By now, it’s obvious to everyone with open eyes that Donald Trump is an ignorant, wildly dishonest, erratic, immature, bullying egomaniac. On the other hand, he’s a terrible person. But despite some high-profile defections, most senior figures in the Republican Party — very much including Paul D. Ryan, the speaker of the House, and Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader — are still supporting him, threats of violence and all. Why?
One answer is that these were never men and women of principle. I know that many in the media are still determined to portray Ryan, in particular, as an honest man serious about policy, but his actual policy proposals have always been transparent con jobs.
Another answer is that in an era of intense partisanship, the greatest risk facing many Republican politicians isn’t that of losing in the general election; it’s that of losing to an extremist primary challenger. This makes them afraid to cross Trump, whose ugliness channels the true feelings of the party’s base.
But there’s a third answer, which can be summarized in one number: 34.