This week, former President Donald Trump was found liable for sexually abusing and defaming (but not for raping) E. Jean Carroll. The ruling is a precedent setting landmark for Trump, his multitude of accusers, and the country itself. But will a sexual abuse verdict hurt Trump’s chances at reclaiming the presidency?
Remarkably, the answer is probably not.
Trump’s supporters are unlikely to take the jury’s findings at face value
Several factors will likely mitigate the political damage that Trump is apt to suffer from the ruling. First, is the credibility of the ruling in the eyes of Trump’s followers; Trump’s rulers are not likely to believe the ruling itself holds much weight. Why? For starters, because E. Jean Carroll has been accusing Trump of rape for years and the jury found that Trump did not rape Carroll. So, Trump supporters, who may not be receptive to the nuance of the jury’s ruling, are likely to dismiss Carroll’s entire retelling of her encounter with Trump as hyperbole on account of Carroll going too far and accusing the former president of rape.
Relatedly, Trump supporters are still asking why Carroll was in a public dressing room with Trump in the first place? To Trump supporters, the entire ordeal is representative of the #MeToo movement, which many conservatives associate as an outgrowth of left wing cancel culture.
Also, Trump supporters are strongly of the impression that the jury, composed of residents from the ultra-blue Manhattan, was rigged against Trump; that Trump was never going to get a fair shake, and accordingly, the jury’s findings don’t mean very much.
The ruling against Trump plays into the notion that The Establishment is out to get Trump
Trump has spent years hammering the message that The Establishment is out to get him; it’s all one big witch-hunt and Trump is the witch.
Why does The Establishment want to get Trump so bad? Because, as Trump tells it, he’s a disruptor – who the unspoken-for masses sent to Washington to Drain the Swamp of self-interested politicians who have been neglecting the needs of everyday Americans for a generation; Trump is a target because he is a threat to the system.
I don’t buy the notion that Trump is the disruptor, he’s actually a pretty mainstream Republican who supported himself in office with a mainstream Republican cast.
But the outcast narrative has stuck. And frankly, Trump had some help in making the narrative stick. Help from who? How about Congress, who impeached Trump on nonsense claims of coordination with Putin. How about the media, who rant against Trump like no one before or since. And how about the legal system, guys like Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg who is charging Trump criminally, in a case that is transparently political.
It all adds up to bolster Trump’s claim that he has been unfairly targeted because, well, in many respects Trump has been unfairly targeted. You add E. Jean Carroll into the mix, who was voluntarily in a dressing room with Trump, and who’s rape claims a jury found to be false, and you’ve got a situation that, to Trump supporters, is going to feel like more of the same witch-hunt.
Ultimately, you’ve got to remember that Trump is the guy who said he could shoot a guy on Fifth Avenue without losing political support.
And you know what, Trump may have been on to something; he seems to be able to do whatever he wants without the slightest political consequence.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.