Donald Trump Is a Convicted Criminal. Will He Still Be President?

For the first time in history, a former president and current presidential candidate has been convicted of a felony. But will he still win the election?

How very 2024: Donald Trump shatters all precedents, breaks all boundaries for what a president can do or say, and yet here we are wondering whether it will even matter.

The good news is that according to every survey that’s been done this year, it will.

First, a quick refresher: In July 2006, Donald Trump met adult film actress and director Stormy Daniels (real name: Stephanie Clifford) at a golf tournament. Trump, who was newly married to his wife Melania, invited Daniels to dinner, then had sex with her in his hotel suite.

It was a quickie, according to Daniels’ testimony; she wasn’t physically or verbally threatened, but she also felt that she couldn’t really say no to such a powerful man. Still, Daniels kept the story to herself, and went on with her life.

Flash forward 10 years, and Trump is running for president. Daniels begins to shop her story around — whether for money or justice — but gets little interest. But then came the leak of the infamous 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape, in which Trump is heard bragging that if you’re famous, you can just “grab [women] by the pussy.” Suddenly, the Stormy Daniels affair is a real problem for Trump’s 2016 campaign.

And so Trump dispatched his fixer, Michael Cohen, to buy her silence — ultimately agreeing to pay her $130,000. To conceal the deal, the expense was listed as a “legal expense,” and the deal was done in a convoluted way. Trump lied, in other words, to hide his affair and the hush-money payment to protect his presidential bid.

On Thursday, he was found guilty of doing that — 34 counts of “falsifying business records,” to be precise. This has never happened before in American history.

Will it matter? So far, the answer appears to be yes.

In an April survey from CNN, 24 percent of Trump supporters said they “might reconsider” their support for him if he was convicted of a crime. And in a May poll by Emerson College, 25 percent percent of voters said that a guilty verdict in New York would make them less likely to vote for Trump. 

In three recent polls, Trump went from leading by 1 percentage point when people were asked simply, “who will you vote for,” to trailing by 6 points when they were asked, “who will you vote for, if Trump is convicted.”

And let’s remember that, at the moment, this is an extremely close election. Journalists find this exasperating, because we’re focused on Trump’s terrifying promises — here’s a list of them — to begin mass deportations, use the Justice Department to go after political opponents, immediately reverse all of President Joe Biden’s actions on climate change, replace civil servants with political lackeys, do away with any restraint on Israel’s war in Gaza, ban abortion, and so on.

But most people are focused on what they’re usually focused on: the economy. And for whatever reason, they think Trump will do a better job with it than Biden.

That dynamic may have changed today. It’s one thing for liberals to accuse Trump of being an anti-democratic criminal — it’s quite another for a jury of 12 regular people to convict him. And while paying off a porn star isn’t of the same seriousness as, you know, inciting a riot in which people stormed the capitol and assaulted cops, it’s a story that regular people can easily understand.

He cheated on his wife, f—ked a porn star, paid her off to keep her quiet, and lied to the government and the American people about it so he could win the 2016 election. That is not going to play well on Main Street.

In a way, this case  is actually more compelling than the Jan. 6 cases, as a matter of electoral politics. Even if you think Trump might tackle inflation better than Biden (don’t get me started on how false that actually is), the guy just got convicted of a tawdry, sleazy crime. And now he wants to be president? How are you going to explain that to your kids?

Now, don’t get too excited — Trump will probably not go to jail. First, he’s going to appeal this conviction immediately. Second, while the felonies he’s committed could theoretically get him jail time, that would be highly unusual in a case like this. Ultimately, it’s a financial crime: falsifying business records. For someone with no prior convictions, jail time in this kind of case would be excessive.

The conviction is also not going to persuade any of Trump’s true believers. Much of the MAGA movement is made up of Christian Nationalist extremists, and the rest are inhabiting a media bubble in which all of this was a frame job, and Trump is being politically persecuted. Your racist uncle who rants about Trump on Facebook… he’s not changing his mind.

But your racist uncle isn’t going to decide the election. The MAGA faithful were already highly motivated to turn out on election day; their support is baked in. The people this verdict might affect are the centrists: moderates who might vote for Trump for economic or other reasons, but who don’t believe the far-right’s conspiracy theories that this is all some kind of set-up. 

Trending

These are people who were holding their nose to vote for Trump, either for the economy or because they have conservative social or political views and dread four more years of Biden.

And to them, this conviction will stink. No matter how much you’re holding your nose, the stench of Trump still gets through. That’s why this verdict matters — because for the people still sitting on the fence, the whole thing reeks.


Source link

Tags: No tags

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *