First, never before in modern American history have we had a president so transparently demanding not just loyalty but praise from his subordinates and political allies. He considers criticism of his behavior a greater offense than voting against his agenda — and so do his most ardent supporters. This creates a powerful cultural incentive to define norms down, or just defenestrate them entirely.
This is one reason why evangelical leaders such as Jerry Falwell Jr., who have spent a lifetime talking about eternal principles, feel enormous pressure from above and below to give the president a “mulligan” on personal shortcomings (in the words of Family Research Council president Tony Perkins).
The other two factors say more about the rest of us than they do about Trump. One is the tribal belief that the other party is an existential enemy that will do anything. And so we must be just as ruthless.
All of that stuff about Trump being a “fighter” who “counterpunches” and isn’t “politically correct” is shorthand for this argument. But this attitude is not new to the GOP, nor to our politics generally. Under George W. Bush, one heard a great deal from the left about how only “fighting Dems” who refused to be intimidated could “take back America,” a slogan used by many Democratic politicians in the 2000s.