THE NEW YORK TIMES – Why Donald Trump is it so powerful? How did he manage to dominate one of the two main parties of the United States and if elected president? Is it his hair? His waist? No, they are his narratives. Trump tells powerful stories that ring true for tens of millions of Americans.
The main one is that the United States is being ruined by corrupt elites. According to this narrative, there is an interconnected network of highly educated Americans who make up what Trumpists have come to call the Regime: Washington power actors, liberal media, large corporations, elite universities.
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These people are corrupt, condescending and immoral and are only looking out for themselves. They are after Trump because Trump is the person standing up to them. They’re not just after Trump; they are there to get you.
This narrative has a kernel of truth. The highly educated metropolitan elites became a kind of self-contained Brahmin class. But Trumpist propaganda turns what is an unfortunate social chasm into a poisonous conspiracy theory. It simply assumes, against much evidence, that society’s major institutions are inherently corrupt, malevolent and partisan and are acting in bad faith.
The theory simply assumes that the proof of people’s virtue is that they are being attacked by the Regime. Trump’s political career was kept afloat by elite contempt. The more elites despise him, the more Republicans love him. The key criterion for leadership in the Republican party today is having the right enemies.
In this situation, the FBI There’s a lot we don’t know about the search in Mar-a-Lago. But we know how the Republican Party reacted. The right side of my Twitter feed was ecstatic. Look! We are really persecuted! Essays began to appear with titles like “The regime wants its revenge.” Ron DeSantis tweeted: “The Mar-a-Lago attack” is another escalation in the arming of federal agencies against the regime’s political opponents. As always, the tone was apocalyptic. “This is the worst attack on this Republic in modern history,” exclaimed the presenter of the Fox NewsMark Levin.
The Trump investigation was seen purely as a heinous scheme by the Regime. At least for now, the search has rocked the Republican political landscape. Several weeks ago, about half of Republican voters were ready to leave Trump, according to a poll by the New York Times/Siena College. This week, the entire group seemed to support him.
Republican strategists advising potential Trump opponents in the primaries had reason to be dismayed. “It gave him a lifeline,” one such strategist told Politico. “Unbelievable… It put everyone in Trump’s boat again. It took the wind out of everyone’s sails.”
According to a survey by the Trafalgar Group/Convention of States Action83% of likely Republican voters said the FBI made them more motivated to vote in the 2022 election. More than 75% of likely Republican voters believed that Trump’s political enemies were behind the pursuit and not the impartial justice system, as well as 48% of likely general election voters.
In a normal society, when politicians are investigated or accused, it harms them politically. But that no longer applies to the Republican Party. The judicial system may be colliding with the political system in an unprecedented way.
What happens if a prosecutor charges Trump and he is convicted as he is traveling for the GOP nomination or perhaps even the presidency? What happens if the impartial justice system, using its criteria, decides that Trump should go to prison at the very moment the electoral system, using its criteria, decides that he should go to the White House?
I assume that under these circumstances Trump would be arrested and imprisoned. I also assume that we would see widespread political violence from enraged Trump voters who would conclude that the regime stole the country. In my opinion, this is the most likely path to complete democratic collapse.
In theory, Justice is blind, and obviously no person can be above the law. But, as Damon Linker wrote, “this is politics, not a graduate seminar in Kantian ethics.” We live in a specific real-world situation and we all have to take responsibility for the effects of our actions in the real world.
The United States needs to punish those who commit crimes. On the other hand, the United States needs to ensure that Trump does not get another term as president. What do we do if the first makes the second more likely? I have no idea how to get out of this potential conflict between our legal and political realities.
We are experiencing a crisis of legitimacy, during which distrust of established power is so virulent that the actions of elite actors tend to backfire, no matter how well-founded.
My impression is that the FBI had legitimate reasons for doing what they did. My guess is that he will find some damning documents that will do nothing to weaken support for Trump. I am also convinced that, at least for the time being, it has unwittingly improved Trump’s reelection chances. He unwittingly made life more difficult for potential Trump opponents in the Republican primaries and motivated his base.
It feels like we’re heading into some kind of storm and there’s no honorable way to alter our course.