Whenever Donald Trump says something offensive, some of his opponents say something like, “That’s it! This time, his supporters will turn on him!”
No, what turns supporters into opponents isn’t what a president says but what he does.
• The first George Bush lost popularity among his fellow Republicans because he broke his promise “No new taxes.”
• Jimmy Carter practically encouraged members of his own party to become Reagan Democrats because he failed to rescue American hostages in Iran and revive the economy.
• Richard Nixon lost Republican support because he led the Watergate criminal conspiracy.
• Lyndon Johnson lost favor among his fellow Democrats because he couldn’t win or pull out of the Vietnam War.
Compare those guys to Bill Clinton. His sex and perjury scandal was as big a controversy as Watergate. Why didn’t Democrats abandon Clinton?
It’s not because Democrats are more loyal than Republicans. Look at how Democrats treated Carter and Johnson.
The difference is that most Democrats never saw Clinton’s scandals as huge, crucial matters of governance and politics. But Bush’s tax hikes, Carter’s failures to fix the economy and the Iran calamity, Nixon’s attempts to undermine a presidential election and federal investigations, and Johnson’s murderous war — everyone argued about them, but very few called them unimportant. At least not for long.
So Trump can probably say what he wants. His supporters won’t abandon him — until he does something as Chief Executive (and not just as a talking mouth) that they can’t stand.