Like Mr Trump, Mr Greitens is a political grievance peddler. Just like mr. Trump saves his most concentrated bile for fellow Republicans. One of the most childish midterm ads to date was Mr. Greitens, where he leads a group of gunmen in tactical gear as they storm a lovely little suburban house in search of GOP heretics. “Get a RINO hunting license,” Mr Greitens insists. “There’s no baggage limit, no tagging limit, and it doesn’t expire until we save our country.” Banned by Facebook, flagged by Twitter and vandalized by virtually everyone, the ad is pure political trolling.
It was around the time of the RINO hunting ad that the Show Me Values PAC was announced. Team Greitens responded with characteristic swear words. “These swamp creatures and crooks know their time at the trough is over,” said Dylan Johnson, the campaign manager. “That’s why they’re afraid of America First champion Governor Greitens.”
Whatever its roots, fear is a powerful motivator. Show Me Values began to gobble up advertising time like Skittles and became the biggest spender of the race on TV. The spots describing the allegations of abuse by Mr Greitens’ ex-wife seem particularly devastating. It seems that, with the right message – and money to get that message home – even the most flamboyant MAGA candidates might be deflated.
Mr Trump was not the pioneer of the brutal strategy attempted by Mr Greitens. But he perfected and popularized it, and under his rule, the GOP has become increasingly willing to tolerate the sketchy, creepy, violent and potentially illegal behavior of its politicians, as long as they stay within the lines.
Just look at Ken Paxton, the Texas Attorney General, who won his primary in May, putting him on a slide to a third term. Republican voters stuck with him despite being indicted for securities fraud and other mischief since 2015 and having had multiple staff members in 2020 ask the federal authorities to investigate him for a hodgepodge of “potential criminal acts”.
And for MAGA’s sheer shamelessness, it’s hard to top Representative Matt Gaetz, the dirt-talking mini-Trump of the Florida Panhandle. It takes real moxie to raise money for someone being investigated by the FBI on suspicion of child sex trafficking. But that’s how Matt rolls, and his constituents seem cool with it.