No, Bad News For Trump Doesn't Make Him 'Stronger'

No, Bad News For Trump Doesn't Make Him 'Stronger'

Donald Trump in the New York City courthouse where he was convicted of 34 felony counts

Pool photo/REUTERS

When Donald Trump was found guilty on 34 felony counts, theLos Angeles Times had their response ready. “The guilty verdict only makes Donald Trump stronger,” read the headline to the May 30 article by Scott Jennings, a CNN commentator and special assistant to former President George W. Bush.

“It was jarring to hear my CNN colleague Jake Tapper say ‘guilty’ 34 straight times,” wrote Jennings. “And it was equally jarring to see text after text pop up on my phone from decidedly non-MAGA Republicans, but also not Never Trumpers, all sounding the same note: ‘I don’t like this man, and now I think I have to vote for him.’”

Some ideas get so embedded in people’s heads that even those who should know better start to accept them automatically. One of those ideas is that any time Trump is attacked—whether it is through impeachment, indictment, being held responsible in a civil trial, or being convicted in a criminal trial—it only makes him stronger.

That idea is bullshit. Or to put it in technical terms, colossal bullshit.

I do not think Jennings was getting “text after text” from people who didn’t previously support Trump telling him “now I think I have to vote for him” because he had become a convicted felon.

Again, I call bullshit.

It doesn’t take a lot of searching to find similar opinions to Jennings. One day later, Fox News contributor and CEO of the Harris Poll, Mark Penn, wrote that conviction would make “the right rally and coalesce even more around former President Donald Trump.”

Penn blew off overnight poll results showing that people seemed ready to abandon Trump over the conviction, which seems like a somewhat questionable position for a man who runs a polling organization. Instead, Penn bet that Trump would gain “more energized, angry voters.”

“This is ultimately what angers the voters—the idea that there is one system of justice for some and another for their choice if it’s Donald Trump,” Penn wrote.

Except that there’s one bit of calculus that Penn and every other Republican seems to be ignoring: the vote of an angry, energized, Trump supporter convinced that their man got a raw deal in court is worth exactly one vote. It’s hard to believe that any of those “angry” or “energized” by Trump’s verdict were not already Trump supporters going in. And all the anger and energy in the world won’t make their vote worth any more than the most disinterested voter who pulls the lever for President Joe Biden.

The idea that Penn and Jennings are selling is that narrative that Republicans, and Trump, want everyone to believe: It’s the “every time he gets knocked down again, he gets up stronger” thesis. And it is, what’s that word again? Bullshit.

Every time Trump is held accountable, every MAGA account on X seems to spew “Democrats just elected Trump!” Because, somehow, they seem to be convinced that everyone else is just as angry about a slight to Trump as the folks in their Let’s Go Brandon support group.

We’re not.

Three weeks after Trump’s conviction, the latest poll from The Hill/Ipsos shows that 21 percent of independent voters are less likely to support Trump following his conviction. Those same voters say that the guilty verdict is “very important” to how they will vote in November.

If Republicans genuinely believed that non-Trump supporters would be angered by the idea that a powerful billionaire might be held to account for a host of crimes—that Donald Trump would not be held to the rules that apply to anyone else—they were wrong.

If Republicans need more evidence, they might want to roll back to this Kathleen Parker opinion piece in The Washington Post after Trump’s first impeachment.

“I’ll be brief: President Trump will not be convicted by the U.S. