Opinion: Trumpy GOP Leaders’ Big Week of Indefensible Hypocrisy

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty

A famous 1980s anti-drug PSA features a son being confronted by his dad, who asks him: “Who taught you how to do this stuff?” The kid replies, “You, alright. I learned it by watching you!”

Today’s right-wing leaders could be forgiven for having a similar answer for their toxic comportment. The only difference is that in this analogy, Donald Trump, their “daddy,” is proud of the behavior. Trumpism continues to trickle, and this past week shows examples of it having trickled down to members of the right in the U.S. Congress, state governments, and even the U.S. Supreme Court (or their spouses, at the very least).

Let’s start small, with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s comments at a committee meeting last Thursday night. “I think your fake eyelashes are messing up what you are reading” Greene said to Rep. Jasmine Crockett.

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Whether her outburst was a racist trope, or merely an example of disparaging a colleague’s physical appearance, Trump has normalized these exact behaviors.

The lack of decorum is troubling, but the erosion of politeness usually doesn’t kill society overnight. In this regard, the other Trumpian behavior on display is more likely to discredit American democracy.

This brings us to the state of Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, pardoned Daniel Perry, an Army sergeant who was convicted of killing a protester during a 2020 Black Lives Matter rally in Austin, Texas.

Based on testimony from the trial, Perry, who sent multiple racist text messages including saying, “I might go to Dallas to shoot looters,” drove his car into the middle of a protest, nearly hitting some in the crowd. Perry was then approached by Garrett Foster, a 28-year-old white Air Force veteran who was lawfully open carrying a gun, and (according to multiple witnesses) did not point the weapon at Perry. Perry then shot and killed Foster.

But wait! Aren’t Republicans supposed to support veterans? Aren’t Republicans supposed to support the right to carry arms?

If you’re confused, you’re not alone. Foster’s grieving mother had this to say about her son: “He was practicing his First and Second Amendment rights, and this was Greg Abbott's Second Amendment rights. He says you can open carry in the state of Texas. But in the same breath, [Abbott] says you deserve to be shot for open carrying in the state of Texas...”

It turns out, the rules don’t apply equally. As Vox’s Eric Levitz observes, Trump “has adopted a gangster’s mentality toward crime: the criminality of any given action is determined by its compatibility with his interests, not the law.”

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For example, Trump wants to pardon Jan. 6 rioters, and he pardoned a Navy SEAL who was convicted of posing with the corpse of a teenager he allegedly murdered.

On the other hand, Trump has supported extrajudicial killings for drug dealers, wanted to jail a political rival (“Lock Her Up!”), and suggested that Gen. Mark Milley deserves execution.

But at least America is blessed to have a co-equal institution like the esteemed United States Supreme Court, to keep everything in check and preserve the rule of law, right?

Sadly, as they are being called to rule on important matters (such as whether Trump can be prosecuted), it is increasingly hard to pretend that all nine members are unbiased “referees” who are committed to blind justice.

Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife Ginni famously texted Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, urging Trump not to concede (despite having lost the 2020 election) and attended the Jan. 6 “Stop The Steal” rally.

And now it has been revealed that, around that same time, Justice Samuel Alito’s wife flew an upside down American flag outside their home, a sign of distress that also doubled for some as a “Stop the Steal” symbol.

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Put together, these incidents—MTG’s personal insults, Gov. Abbott’s political pardon, and Mrs. Alito’s alleged, imprudent political statement—and you can see that Trump’s norm-breaking behavior has infected a broad swath of elites on the American right.

Trumpism is mean. It mocks people’s looks. It hurls racist tropes. It refuses to apologize. It uses power to reward friends and punish enemies. It prioritizes settling personal scores over sacrificing for institutions.

These are the fruits of Trump. And after just four years of his presidency, Trump’s worldview has infected almost all areas of the American right, as we have become increasingly inured to Trumpism.

Imagine what things will be like if he gets another four.

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