Trump’s Indictment and Potential Future Legal Woes Should Be Enough For a GOP-Trump Divorce
Legal experts say former President Donald Trump’s trial date over hush money allegedly paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels in 2016 could begin by January 2024 (if prosecutors get their way) or in spring 2024 (if Trump’s legal team gets what they want).
Trump has been charged by the Manhattan criminal court with 34 felony counts alleging that Trump falsified business records to conceal damaging information from 2016 election voters.
Trump, who is running in the 2024 presidential election, has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
While it’s too early to forecast on the actual case, we’re already witnessing Trump’s strategy – to inextricably tie his legal case to his political election gameplan.
In the pre-Trump political landscape, it’s safe to say that a pending felony charge of a presidential candidate would be a self-disqualifier. Such a candidate would step aside, deal with legal charges and unselfishly abandon his run for office to keep the elections process clean and with integrity. But in Trump world, it was expected that Trump not only remain a presidential candidate, but basically use his legal woes to raise money and to weaponize them as signs of judicial abuse.
What is Trump’s platform for 2024? What are his plans for the country?
Don’t count on any of these to be central to his campaign. Trump, like it was during his presidency when facing impeachments, will spend all his energy playing the victim in a fantastical saga of witch hunters (Democrats) in hot pursuit of persecuting him.
This Trump narrative is old and exhausting, but he is not entirely to blame as his base and the media fixate, mesmerize over and feed into spectacle above policy, and drama above details.
Political ramifications of Trump indictment
Prior to the indictment, Trump appeared to have been the leading GOP candidate but there was still wiggle room left open for a possible Ron DeSantis challenge to threaten Trump’s bid.
Also prior to the indictment, Trump’s rallies were meek, unlike the large crowds in 2016. GOP whale donors were on pause to support Trump. Fox News and other conservative media and pundits have been critical of Trump, saying he was responsible for the GOP’s poor election turnouts in 2020 and 2022. A few Republican politicians were also noncommittal to Trump as standard bearer of the party.
Since the indictment, the tide has shifted in Trump’s favor. We see a reinvigorated Trump base. Conservative media and a majority of Republican politicians are now falling in line to back Trump, once again. Some Republicans who’ve had critical words for Trump have not jumped fully on board to support Trump’s campaign but are critical of the case brought against him. Among them, Republicans Mike Pence (thought to be a possible challenger to Trump), Mitt Romney (vociferous critic of Trump), and even DeSantis.
The indictment, while necessary if laws have been broken (to be determined in trial), ultimately empowered Trump’s candidacy, at least for now.
GOP squandering opportunity
Clearly the glimmer of hope that some moderate Republicans had in electing another candidate in the primary — given Trump’s poor election performance – is fast fading.
And a political divorce, while readily forthcoming and common for voters to do with any other candidate besides Trump – this Trump divorce with his base is proving to be much harder than pundits predicted following the 2022 election fallout.
Independent of Trump, a worst-case scenario for the GOP is if in fact moderate Republicanism is all but dead wherein it’s no longer viable for a moderate Republican to win a national presidential primary. Republicans need independents to win the presidency and Republicans’ best chances at persuading independents to vote for them in the General is by having a moderate standard bearer.
It’s not helping to rebuild traditional moderate Republicanism when so-called moderate Republican alternatives to Trump, Nikki Haley and DeSantis are moving further right. Instead of focusing on fiscal conservatism (hallmarks of the Reagan-Bush years), both have been catering to Trump’s hardline base by emphasizing cultural wars issues like banning books, banning critical race theory instruction, promoting the merger of state and religion by way of Christian nationalism, supporting the arming of teachers with guns, making voting more difficult, promoting election fraud lies, among other trademarks of the far right.
These are all unimportant at the very least and downright damaging at most in the eyes of independents. And these cultural wars nonsense will not steer independents to vote Republican.
Democrats’ response to Trump’s indictment
Clearly Democrats from the White House to Congress have coordinated their silence in response to the Trump indictment. It’s a smart political move to let the judicial process play out and not assume guilt before a verdict.
Looming potential violence
If Trump does end up being the Republican presidential candidate, some are already concerned that Trump would not accept defeat peacefully in the General Election should the result show him losing. Already, Trump has been calling for protests over his indictment as he had done leading up to Jan. 6. He warned of potential “death and destruction” before the indictment was announced.
And on Easter Sunday of all days, Trump on Truth Social wrote “World War III,” after attacking people he believes “dream endlessly of destroying our country,” including “weak & pathetic Rinos” and “radical left Democrats, Socialists Marxists, & Communists.”
It’s fortunate that no one has acted on these obvious whistles threatening violence – at least for now.
GOP still has time for a Trump divorce
Guilty or not on this indictment or other potential future cases that could be brought forward, it’s high time that the GOP move pass Trump and put forth another candidate. Trump is undeserving of a second presidency. There’s no future in Trump for the Republican party. This indictment of Trump should be the strongest signal to the GOP that divorcing Trump is best for their party.