A diehard, progressive, anti-Trumpist friend of mine does not want to see Donald Trump indicted, arrested, convicted or even — as in the fever dream of so many anti-Trumpists — frog-marched out of his Mar-a-Lago estate in full view of the world’s cameras.
And he especially doesn’t want to see this happen if the charge has anything to do with adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and the $130,000 in hush money that Trump and his one-time-fixer and now-bitter-enemy Michael Cohen apparently paid her during the 2016 election campaign to cover up an affair. If Trump is going to be charged with election fraud, my friend says, let it at least be for grand theft and not for, by billionaire standards anyway, petty larceny.
By the way, many Democratic strategists would far rather see Trump’s first indictment come from either the Department of Justice for inciting the January 6 insurrection or from Georgia officials for trying to overturn a fair election. In both cases, indictments seem increasingly likely and, according to much of the judicial commentary I read, far more likely to end with a conviction.
But here’s the interesting part: My friend’s reasoning has little to nothing to do with the apparently very real — or maybe simply overhyped; I admit I don’t know — possibility that any indictment/arrest of Trump would help him politically, particularly in the short term, as his many loyalists rush to defend him, which, of course, they have already done.
You can check out @laurenboebert’s Tweets for countless examples of confusing prosecution with persecution. Or check in with Speaker-for-now Kevin McCarthy, who — irony alert here — is busily weaponizing the House as he threatens to force Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg to testify before Congress to explain any investigation that leads to a Trump indictment.
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My friend’s ideal scenario would be for Trump to win the Republican nomination and then to be thumped in the general election while unencumbered by, say, a court-ordered ankle bracelet.
It’s the only way, he says, to finally kill off Trump (come on, he means politically) and for Republicans to realize that by enabling Trump for all these years in order to appease the Trumpist party base, they have also put at grave risk what’s left of American democracy.
My friend is a keen observer of the political scene, but I’m skeptical about his hypothesis, and for a number of reasons.
One, I often come down in favor of the rule of law, and certainly there has been no modern-day president, not even Nixon, who has so brazenly ignored laws or so consistently embraced corruption than one Donald Trump.
And two, if you believe in democracy, you can’t let a guy simply try to steal an election, while promoting violence in the process, without real-world consequences. And the fact that Trump, raging narcissist that he is, can’t stand losing doesn’t mean that getting trounced is a sufficient consequence. He has already lost once, and still engages in promoting the Big Lie and encouraging his supporters to PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST!!! if he is indicted, as if the January 6 assault on the Capitol weren’t violent protest enough.
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And three, there’s Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is seen today as Trump’s most prominent rival in the 2024 GOP primary race. There is some argument that DeSantis is a smarter, if less charismatic, version of Trump and therefore more dangerous.
Despite his degrees from both Yale and Harvard — where versions of so-called wokeness are generally 180 degrees opposite from DeSantis’ vision of Florida as the place where “woke goes to die” — DeSantis has made himself into America’s most prominent non-Trump culture warrior since at least Pat Buchanan.
In Florida, so recently seen as a swing state, DeSantis can apparently easily win re-election while fighting Disney, while promoting don’t-say-gay laws, while pushing for an anti-wokeness bill, while undermining the independence of college professors, while attempting to ban an AP high school course on African-American history, while, well, you know enough about the rest to get the idea.
Although “woke” is now the go-to epithet for most GOP politicians, DeSantis is the only one, as far I know, who has taken over the board of a state-supported university, the New College, while stacking the regents with those who will follow DeSantis’ proposition that the New College’s “mission has been, I think, more into the DEI, CRT, the gender ideology rather than what a liberal arts education should be.” If you’ve been paying any attention at all or just watching Fox News, you know that DEI and CRT refer to diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and, of course, critical race theory, respectively.
DeSantis doesn’t want to save the party from Trump, whom he can barely bring himself to criticize even as Trump suggests DeSantis, when a high school teacher, was a “groomer.” DeSantis wants GOP primary voters to think of him as the UberTrump, which — and I’m going out on a limb here — may not be what a majority of American voters are looking for. In fact, according to a recent USA Today/Ipsos poll, 59% of Americans consider “woke” to be a positive term. Going so hard on wokeness may (or very well may not) be a way to beat Trump in a primary, but in the political biz, we call this strategy winning the battle and losing the war.
And four, let’s go with Dave Williams, the newly elected chair of the Colorado Republican Party. We’ve seen Colorado Republicans humiliated in the last few elections, transforming Colorado from light blue in the pre-Trump era to dark blue, with Democrats holding every statewide office and huge, unprecedented majorities in both houses of the state legislature.
If all it took to be rid of Trump and Trumpism was to show that Trump is an albatross, then 6 of 7 candidates for Colorado party chair wouldn’t have been Trump-supporting election deniers. As for his qualifications, Williams has claimed, with absolutely no evidence, that 5,600 dead people voted in Colorado in the 2020 election.
Of course that’s the same Williams who declares himself a “wartime leader” — I guess we’ll see him on the front lines of the Trump PROTESTS!!! should they ever materialize — and the same Williams who went to court to try to get his name on the ballot as David “Let’s Go Brandon” Williams in his losing primary campaign against Rep. Doug Lamborn.
Yes, Williams is the far-right nut case who has somehow been charged with bringing back the Colorado GOP from the mostly dead and who, in one of his first moves as wartime leader, offered disgraced Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters a role in party leadership. Does that sound like a winning ticket to you? You think that would help Trump, who lost Colorado by 13 points in 2020, win in 2024?
Here’s my guess. Trump will be indicted and probably more than once. Maybe more than twice. And yet, he’ll still likely be nominated. And then we might see if Republicans are capable of understanding what they’ve done to themselves, not to mention to the rest of us.
Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
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