As has happened again and again for months, Donald Trump has once more been caught behaving perfectly characteristically (this time, in the form of years old evidence of such behavior), and has sent his campaign into an intense scandal, with various of the politicians who have endorsed him while knowing full well who he was now declaring themselves shocked.
In August, amid another such crisis, that one surrounding Trump’s picking a fight with the family of a fallen soldier, I suggested a few questions that might guide how we think about the pressure Trump faces:
What has Donald Trump really done in the past week that has been in any meaningful way different or worse than what he has been doing throughout the past year to make it perfectly clear that he is an unstable, disordered, malevolent charlatan unfit for the presidency?
Which of the criticisms he is now receiving from some of the Republicans who are still formally endorsing him would he be receiving if his poll numbers now stood where they did just a week and a half ago?
Which of these criticisms would he receive a week and a half from now if nothing but his polling were to improve?
To be sure, late is better than never and doing the right thing for the wrong reason is better than doing wrong. The catastrophic failure of their party’s primary electorate to select a worthy candidate for president this year has also put many Republican politicians in a horrific nightmare scenario that they did not want and would not choose. But they did have an extended opportunity to struggle against this outcome, including well before the party trapped the country in a lose-lose Trump or Clinton double bind.
Only a very small number of them chose to struggle, and even now it is far from clear that any more of them have decided they should. They will only move against Trump if they absolutely have to. And while we should be glad if that were to happen, it would be hard to also be impressed, or reassured.
Here we go again.