Why Trump's Indictment is Very Bad News for the GOP
The Big Lie was a problem for Republicans in 2022, these charges ensure that it will be a big part of 2024
We’ve been down this path before.
Donald Trump is indicted for a crime that would end another person’s political career and, not only does Trump stay in the race, he gains in the polls. I would like to believe that an indictment stemming from a violent effort to overturn an election would be disqualifying for the vast majority of Americans, but alas, that is unlikely to be the case. Even after reports that Trump was likely to be indicted, the latest New York Times/Sienna poll found that Trump was beating DeSantis by a whopping 37-point margin.
None of this should be a surprise.
After all these years, two impeachments, three indictments, and one insurrection, Trump’s political standing operates within a narrow band. His approval can go up or down based on the news, but it always reverts back to the mean. This chart from Gallup demonstrates the stability of Trump’s numbers:
Those peaks in early 2020 are related to a brief surge at the beginning of the pandemic. The steep, anomalous dip in 2021 is the aftermath of January 6th. Before long, Trump’s approval returned to the low 40s, where it has largely remained ever since.
These numbers indicate it is highly unlikely that the third indictment will be the charm. Republican voters who stuck with Trump through thick and thin will not walk away now. That doesn’t mean the third indictment is a political non-event. With the cohort of voters who disapprove of both Biden and Trump, every subsequent indictment makes it more challenging for those voters to cast their ballot for Trump. It’s unprecedented, but the avalanche of news and images of Trump as he navigates multiple criminal trials certainly won’t help his campaign.
In addition to Trump, Special Counsel Jack’s Smith indictment names six unindicted co-conspirators. Reportedly, that group includes Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Jeffrey Clark, and Sidney Powell. However, morally and politically, the entire Republican Party is a co-conspirator in the effort to overturn the election. Even if Trump skates by again politically, the rest of his party could pay a steep price next November.
This One is Different
The Republican Party’s response to Trump’s most recent indictment mimics the previous two. They rush to the microphones to scream about the “weaponization” of government and the “criminalization” of political differences and spin fantastical MAGA fanfiction tales about the Biden Crime Family. It’s all performative gaslighting to appease Trump and his fans. For the first two indictments, the Republican response was easier because they had no involvement in the crimes. The Alvin Bragg indictment in Manhattan was for paying hush money to cover up an extramarital affair in 2016, a crime emanating from personal conduct that happened before Trump entered the White House. Trump’s second indictment was for his handling of classified documents as well as his efforts to obstruct the investigation. Sure, they look absurd defending Trump after making Hillary Clinton’s document retention policy the central issue of the 2016 election. However, this is a crime that Trump committed with the aid of his political party.
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