Donald Trump has a way of making everyone around him crazy. He’s an extreme, gonzo figure. That, in turn, apparently evokes extremist and irresponsible behavior by his friends and foes alike. Struggling through 91 felony charges across four major trials, former President Trump has now had a partial gag order imposed upon him in the ongoing federal case against him for alleged election interference on January 6.
Trump is understandably enraged and those who hate the former president are equally ecstatic.
Yet, it is the insanity and extremism of Trump’s enemies that must be highlighted here. All Americans are entitled not only to a legal defense in the courtroom, but they are allowed to defend themselves publicly, thanks to our First Amendment which enshrines freedom of speech.
Of course, there is precedent for restrictions to be imposed, but those restrictions should always be carefully weighed in terms of the public good. And in the ongoing case of a former president running for reelection, being accused of basically plotting a coup, we are truly in uncharted legal waters. There was no real expectation for the presiding judge to rule one way or the other (and therefore caution would have been the better part of valor in this case).
Does it serve the public good to stop the former president from publicly defending himself in these ongoing trials?
It might make so many who hate the man feel better. But that’s precisely the kind of norms-busting behavior that Trump’s opponents have long accused the forty-fifth president of engaging in.
For those who oppose Trump and want nothing more than to see him unable to run—or win—the White House again, how can they not see how silencing him plays right into the former president’s powerful narrative that the system is being rigged against him?
Teflon Don Strikes Again
Trump has truly lived up to his nickname of “Teflon Don” in the wake of the 91 felony charges. After each indictment, Trump has been made more powerful and popular in the Republican Party’s ongoing presidential primary. More than that, though, Trump is starting to pull ahead of President Joe Biden in key demographics and in precisely the same swing states that were responsible for delivering him the first victory he enjoyed in 2016.
The former president is playing the victim card here. In Trump’s telling of the ongoing saga, he is being chased by the Faceless Men of the “Deep State” who are trying to destroy him because he represents the ordinary Americans who’ve been victimized and abandoned by the government and corporations that are meant to serve them. The recent decision by the judge presiding over the January 6 federal case in Washington, D.C., to impose a partial gag order only plays into Trump’s narrative and makes him harder to defeat.
Some have speculated that the Democrats want nothing more than to face off against Trump, who in the eyes of so many Americans, is damaged goods. Unlike in 2016, the Trump of today is older and has a record that can—and will—be hung around his political neck. Yet, Joe Biden is even weaker and has an even sadder record as president than does Trump. What’s more, Biden’s record is more current than Trump’s.
And for all those speculating that Biden wants badly to face Trump again in 2024, they fail to acknowledge that national polls mean nothing. Whether independents nationally or women voters overwhelmingly dislike Trump is irrelevant to the outcome of the presidential election. What matters is how that handful of swing states will decide things. Right now, it is not a deadlock for Biden.
The potent Trump-as-victim-and-savior narrative that the forty-fifth president has crafted for himself is strangely powerful.
The recent court ruling forcing Trump to stop publicly defending himself lest it harm the prosecution’s chances will only empower Trump politically. What’s more, it will engender greater levels of distrust and antipathy from voters toward the system. Everyone knows that such gag orders are extreme. Trump trash-talking former advisers of his, such as Pence and Milley, is not grounds for stymying his free speech rights—especially in the midst of a contentious political campaign as well as during a serious legal defense.
Trump’s Enemies Jump the Shark (Again)
Yet again, Trump’s enemies have jumped the shark.
Their insane and extreme actions are ensuring that Trump has a much greater chance of winning in 2024 than anything that Trump could have done himself. They’d have been better off by handling Trump with a lighter touch. Let him have all the airtime he needs to make a jerk of himself; let people grow tired of the Trump show, as they did during his weeks of marathon, daily press conferences during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead, Trump’s enemies want to silence him. In so doing, they empower him by validating his claims that he’s public enemy number one. Trump should be thanking God for his foes because they’ve given his shambolic reelection bid far greater life than he could have ever done on his own.
A 19FortyFive Senior Editor and an energy analyst at the The-Pipeline, Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as at 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 (Encounter Books), and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy (July 23). Weichert occasionally serves as a Subject Matter Expert for various organizations, including the Department of Defense.