recently. Evangelical Christian supporters of Donald Trump are unlikely to be too happy about allegations. Photograph: Matt Sayles/AP

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Probably the most baffling feature of Trump and hard Brexit fans is their unconditional, immutable devotion to their heroes. A couple of years ago at a campaign rally, Trump boasted: “. . .You know what else they say about my people, the polls? They say I have the most loyal people. Where I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, Okay? It’s like incredible . . .”

Last July, Public Policy Polling put his claim to the test, by asking Trump voters what they thought of that, not by getting him to shoot a random pedestrian. Sure enough, 45 per cent of them said they would approve of the president shooting some hapless human on Fifth Avenue. Just 29 per cent disapproved. The rest couldn’t decide. These are Americans, mind. We’re probably related to some of them.

Six months into the Trump presidency, there were heavy intimations of corruption, runaway nepotism, feeding the swamp, self-enrichment and that odd refusal to criticise a hostile foreign power which actually does leave corpses on urban streets

By then, six months into the Trump presidency, there were heavy intimations of corruption, runaway nepotism, feeding the swamp, self-enrichment and that odd refusal to criticise a hostile foreign power which actually does leave corpses on urban streets.

Meanwhile, on the Brexit side, report after report demonstrates that the UK – especially its poorest regions – will be considerably worse off after leaving along with proof that the people were lied to again and again.

Grit their teeth

The polls have moved against Brexit but not by a lot. Irish-born friends in England say their pro-Brexit spouses just grit their teeth and blame Theresa May for making a shambles of it. As we knew they would.

But the colour of your politics is no guarantee of righteousness or ideological purity, not when populism and wealth opportunities take a hand. In its annual Corruption Perception Index for 2016, Transparency International noted, to little surprise, that countries with populist or autocratic leaders “use the corruption-inequality message to drum up support but have no intention of tackling the problem seriously . . .” In fact, they “usually install even worse forms of corrupt systems”.

Bank accounts

Venezuela has remained near the bottom despite the election 20 years ago of socialist leader Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolás Maduro.

Chavez won office on an anti-corruption ticket, then turned the civil service and state oil company into a reward system for supporters, while awarding himself a luxurious plane bought from the Qatar ruling family. In Austria, after the death of far-right Freedom Party leader and anti-corruption campaigner Jörg Haider investigators found millions of euro in bank accounts in Liechtenstein connected to Haider and his supporters, reportedly connected to a payment from Saddam Hussein.

Eight years ago, Hungary’s Victor Orbán won on an anti-corruption ticket but then billions of euro somehow got directed to his son-in-law’s companies in state and local tenders.

None has been punished by supporters. Chavez died in office and his successor is still in place. Haider’s old Freedom Party has just joined a new Austrian government coalition. Orbán is still in power. In the Russian presidential election starting next Sunday, strongman Vladimir Putin is unassailable in the familiar clothing of a terrifying narcissist who stokes resentment with the promise of making his country great again.

In the same vein, Orbán lambasts western Europe as the cause of the “decline of Christian culture” and calls Hungary “the last bastion of Christianity”.

In the words of political scientist, Jan-Werner Muller, as long as what they’re selling looks “like measures pursued for the sake of a moral, hardworking ‘us’ and not for the immoral or even foreign ‘them’,” who cares what the son-in-law is up to?

Likewise in the US, where Trump stands accused of 19 cases of sexual harassment and assault against women – whom the White House dismisses en masse as liars – and Stormy Daniels, the porn star who claims she was paid $130,000 in hush money 11 days before the election to cover up an affair with Trump, is now offering to pay it all back so she can tell the full story. A television interview is already recorded. Awkward.

Will unconditional love endure? Wlll there be blowback from his pulpit-thumping fanboys among the Evangelical Christians who voted overwhelmingly for him, the single largest religious demographic in the US, who represent about half the Republican political coalition yet see themselves as threatened on all sides? They recently gave him a 70 per cent approval rating despite the Bible’s famous aversion to hypocrisy and sex outside wedlock.

Contrast that support with the conservative furore about Bill Clinton’s philandering in the late 1990s, when it was preached early and often that “character does matter”, in the words of folks like James Dobson of Focus on the Family. “You can’t run a family, let alone a country, without it,” said Dobson. But look, that’s old. Promise to make America great again and tax reform and time-travel back to the 1950s and who cares about the asphyxiating whiff of sleaze, misogyny, corruption, nepotism and racism?

Keep an eye out for Stormy though.

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