Talking Points

Trump's coalition of terrible men

The MAGA movement is looking like a coalition of problematic men.

Herschel Walker has Donald Trump's endorsement. So do Sean Parnell and Max Miller. Eric Greitens doesn't have Trump's official backing — so far at least — but he's presenting himself to the voting public as a "MAGA warrior," and clearly hopes for the former president's blessing. Each of these candidates for federal office has something in common: They've been accused of mistreating women.

Greitens, running for U.S. Senate in Missouri, resigned from his state's governorship in 2018 after he was accused of conducting a coercive sexual affair. Walker, the former NFL running back, is campaigning for Senate in Georgia despite allegations he threatened his ex-wife's life. Parnell's wife reportedly had two restraining orders against him as their marriage crumbled, but he's still running for Senate in Pennsylvania. And Miller, running for Congress in Ohio, has been accused of abusing his ex-girlfriend, the former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham. (Miller has filed a defamation lawsuit against Grisham.)

Has a political movement ever put forward so many candidates with such terrible reputations?

It's true that politics seems to disproportionately attract womanizers and abusers, and that the problem is bipartisan. The White House was occupied by Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. Congress gave us former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), who both went to prison for their offenses. The state of New York has had two governors resign just this century for unbecoming behavior — Eliot Spitzer for visiting prostitutes, and Andrew Cuomo for sexual harassment. Terrible people are generally drawn to power.

The slate of Trumpist candidates seems a bit different. Nobody expects Trump himself to back men of high character, but political parties have usually tried to distance themselves from candidates who are already known to be problematic — the scandals usually come after. That's changed. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) urged Roy Moore to step aside in 2017 after Moore was accused of pursuing relationships with underage girls; this week McConnell officially endorsed Walker. "There are some things written that indicate he's had some challenges in his life," McConnell said of Walker last month. "On the other hand, the good news is, he's made several impressive performances on national television." Character — or least the performance of it — is now only a trifling concern in the GOP.

Even Trump had to grovel a bit in 2016 after the Access Hollywood tape came out. "I pledge to be a better man," he said in an apology video. Among Trumpist politicians these days, though, better men are getting hard to find.