Did the Democrats Just Make Trump the GOP Nominee? In an historic twist, former President Donald J. Trump has been indicted for purported hush money payments to the pornographic actress, Stormy Daniels, with whom Trump is believed to have had an extramarital affair while on a golf trip at Lake Tahoe in 2006. Trump has become a history-making machine. What exactly happens next?
Donald Trump Breaks All the Records, Good and Bad
He was the first presidential candidate to announce by denigrating an entire race of people, the first presidential candidate—in a very long time—to sweep aside the entrenched political dynasties from both parties, the first American president to have been (falsely) accused of being a Russian spy; the first commander-in-chief to have been impeached not once, but twice, and the first outgoing president to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power.
Now, Trump becomes the first former president (and current presidential candidate) to be indicted. In fact, given that there are two other grand jury investigations into Trump in which the charges are far more serious, the Manhattan DA grand jury indictment over hush money payments to Stormy Daniels could simply be the first chip in a much larger legal dam that is about break over the next several months.
Trump Plays Well into GOP Fears
Yet, if the Democrats (and Trump’s Republican primary opponents) think that this is going to be the thing that stops Trump’s reelection bid, they are dead wrong. A sense of persecution and grievance dominates the Republican Party’s base, specifically over the mostly unfair and over-the-top mistreatment that Trump was made to endure during his presidency. Generally, though, Republican voters feel aggrieved over (again, not necessarily inaccurate) perceptions of impropriety and double standards that they are being made to endure because of their beliefs when the Democrats are not held to those same standards.
These concerns of being mistreated by the Left and their allies in elite media served Trump well by ensuring that he had a solid base of political support. It might be that the number of voters supporting him are not enough to put him over the edge in an election against Joe Biden. But it gives Trump leverage, in ways that other bent politicians would not enjoy. Especially during a contentious election year in which he already enjoys the inherent advantages that come with being an incumbent.
Whereas many in the Republican Party were hoping that Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis might be the man to displace Trump as the future of the party (he is), the indictment is going to suck all the air out of the governor’s supposedly pending campaign announcement at the end of the Florida Legislative session this summer. Republican voters are fed up.
To compound matters for DeSantis’ more cautious potential campaign for president, Alan Dershowitz and other legal experts have concluded that the case will likely be dropped because it is beyond the statute of limitations. Even if Donald Trump were to be found guilty, he is not going to get the maximum sentence of four years. Just like the Robert Mueller special investigation of claims that Trump was colluding with Russian intelligence to rig the 2016 election against Hillary Clinton, as well as his two impeachment proceedings, and the January 6 Committee investigation, if Trump walks away unscathed legally from the Stormy Daniels indictment, then he will have solidified his support among the GOP base.
It cannot be stressed enough that the Republican base is irate and looking to “own the Libs” above all else. No amount of nuance or policy discussion will secure their vote. Everything in the GOP today is visceral. While I believe that there is a sizable chunk of the GOP that very badly yearns for a new page in our politics, the Trump factor complicates this desire. They also want to sock the Left in their face—and the repeated prosecutions of Trump that end in him getting off only reinforces the Trumpian narrative that the whole system is rigged against not just his candidacy but his voters.
As Trump has said ad nauseum, he is the champion of the downtrodden and abandoned.
Just look at what occurred last week when Trump leaked that Alvin Bragg was about to indict him for the Stormy Daniels fiasco. Trump’s polling numbers surged nationally whereas Ron DeSantis, who has yet to announce, dipped significantly. At the same time, though, DeSantis polled extremely well—even better than Trump in the case of Iowa—in key early battleground states.
Trump Proves the Best Press is Any Free Press
So, even with Trump sucking up all the media oxygen with these indictments and other controversies, he is still facing stiff competition from DeSantis (whose challenge to Trump will only harden if, and when, the governor officially announces).
Until DeSantis does officially declare, though, Trump is getting free press (which, as Trump proved throughout his long career as a celebrity, is the best kind of press to get). Trump is driving the narrative; he can’t run away from the indictment. But he can turn it to his favor—and he is. The longer that DeSantis waits, the harder it will prove for him to wrestle away some of the support and sympathy that Trump is solidifying from his persecution complex.
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It is probable that, at this rate, the Democrats have just given Trump the GOP nomination. This might just be their great hope: they think that they can more easily beat a compromised Donald Trump in 2024 than a young and vigorous Ron DeSantis. Time will only tell whether the indictment hurts or helps Trump.
Right now, though, Trump is winning. And the indictments are only making him stronger.
19FortyFive Senior Editor, Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who serves as a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive.com. Weichert is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as at American Greatness and the Asia Times. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers), Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life (May 16), and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy (July 23). Weichert can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.