The Fifth Avenue Murder Theory now faces its toughest test.
This bold hypothesis was put forward in 2016 by Professor Donald Trump, who claimed that he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody” and not “lose any voters.”
His proposition is by no means implausible. He won his Electoral College majority despite his louche and obscene admissions to sexual assault in the “Access Hollywood” tape. He has survived revelations of hush-money payments to alleged paramours, and persuasive evidence that he obstructed justice in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.
The vast majority of Republican politicians have stuck with Trump through one abuse of power after another, including the shocking mistreatment of migrant children, which the morally attentive Rep. Elijah Cummings—to his everlasting credit—continued calling to public attention up to his death.
Trump, of course, was no mere academic bystander as his theorem was put under heavy stress. He rallied his loyalists in primaries to purge Republicans who dared speak against him. Most in the GOP don’t want to suffer the fate of former South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford, whose 2018 primary defeat was an object lesson to other would-be dissenters. Trump has always understood Voltaire’s sardonic observation that it’s wise to mete out severe punishment to those who fail you in order “to encourage the others.”
But those others—meaning members of the GOP who will be the arbiters of Trump’s fate in the coming weeks—are not feeling quite as encouraged in their loyalty to the president as they once were.