MINOT, N.D. — The defense of Rep. Luke Simons from some has been almost as ugly as the behavior the man himself is accused of.
Over the last week, I have revealed accusations against Simons of harassment and lewd behavior from members of the news media, legislative staff members, and even some of Simons' fellow elected Republicans.
This has prompted a backlash from Simons' supporters, who believe these women are all lying and working as part of a left-wing effort to undermine Simons because of his conservative politics.
It's a conspiracy, in other words.
The simpler explanation is that Simons has himself behaved atrociously, and he's now reaping the whirlwind.
Certainly, that's more believable than a theory that asks us to believe there's been a years-long campaign, organized by journalists and Republicans and legislative lawyers working in tandem, to discredit one of the least consequential lawmakers serving in Bismarck.
Even if such a cabal existed and aimed at crippling the conservative movement in Bismarck, why on earth would they target Luke Simons?
But that's their theory, and they're sticking to it.
Ben Simons, brother to Luke Simons and chairman of the NDGOP's District 39 committee, in a cartoonishly indignant email to the state Republican party's leadership objecting to a news release calling for his brother's resignation, blamed this controversy on "Nancy Pelosi democrats and the Never Trumpers."
What do Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump have to do with how Luke Simons has chosen to treat women?
Not a thing.
Yet, speaking of Trump, we have to wonder if, for a not insignificant faction of modern Republicans, there is anything a self-described "conservative" can do that will earn their scorn?
We're all well acquainted with the lengths many Republicans will go to minimize and excuse Trump's many sins against basic human decency, so let's examine a more local example of his phenomena.
During the 2018 election cycle, Will Gardner challenged incumbent Republican Secretary of State Al Jaeger. He enjoyed broad support, including from this humble correspondent and, indeed, won the vote at the NDGOP's convention that year.
Only after that vote, Gardner's 2006 conviction for disorderly conduct on the North Dakota State University campus was revealed. It turns out Gardner had been caught trying to peep into the windows of a female dormitory. With his pants undone, according to the police report.
Gardner ultimately declined the nomination, and Jaeger won another term running in the general election as an independent, albeit one with the NDGOP's endorsement. Yet even after his inexcusable past behavior was revealed, many rallied to Gardner's defense, arguing that he should have continued his campaign.
They, too, argued that Gardner was hamstrung, not by his own behavior, but by some shadowy "establishment" cabal.
Many of Gardner's die-hard supporters are the same people currently backing Simons.
Is this what it means to be a True Conservative now?
Unblinking loyalty to any crude dullard willing to put on a red MAGA hat and insult Democrats?
This is hardly a uniquely Republican phenomenon. Many of the North Dakota Democrats who are dunking on Simons today were no doubt in the crowd and cheering when serial philanderer and harasser Bill Clinton was onstage at their state convention.
Of course, many of Simons' defenders are also more than happy to point out Clinton's many flaws.
Hypocrisy abounds, I'm afraid.
Yet politics is irrelevant. Ideology is irrelevant.
What matters is the level of indecency we're willing to tolerate from an elected leader.
Unfortunately, the answer to that question, for many, hinges on which political team that leader is on.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.