Matt Gaetz and the death of the Republican sex scandal

As conservatives have come to feel more existentially threatened by the left, they’ve also become more defensive of their own, going to bat for anyone who’s willing to fight for the team. And as they’ve become more defensive, they’ve likewise become more willing to overlook the shortcomings (if not the apostasies) of those who march under their sigil. Politics has grown more zero-sum and Machiavellian. Trump in particular has taught them that a champion need not be perfect or even good to do battle on their behalf. That isn’t to say conservatives ignored the former president’s failings, but they did balance them against what they saw as his combative advantages. Conversations about Trump inevitably began with: ‘I’m not saying he’s perfect but…’

As with Trump, Matt Gaetz has made a name for himself as a smash-mouth cable news gladiator. And because in our talky, post-Trump media, such theatrics are equated with ‘fighting’, it’s very possible that conservatives might yet form rank around Gaetz. Because don’t we need all hands on deck to stop the Biden agenda? What about Juanita Broaddrick and Lindsey Boylan and Tara Reade? Why should we play by a different set of rules than the left? And why should we ever trust the Biden DOJ?

The irony is that in practice this is actually closer to that more decorous Congress of yore, filled with adulterers and whiskey-for-breakfasters who ignored each other’s sins in favor of political consensus. The lesson is the same as it’s always been: power both corrupts and attracts the corrupted.