Spread the love

What if Trump still got away with it?

Photo: Charly Triballeau Agence France-Presse Former United States President Donald Trump raises his fist as he walks into the courtroom after the start of deliberations in his criminal trial in New York, May 29, 2024.

Ben Terris – The Washington Post in Washington

Posted yesterday at 6:11 a.m. Updated yesterday at 3:26 p.m.

  • United States

Carson Markley was driving through the Canadian Rockies with his family when he learned that Donald Trump had been convicted in New York.

“I texted my friends,” said Mr. Markley, a Democrat who lives in Detroit. “It was a moment of joy and celebration for all of us. »

And then ?

« Then the anxiety started to set in. »

During the entire trip, he spent his time checking his cell phone to find out how the situation was developing. Now that the news he had been waiting for had arrived, he had intrusive thoughts: What if Trump found a way to use this to his advantage ?

“I read the news, I saw the polls, I talked to people at the bar who told me they had been Trump supporters, but they couldn't support him anymore,” says Mr. Markley. Logically, everything I see makes it seem like the convictions weaken his chances of winning. But I can't help but think: what if this helped him ? »

Mr. Markley suffers from what he calls a sort of “post-traumatic stress disorder” caused by years of scandals that failed to remove Mr. Trump from public life. This disease has an unusual symptom: It leads some of the former president's critics to believe that anything bad that happens to Trump may ultimately be good for him.

C t's a concern shared by liberals and “Never-Trumpers” who have seen so many supposedly damaging or disqualifying events come and go over the years. “Grab them by the pussy »]. “Very good people on both sides. » The first impeachment procedure. The loss of the election. Election lies. The insurrection. The second impeachment procedure. Criminal charges. Civil affairs. The damning criticisms from former collaborators and advisors. The sinister rhetoric about “bad” Democrats, left-wing “vermin,” and political “punishment.” Nevertheless, he persisted.

Also read

  • Analysis | Donald Trump, from a guilty verdict to a climate of reprisals
  • Donald Trump wants to turn his guilty verdict into gold
  • Prison, a “breaking point” for Trump supporters

And now, a conviction in a jury trial. On the day of the New York verdict, a nurse in Lorain County, Ohio, became concerned after hearing from colleagues and patients that Mr. Trump would motivate his voters by railing against a justice system crooked. When notifications of this news started ringing on cell phones at a bar in Silver Spring, Maryland, a bartender asked a customer if this meant Mr. Trump would no longer be able to run for president. “Ah! the bartender responded upon learning that Mr. Trump was still eligible: So it will be good for him. »

“I think it makes Trump even more martyred,” says Michael LaRosa, a former spokesperson for first lady Jill Biden.

“He presents himself as the world's biggest victim,” says political consultant and Trump critic Frank Luntz, “and Americans are rallying around the victims.”

Carson Markley, on a family vacation in British Columbia, briefly wondered whether he should look for an apartment in Canada in the event of an inevitable Trump victory.

< p>Democrats are always “looking for the dark side of the money cloud,” especially when it comes to Trump, says Dan Pfeiffer, a former adviser to President Barack Obama and current host of podcasts including Mailboxes and text messages were filled with this kind of anguished talk after Trump's verdict.

“It’s completely natural for people to become doom and gloom about Trump,” Pfeiffer says. But it is actually false to say that he did not have to be held accountable. Every time his name has been on a ballot since 2016, literally and figuratively, he has lost. »

The Trump myth

Mythologizing Mr. Trump as some kind of monster invincible, capable of absorbing all attacks and becoming stronger, is what could help Mr. Trump and his Republican allies, according to Mr. Pfeiffer. “When we pretend that he can survive anything, that gives him strength and gives him a political advantage with a lot of people,” he says. But in reality, how bad of a criminal does one have to be to be one of the richest and most politically connected men and be convicted of 34 counts of falsifying corporate records ? The truth is, he's kind of a clown. »

“If you think it's okay to be convicted of multiple crimes, you should probably take a deep breath and pull yourself together,” says Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic consultant and former spokesperson for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. He is much more Darth Vader than Obi-Wan Kenobi. If you take him down, he doesn't become more powerful than you can imagine. »

To be fair to those who worry, there is a method to turn something as obviously wrong as a criminal conviction into a political advantage . It's just that it usually happens in other countries.

“This is a unique situation in the United States,” says Kateryna Odarchenko, a political consultant who worked for former Ukrainian prime minister and political prisoner Yulia Tymoshenko. But in other countries where political persecution actually exists, candidates use their criminal cases against them to say, “See, I fought the system effectively, and they came for me. » According to Ms. Odarchenko, Mr. Trump has the opportunity to try to use the case against him to present himself as a “classic hero” fighting against a “great evil.” And that's what he does. “I have just been convicted in a witch hunt, a RIGGED political trial: I DID NOTHING WRONG! » we can read in a recent appeal to raise funds. In a way, it works: Trump's campaign used the anger over the verdict to raise a staggering $141 million in May.

The idea that such a setback is electorally good for Trump may be anxiety. But the assumption that it will not hurt Trump ? is reasonable. Polls since the end of the trial have been inconclusive about whether the guilty verdict will hurt him in November. Mr. Trump’s popularity remains relatively stable, although a poll New York Times/Siena College found a “slight shift” toward President Joe Biden. Monmouth University pollsters, meanwhile, found that “almost nothing has changed in voters’ intentions for the upcoming election” since Mr. Trump’s trial began, according to a statement released June 13.

Anti-Trump cheers, Trump supporters anger

Na’ilah Amaru, a Democratic activist and political strategist, doesn’t think Donald Trump’s guilty verdict will help the former president, but she can understand how people might feel. A self-described “urban planning nerd,” Amaru had signed up for a tour to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Juror’s Guide to Lower Manhattan, a compendium that surveys the neighborhoods within walking distance of the courthouse. When news of the conviction broke, she happened to be across the street.

She was struck by the joy of the anti-Trump crowd on one side and the anger of the Trump supporters on the other. She watched two men argue over whether the trial was “rigged” and who would ultimately benefit in the November election.

Later, after she leaves the melee near the courthouse, she will reflect on some things she believes to be true: Trump’s base will love him no matter what, she thinks. Persuading swing voters will be just as important as mobilizing convinced voters. And in any case, she can’t imagine swing voters choosing to vote for Trump because of his felony convictions.

The perspective she has acquired since then would have been impossible to take in all this noise. “When you're in the middle of the action, the emotions are so intense, so strong,” says Amaru. You can't help but think, “Oh my God, this is huge, people are angry, and Trump is going to win again.” »

On July 11, the former president is to be sentenced. Mr. Markley thinks a prison sentence would likely be bad for Trump. But he prefers not to think about it at all.

“My current strategy,” he says, “is to act as if nothing happened. »

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116