Would an indictment help Trump or hurt him politically?: Trump’s fans think criminal charges would help him politically, although there’s little reason to believe that’s true.
Does Donald Trump Have a Plan?
It’s not usually a good thing for someone’s political fortunes if they get charged with a crime. But with the possibility that the Manhattan District Attorney’s office could indict former President Donald Trump in the near future, it’s an active debate whether criminal charges are a good thing for the ex-president.
New York magazine looked at that question this week.
Trump’s supporters clearly believe that a criminal indictment will cause the ex-president’s supporters to rally around him. After all, there is no bar on someone under indictment from running for president, and in fact, Socialist candidate Eugene V. Debs did exactly that in 1920.
That analysis stated that “none of the cases that could lead to charges against Trump will shock or offend his supporters.”
Ed Kilgore’s analysis in New York added that while the indictment may very well help Trump in a Republican primary, it would probably hurt him in a general election.
“If, as appears quite likely, the 2024 Republican presidential nomination contest quickly devolves into a harsh, polarizing, own-the-libs competition between Trump and Florida governor Ron DeSantis, GOP primary voters’ tendency to reward candidates who take on liberal or “deep state” officialdom will only intensify.”
“This is how you got Trump,” and “[such and such action by Democrats] just guaranteed Trump’s re-election” were extremely frequent argumentative tropes during Trump’s presidency, although because Trump was not re-elected, that latter prediction was proved wrong, every single time.
Of course, there’s also the possibility that Trump could be distracted by lengthy criminal trials while trying to run for president or could even end up convicted or incarcerated during the campaign.
How to Beat Trump?
There’s also a counterintuitive argument that some of the right have made, including Marc. A Theissen in the Washington Post: That an indictment will help Trump and that Democrats want to elevate the former president because he’ll be easier to defeat.
“Indicting Trump will cause many Republicans, including some who have been open to a different nominee, to rally around the former president and help him win the GOP nomination. And that may be exactly what many Democrats want,” the former Bush speechwriter wrote. That’s because the Democrats have run against Trump the last two election cycles and think they can succeed at it.
Another Post columnist, Jennifer Rubin, argued the opposite.
“What is known: His core base of support has shrunk, and it’s logical to assume that GOP primary voters nervous about reelecting Trump would hardly be assuaged if he were indicted in this case or perhaps other, more serious ones,” Rubin wrote. “he opposite is at least as likely. And if he were convicted in a criminal case and — though charges brought now might not be resolved by November 2024 — I’ll go out on a limb to say there is simply no way Americans would elect someone with a criminal record as president.”
The FiveThirtyEight podcast also looked at that question, noting that the Manhattan case is likely the least serious of the four major criminal investigations of the former president. Trump is also facing investigations in Georgia, as well as at the federal level from a special counsel investigating both Trump’s Mar-a-Lago documents case and his role in efforts to overturn the 2020 election, including his role in the January 6 insurrection.
Also this week, Insider spoke to some lawyers, who concluded that the bombastic approach Trump has used in the media so far is unlikely to work in court, mostly because bashing the prosecutor isn’t something that usually works during a trial.
“There’s no way Trump begging to be perp-walked and handcuffed and demanding that his supporters’ protest is helping,” former prosecutor Mark Bederow told the publication. “Why he thinks that helps him, it’s beyond me.”
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Expertise and Experience:
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.