Some of the indifference to the allegations of affairs with Daniels and McDougal comes down to the political cake already being baked. Many people already detest Trump, including social liberals who might otherwise be more inclined to forgive infidelity. Meanwhile, the voters who would be most inclined to penalize Trump for this behavior, evangelical Christians, have long since decided that in the case of Trump, character doesn’t really count, as my colleague McKay Coppins writes.
The changing role of shame is pivotal. I wrote earlier this week about how many of politics’ unwritten rules—about conflict-of-interest rules, ethical guidelines, not prosecuting political opponents, not allowing staffers to work despite recommendations that they not receive security clearance—never had any enforcement mechanism. The mechanism was shame: Surely no president would want to do anything that would seem so corrupt. It’s no accident that the famous line that helped sink Senator Joe McCarthy, uttered by Army General Counsel Joseph Welch, was this: “Have you no sense of decency?”
No one would think to ask this question of Trump—at least not with the expectation of getting a satisfactory answer. No one is under any illusion that he carries any sense of shame or decency; he has been entirely unbothered by the appearance of corruption.