It’s Trump’s World Now

Donald Trump is politically strong and gaining strength

6 mins read
Donald Trump (File Photo)

As predicted, Donald Trump secured the Republican nomination, swatting away his last remaining rivals, Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, like bothersome gnats. He did this with considerable ease, skipping the debates, and running as an incumbent, setting up a Trump-Biden rematch that the entire country is said to be dreading, although for very different reasons.

On the one hand, Democrats are mortally terrified that Joe Biden is too old and too politically weak to prevail once again, a gnawing fear that is only growing amid exceedingly grim polling showing Trump beating Biden in a general election rematch. Although Biden gave a forceful showing at last night’s State of the Union, the president’s frailty at the age of 81 remains a serious vulnerability for Democrats, despite Trump’s similarly advanced age, at 77. Israel’s brutal war in Gaza, a long and unresolved war in Ukraine, and simmering frustration with inflation and the economy, despite a soaring stock market, are also weighing Biden down significantly. 

On the other hand, Republicans are now going to have to rationalize supporting an autocratic criminal, a man they know is a singular menace to our constitutional democracy, and the country more generally. Likewise, Republicans will have to figure out how to justify nominating someone who lost the last three national elections, is currently charged with 91 felonies in numerous jurisdictions, and who was recently ordered to pay more than half a billion dollars in civil penaltiesafter being found liable for defamation in a rape case, and guilty of pervasive business fraud.

Healthy, sane political parties don’t nominate indicted losers. Obviously, the modern Republican Party is neither healthy nor sane. 

In short, the moment is unprecedented. No American president has ever even been indicted, to say nothing of the mountain of criminal charges and stiff civil liabilities facing Trump. His first criminal trial is scheduled to begin later this month in Manhattan, on charges of paying hush money to a pornstar prior to the 2016 election. Two different sets of federal indictments, for his attempt to overturn the 2020 election and his mishandling of classified documents, are pending trial, in addition to RICO charges in the state of Georgia.

The idea that this is the person Republicans have nominated is nearly as extraordinary as the fact that he looks like he could actually win the election. It’s incredible, but many American voters seem mostly unmoved by the idea that Donald Trump is a grave threat to our democratic system, despite all available evidence showing exactly that. 

Cowardice & venality

The vast majority of elected Republicans have proven over and over again that they have vanishingly few compunctions about sacrificing their principles in the pursuit of political power, whatever the cost to the nation, and their embrace of Trump now crystallizes that process. The Republican Party of Reagan/Bush is dead and buried; the party of Trump is alive and well, heavily indoctrinated and violently dedicated to achieving power at any and all costs.

For the rest of us, Trump’s third nomination amounts to a terrifying confirmation that America is exactly eight months away from becoming a right-wing dictatorship, or potentially seeing a second civil war. Republican voters have just nominated a man who doesn’t accept the results of elections; it’s impossible to predict what might happen if he loses, and rejects the results again, as is his wont. More political violence could spiral into war, consuming what remains of our fragile constitutional Republic. 

Elected Republicans know all this. They just don’t care.

At this point, Republican cowardice regarding their disastrous standard bearer is a given, utterly expected and complete, though the GOP’s recent round of self-abasement still made my skin crawl. I’ll never get used to seeing these supposedly formidable politicians snap their own necks on behalf of a con artist like Donald Trump.

First, Nikki Haley dropped out of the race, following her campaign’s dismal performance on Super Tuesday. She lost every single state except Vermont and Washington D.C., including her home state of South Carolina in a previous round of voting, thereby underscoring her total impotence in the face of the GOP’s blood red base of MAGA voters. Honestly, it was hard to expect a political party defined by seething nativism, rank misogyny, and outright racism to nominate a female Indian immigrant in the first place, whatever her strengths.

But aside from that obvious problem, Haley never quite made her case against Trump all that compelling. She ran a standard conservative campaign, a throwback to the days when policy ideas actually mattered in the GOP, back before the Republican Party descended into cultish worship of a single leader and his lies. Worse, Haley never attacked Trump with even a fraction of the intensity the moment demands, opting mostly for soft-balls that never really seemed to land, or amount to anything.

