He might get a short-term boost, sure. The criminal case New York prosecutors finally unveiled against former President Donald Trump is underwhelming, and Trump might even win. The charges fuel Trump’s refrain that he’s a victim of political persecution, for those who want to align themselves with a self-described victim.
As a political force, however, Trump is the most. His mounting troubles probably mean he can’t win a general election under normal circumstances, and the candidates he has endorsed during the last two years generally have a losing record. There’s also worse to come for Trump, which he acknowledged himself. His arrangement on criminal charges in New York City on April 4 may actually be the high point for Trump in the 2024 election cycle. If he’s the Republican presidential nominee in 2024, Democrats will win.
The Trump speech in Florida on April 4, after he returned home from being arraigned in New York, reveals everything wrong with Trump’s 2024 presidential candidacy and his woeful political future. What’s very notable is what Trump didn’t say. While defending himself and making the case for his 2024 candidacy, Trump didn’t propose any new actions or policies to improve the country, whether it’s tackling inflation, countering China or winning in Ukraine. Trump always claims things would be better if he were in charge, and makes overwrought claims about the peace and prosperity he delivered as president. But he doesn’t have a vision for the future that involves anybody other than himself.
As for what Trump did say, it was cringeworthy, classless, and telling. Trump, of course, declared his innocence, which he has a right to do. Then he attacked everybody who has leveled charges against him, or might in the future. Here’s a sampling:
On Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who filed the New York criminal charges: “He should be prosecuted, or at a minimum, he should resign.”
On the judge overseeing the New York case: “He’s a Trump-hating judge with a Trump-hating wife and family.”
On federal prosecutor Jack Smith, who’s looking into possible obstruction of justice with regard to Trump’s handling of classified documents after he left the White House: “a radical left lunatic.”
On Fulton County, Ga. District attorney Fani Willis, who may prosecute Trump for voter fraud: a “local racist district attorney.”
On New York State attorney general Letitia James, who’s pursuing a civil fraud case against Trump and his business: “another racist in reverse.”
Right. Everybody knows Trump’s so-called base loves his combativeness, even when he’s wrong. They’ll fawn over him for taking on every prosecutor in the country, if that’s what it comes to.
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But think about what else is going on. First, by attacking Smith and Willis, Trump is calling out prosecutors who haven’t even filed charges against him, yet. In politics, sometimes it makes sense to mount a pre-emptive attack on your foes to control the narrative and the flow of information. But in criminal matters? not exactly.
Trump is taunting prosecutors who can ask judges to muzzle him on the grounds he’s interfering with the legal process. How far is Trump willing to go? If a judge issues a gag order, will he violate it and risk fines or going to jail? Does he think this will roll off his back as just more political persecution?
It won’t. One thing that’s happening in the Republican party is a cleavage of some anti-Trumpers, such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, away from the former president. Trump still holds sway over the ultraconservatives, but the more he bucks mainstream legal efforts, the bigger the opening he provides for other Republicans to dump him.
The Georgia voter-fraud cause and the federal obstruction case may be more serious, more convincing, and more damaging to Trump than the Manhattan charges. If charges emerge from either, more Republicans will back away from Trump. There’s also an upcoming civil case involving rape and defamation allegations against Trump by the writer E. Jean Carroll. Trump could win, but if he loses, it will implicitly brand him as a rapist. Calling all Republicans who want to help him defend that.
If getting prosecuted briefly boosts Trump, it damages the GOP because the party’s Trump/anti-Trump civil war will only intensify. The obvious winners are President Joe Biden and his fellow Democrats. Assuming Biden runs again, his age is a glaring liability. But Biden won as the anti-Trump in 2020 and he could do it again in 2024. And if Trump loses to somebody else in the GOP primary, Trump’s vindictiveness could fatally wound the GOP nominee in the general election, again helping Biden.
It may be too early to start handicapping the 2024 race, but a Biden win would obviously mean a continuation of progressive policies on green energy, social welfare, and other hot issues. Biden would probably try again to raise taxes on businesses and the wealthy, if Democrats won back control of the House and kept the Senate. And as a second term president, he might be freer to pursue solutions to thorny issues such as illegal immigration and the looming insolvency of Social Security and Medicare. Before we get there, the Trump implosion is going to mimic a skyscraper going down in a detonation that might be foreseeable, but won’t be controlled.
Rick Newman is a senior columnist for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @rickjnewman
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