Does the Republican Party have any standards at all?
Item: Mike Pence on Tuesday called convicted felon – pardoned convicted felon, but still – Joe Arpaio a "tireless champion of strong borders and the rule of law." Arpaio is running for Senate in Arizona, and while he probably won't win the Republican nomination, he's being treated as a fully respectable party leader by the Republican president and vice president.
Item: Florida Republicans have invited convicted felon Dinesh D'Souza to speak at their Sunshine Summit, a major party event. Like Arpaio, D'Souza simply considers his conviction a political persecution despite a lack of evidence for his claim. Like Arpaio, D'Souza has returned to Republican respectability.
Item: Convicted felon Michael Grimm is running for his old House seat. The Washington Post's Michael Scherer reports on the Grimm campaign, and notes that D'Souza and former national security adviser Michael Flynn – yet another felon – are both hot tickets in Republican fundraising circles.
The truth is this isn't entirely new. Watergate criminal G. Gordon Liddy had a long career as a Republican talk-show host after he completed his jail sentence. Watergate criminal Chuck Colson wound up back in Republican politics, although he at least did reform himself (or at least acted as if he had done something wrong). Iran-Contra figure Oliver North's conviction was overturned; he too returned as an accepted Republican Party actor. Newt Gingrich resigned as speaker of the House in disgrace. He ran for president.
There simply isn't a similar parade of Democrats who were welcomed back into active roles in the party after similar downfalls. It's certainly not because of a shortage of Democratic criminals and scandal-ridden politicians; both parties produce plenty of crooks over time. But for the most part, Democrats who have gone to jail disappear from political life for good. Republicans? Some do – I haven't noticed Denny Hastert showing up at political events, at least not so far.
Of course, this isn't entirely unrelated to the unusually high number of corruption scandals found in the Donald Trump administration – or the fact that Republicans accepted Trump despite his, well, colorful business practices. Not too many political parties would nominate someone for high office who was also losing a judgment on fraud claims.
It doesn't seem to hurt Republicans at the ballot box. I'm not even certain that it's particularly destructive for governing in any direct way. But if Republicans ever want to clean up their party, it's one of the easy ways they could show they're serious about it.
– Bloomberg News