She was mostly gentle, refusing to dig her nails into Trump’s glaring weaknesses, likely in the expectation that she would ultimately lose, and that if she wanted a career in Republican politics in the future, she’d be wise to pull her punches, which is exactly what she did. In her speech bowing out, she said that “it is now up to Donald Trump to earn the votes of those in our party and beyond it who did not support him, and I hope he does that.” 

“This is now his time for choosing.” Choosing what, exactly? It was a bizarre and cowardly speech, frankly, totally disconnected from any sense of the political moment in which we find ourselves, and the danger represented by her party’s nominee, who she knows is totally unfit for office.

Now, she’s gone, and though she momentarily withheld her endorsement from Trump, Haley can be expected to deliver on that eventually, given her long history of elastic flexibility regarding the former president. One merely has to glance at some other wobbly Trump detractors in the GOP to predict her likely path going forward. New Hampshire’s Gov. Chris Sununu recently offered up his grudging support for Trump, after criticizing Trump’s “extremism” and predicting his nomination would lead to brutal losses up and down the Republican ticket in 2024. 

Predictably, Mitch McConnell finally delivered his endorsement to Trump, for what it’s worth, in a political party that has been utterly devoured by the former president, left totally unrecognizable. Indeed, the longtime Senate Republican leader announced his retirement, while simultaneously delivering his unenthusiastic endorsement of Trump, in a fitting epilogue to his painful political career. 

Of course, Mitch McConnell has long been known to loathe Donald Trump personally and viscerally, after their already-strained relationship fell apart in the aftermath of the 2020 election. Trump lobbed racist insults at his wife, and lacerated him relentlessly, calling him a “broken old crow.” The two men haven’t spoken in years, but there have been intense behind-the-scenes maneuverings to secure McConnell’s endorsement, and obviously, the mutual hatred didn’t prevent Trump from squeezing the last ounce of blood out of a dessicated McConnell on his way out the door. 

It was an apt symbol for the Republican Party.

Mitch McConnell publicly blamed Trump for inciting the insurrection on January 6 in a scalding speech three years ago, though he quickly fell back from any further opposition. Instead, he shepherded the GOP’s acquittal through the Senate at Trump’s second impeachment, enabling the former president to escape accountability, and run for office yet again. At the time, McConnell suggested that the criminal courts were the proper venue for holding Trump accountable. It was a masterclass in hypocrisy and opportunistic nihilism, Mitch McConnell’s twin political superpowers. 

Thus, it wasn’t terribly surprising that he endorsed the man he said was “morally and practically responsible” for January 6, leaving American democracy, his wife, and the Republican Party all hanging out to dry.

SCOTUS Pocus

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court ruled against Colorado’s effort to keep Trump off the ballot, ignoring the 14th Amendment’s prohibition against insurrectionist oath breakers running for office. They ruled unanimously on the same day that still more information surfaced about his legal team’s attempt to overturn his 2020 defeat to Joe Biden, when Trump’s lawyers arranged a slate of false electors, among many other things. Of course, that effort culminated in the bloody assault on the American Capitol, in full view of the American people, though the campaign to convince American voters that he won the 2020 election never really ended. 

Rather, it’s led us here, with Trump utterly dominating a Republican Party he has recast in his sordid image, and with a large majority of Republican voters bound to him, and captivated by his lies. 

It was always too much to expect this Supreme Court to save us from Donald Trump, based on the simple math of the conservative supermajority created by Trump and McConnell, their enduring legacy regardless of what happens in 2024. For better or worse, Trump’s political future is going to end up before the American people, who will decide whether or not to murder their own democracy. At this moment, incredibly, it seems clear they just might do exactly that.

Alexander Ziperovich

Alexander Ziperovich is a Political analyst and Opinion columnist. He writes about politics, justice, foreign affairs, and culture, dissecting the larger historical and social context behind important events.

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