Quick Thoughts on the Politics of the Trump Indictment
Partisans gonna partisan.
I started to comment with a quick list on James Joyner’s post about recent polling and the Trump indictment, but it was becoming a version of the Spanish Inquisition sketch from Monty Python in my head (the listing part) and so here we go:
When it comes to evaluating the effects of the indictment (and whatever follows) on Trump’s nomination chances:
- Never forget that he won the nomination in 2016 with a plurality of GOP support. (That fact speaks to exactly what kinds of numbers we are really talking about here). Granted, the field will almost certainly not be as crowded this time around.
- Never forget the power of being of having been president in terms of his functional leadership of the party and where that places him in the minds of partisans. Never, ever forget this.
- The trend toward Trump and away from DeSantis in some polling predates the indictment.
- At the moment, polling suggests (as one that was reported in NPR this morning) that overwhelmingly Republicans see these charges as “politically motivated” and so are likely to rally around their team, especially right now when the stakes of rallying are limited (i.e., in the absence of actual voting or a decision of any substance being made).
- Keep in mind that pro-Trump media will be spinning all of this as bogus, and spinning it hard.
I think that as a general matter, we have to remember that people react to this news with partisan lenses firmly in place. Most Republicans are going to see this as an attack on their team (just like, I would note, most Democrats are going to view it as a huge win). Most people are simply not going to assess this matter dispassionately. There is no weighing of the evidence because no one has seen it yet.
I would also note that, at the moment at least, there is no new information of the type that would change people’s minds. The odds are that most Republican voters as a general matter (and especially MAGAist in the specific) have already baked into their opinions of Trump the entire Stormy Daniels business (or have been, and remain, in denial about the facts) are exceeding high (ditto Democrats, for that matter). As such, public opinion polling in the now is about protecting the team, not about a moment in which truly new information might change minds. (Indeed, if one thinks that some specific allegation is going to lead to a wave of changed minds, then I would suggest that one has perhaps not been paying attention).
Keep in mind, too, that in terms of the political language and imagery of US politics, a DA from NYC (indeed, in Manhattan) is going to be perceived as a biased actor by Republicans (not to mention that he is an elected Democrat). After all, even if credible charges are filed against Hunter Biden by, say, the AG of Texas, what is the likely immediate response from most Democrats going to be? (Spoiler: it won’t be a dispassionate one).
In other words:
- Don’t be surprised by partisans acting partisan.
- It takes new information for minds to change (and even then, see #1).
First, and foremost, thanks for not going all Spanish Inquisition on us. Although with His Orangeness I think more in terms of Benny Hill (or Dave Allen). A clear concise summary, IMO.
…at the moment at least, there is no new information of the type that would change people’s minds…
Change people’s minds? Oh, you sweet child of spring, Dr. T. But thanks for the reminder of the importance of hope.
ETA I don’t know why my quoting isn’t doing what I meant. Too much blood in my caffeine stream, I suspect. Cue the Spike Jones music!
Half of the red states in America are trying to criminalize abortion and trans people. So regarding reality, I don’t think most Democrats give a shit about Hunter Biden or anyone else if he actually committed a financial crime. Anyway, Hunter Biden was a target of investigation by the DOJ? Where was the anguish then? Not only that–the IRS went after him for back taxes–no Dems were screaming about that because he owed them.
And the NYC aspect–like, Trump did business in New York. There’s no conspiracy aspect going on here. This isn’t hard to figure out.
Why should they give a shit? He’s not running for office, and whatever he may have done has got basically nothing to do with his dad. The Republicans are attempting to tie it to Joe through a mix of guilt-by-association and baseless conspiracy theories. The only possibly legitimate angle to the issue is nepotism, but that’s so ubiquitous in modern politics–and practiced by the Trump family in spades–it hardly elicits more than a yawn from most people. That’s why it’s completely failed to land outside the hardcore Republican base.
