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Donald Trump’s Conviction Makes White House Return More Likely

Donald Trump is a strange politician. Whilst traditional politicians lose support for unpopular decisions Donald Trump’s legal saga - that goes far beyond an unpopular decision - where yesterday he was found guilty on all 34 counts of falsifying business records, seems to not have harmed his hopes of victory in November. 

Whilst many would think a conviction on multiple charges would harm Trump’s chances of making a comeback to the White House, I see it doing the opposite. Sadly, Trump and his campaign team have constructed an electoral algorithm that means that the more convictions he faces the more fervent his supporters become. Polling suggests this guilty conviction will likely result in no major change in the current polling, at least for Trump support.

I base my claim first on the messaging and long-constructed rhetoric of Trump and his supporters. Donald Trump takes his professed “anti-establishment” stance to the maximum. He regularly calls for the “draining of the swamp”, meaning the reduction in the influence of special interests in politics, a phrase used in U.S. politics since the 1980s. 

However, what Trump has done is extend these definitions and phrases, so now “draining the swamp” involves rooting out any perceived corruption, which is often no more than a slight against his campaign. Of course, he who uses a term defines a term, and Trump has very much taken advantage of this, characterising his entire opposition - or perhaps he would call them his enemies - as members of this metaphorical swamp found on Capitol Hill. 

However, whilst dictating the terms of definitions, Trump has carefully managed to create an image of someone under deep political persecution. Like every populist, he has sought a balancing act of strongman, with the underdog. Trump consistently attacked his judges in the trial as being conflicted, last night claiming one was backed by George Soros, a businessman and philanthropist many on Trump’s “side” believe to be involved in a campaign against the U.S.A.

In addition to all of this is the Republican reorganisation of the political split in America. Traditionally voters were split between Democrats and Republicans, and whilst these parties still dominate, where the split has been dramatically shifted as a result of the Trump presidency. I will use the example of the Republican primaries of this year to illustrate my point. 

One thing I noticed was that Trump consistently sought to attack his opposition, not individually, as members of the Republican Party, but did so on the grounds of them being establishment figures, like Joe Biden. 

This is even though Trump’s main opponent in the primaries, Nikki Haley, recently came out to back him, as a “defender of capitalism and freedom”, I suspect Trump will distance himself from any of this support. Or perhaps he doesn’t need to and can open his arms to Haley easily, believing diehard MAGA Republicans will just follow him anywhere. 

This apparent blind following is what I believe will result in Trump’s support remaining largely consistent despite conviction on 34 charges. Trump has cultivated for himself a highly dedicated and loyal supporter base that remains steadfast regardless of legal issues. His supporters often view him as a political outsider fighting against a corrupt establishment, which can enhance their support in the face of adversity. 

Trump has therefore realigned U.S. politics, at least in terms of what you could call the “American Right”, on an establishment distinction. He wishes to run not as the Republican nomination, but as a “man of the people” and a coalition builder. He views the Republican Party, whilst the power holders over any nomination, as merely another endorsement, similar to that of the National Rifle Association (NRA). By separating himself from the Republican Party, whilst remaining at its de facto head, Donald Trump has been able to effectively stare down many legal challenges, and even though these 34 charges have stood, I remain convinced that there is still a clear path to victory for the Trump campaign.

So, whilst there are legal consequences for Trump, to be decided only four days before he officially receives the Republican nomination, I remain steadfast in my belief that Trump does remain the favourite to win in November. He has reorganised American politics to suit himself and his campaign, creating a close band of supporters and organisers who remain in lockstep with him and his messages. 

Whilst Trump is no political mastermind, and I am no Trump supporter, let alone entertain his ideas and policies, I can acknowledge that somehow, he has been able to present a political field where perhaps even Democrats will agree with him. The real verdict, as he puts it, will be decided on November 5th. 

Image: Liam Enea

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