One year in, how can the GOP still possibly stand by Trump?

One year in, how can the GOP still possibly stand by Trump?
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What a difference a year makes. Or does it?

Against every prognosticator’s best estimate, reality show host/beauty pageant owner/failed casino owner/hotelier Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpEx-ethics chief calls on Trump to end 'monstrous' migrant policies Laura Bush blasts Trump migrant policy as 'cruel' and 'immoral' US denies report of coalition airstrike on Syria MORE won the election to become the 45th president of the United States. He received fewer votes than his opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThere are many unanswered questions about FBI culture FBI agent who sent anti-Trump texts offers to testify on Capitol Hill Giuliani wants 'full and complete' investigation into Russia probe's origins MORE, and his Electoral College win almost seemed like divine intervention.

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Then we learned that the “intervention” was far from “divine” and that Russia’s Vladimir Putin executed a vast, widespread, multi-faceted strategy to try to help get Trump elected. That, coupled with the magnanimous tsunami of free Trump coverage from ratings and click-hungry media, created what a significant majority of Americans now see as an unmitigated disaster.

In apparently every legitimate poll, Trump has earned the lowest approval rating of any president in the history of polling as this point in a presidency — and is still on a decline. A recent Associated Press poll logs him in at 32 percent. By comparison, by the end of his presidency and his role in the Watergate break-in and cover-up exposed, Richard Nixon’s approval rating was at 24 percent.

Yet Trump’s hard-core activist base appears unwilling to distance themselves from him regardless of how serious and dangerous his words, actions and growing body of incompetencies appear to be. After all, candidate Trump famously boasted “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

Despite the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russia’s interference into the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, arrests and charges against three former Trump campaign aides, Trump’s multiple proven lies, high staff turnover, bullying of Gold Star families, racial division, financially benefiting from his presidency and a host of other alarming actions that should concern all Americans, his GOP sticks by him, turning a blind eye to matters that would have set them afire with calls for impeachment had this been done by a president with a “D” after their name rather than an “R” despite how far from what Republicans have claimed to be for decades.

Donald Trump used (and abused) the GOP, using it as a host body, sucking the life out of it. He has yet to offer anything of value in return. This will become more starkly apparent as more indictments are handed down by the special counsel.

For these Trump supporters, the question one year later is not “Why did you vote for Trump?” The question, now that we know so much more about him, and none of of it good and virtually all of it far worse than our imaginations would let us go a year ago, is “How can you still support him knowing what you now know?”

While it’s true that many are still ignorant about much of this latter day vetting that should have occurred early in the GOP primary (despite how great Trump was for ratings, clicks and book sales) because they rely on InfoWars, Breitbart and right wing TV and Radio for “news,” it’s the ones who do know better yet still stand by their man who are the most disturbing and dangerous in their dark Machiavellian corners.

Speaker of the House Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanWhite House faces growing outcry over migrant family policies John Legend slams Paul Ryan for Father's Day tweet, demands end to family separation Trump faces Father’s Day pleas to end separations of migrant families MORE (R-Wisc.) when asked this week whether the GOP has to choose on Trump, despite the rapidly growing announcements of GOP congressional retirements replied, “We already made that choice. We’re with Trump.”

While difficult, it is possible to educate the uninformed and ill-informed who may then be better situated to make better choices. But for those in that other group — the ones who “know” but simply don’t care because they’ve been able to feather their own nest, gain power, ratings, clicks, media contracts, or otherwise benefit politically from Trump, or worse, are relieved their alt-right white nationalist tendencies have been somewhat “normalized” and mainstreamed, merely educating them is not an option. Instead, they must be defeated.

In this week’s Virginia governor’s race where Democrat Ralph Northam soundly defeated Republican Ed Gillespie, exit polling indicated an overwhelming backlash against Trump and Trumpism. The GOP still may have time to decide to distance themselves from Trump for the 2018 mid-term congressional elections next year. While it’s possible Mueller may force that issue, the GOP should act on their own.

If there is a silver lining to a tough and painful year of Trump, it is that sunlight may just be the best disinfectant after all.

Cheri Jacobus is a former congressional staffer, RNC spokesperson and political consultant. Follow her on Twitter @CheriJacobus.