Shit, Trump appointed his utterly unqualified daughter and son-in-law (who couldn’t get a security clearance to save his life, so Trump just granted him one) to high White House positions, which they then leveraged into a $2 billion gift from the Saudis for Kushner’s wealth fund despite the Saudis’ due diligence people saying “this moron hasn’t a fucking clue, whatever you do don’t give him $2 billion.”
But then he did help them sweep the murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi under the rug, so all’s good in love and war, right?
As far as Hunter Biden goes, what @Modulo Myself said. I may not know every Democrat, but I know many, and interact with more online, and the opinion I see is pretty much universal: if he’s suspected of crimes, investigate, and if evidence supports prosecution, prosecute. Hunter is not Joe, Hunter is a grown-ass man who is responsible for his own shit.
I take some comfort in the knowledge that I can be a Democratic partisan (as narrowly defined here by Dr. Taylor as 1) viewing Trump’s indictment as a huge win, and 2) not assessing the indictment dispassionately) without having to resort to denying any facts. Trump’s indictment can be “politically motivated” and still be the appropriately just response to criminal behavior.
To paraphrase Joseph Heller, you’re not being paranoid if they really are after you. Similarly, you don’t have to have Trump Derangement Syndrome to want Trump to be held legally accountable for his crimes. Yes, we don’t know the specific evidence leading to specific charges in the NY DA’s case, but there are sufficient documented facts in the public record to reach the conclusion that Trump is a crook.
If you’re a nihilist more interested in pissing off the libs than any actual policy, what could be better than a candidate who was indicted? Preferably in multiple jurisdictions.
People were straying away when DeSantis was finding new ways to be performatively cruel, but this will bring them back.
And I think that’s great news. If America is going to flirt with fascism, I’d rather they rally around a 76 year old, obese, lazy, term-limited man who is effortlessly cruel rather than a 44 year old try-hard. Both would try to consolidate power, disrupt elections and eliminate the term limit on the Presidency, but that last one is going to be harder to do in 4 years than 8.
And transferring power in fascist movements often doesn’t work out — there’s every chance that Trump would die in office and he’s not going to pick a VP that poses any threat to his power*, so the fascist movement will quickly split.
The chances of a second Trump presidency are higher, but the dangers of a DeSantis presidency are greater.
*: Imagine trying to find someone with less backbone than Mike Pence. It’s going to be a challenge.
I don’t think that’ll be a problem for Trump. Not in the modern Republican Party.
@gVOR08: I don’t think less backbone is requisite. A bigger fan will work just as well. MTG fills the bill there, for example.
@Just nutha ignint cracker:
That’s probably why she plans to parade around in front of the courthouse Tuesday afternoon. Her loyalty to Trump will be on full public display.
“… but that’s so ubiquitous in modern politics”
“…but that’s so ubiquitous every aspect of life since the beginning of time.”
Fixed it for you 🙂
Had the first indictment come from Georgia or Jack Smith the reaction from GOPer pols and rightwing media would be identical to what we’re seeing now: “Political persecution!” “Election interference!” “Unprecedented!” Jack Smith and Fani Willis would be accused of being George Soros’ tools. Trump truly could shoot someone on 5th Avenue without losing an iota of support.
This feels like just a bad dose of bothsides-ism.
While we don’t know what the outcome of the trial will be nor all the facts and evidence that contributed to the indictment, we do know a lot of facts about what transpired (at least with regards to the Stormy Daniels payment, though indications are the indictment covers much more than that). Based on those facts, whose response seems more correct: Democrats or Republicans? Because it seems pretty obvious to me that it is the former. Dismissing both sides’ responses as merely partisan ignores the reality that the facts support one response significantly over the other.
@Flat Earth Luddite:
I don’t think anyone was expecting that.
If you mean my post, then I would respectfully suggest you are misunderstanding it.
So, if the facts are already largely known, and the indictment at this point has not changed our actual knowledge of the facts, what else is there to explain behavior at this point in time?
Some people look at the facts and think he’s guilty. MUST BE PARTISAN!
Some people look at the facts and think he’s innocent. MUST BR PARTISAN!
Well, let’s look at the facts we have. What conclusion do they best support: his guilt or innocence?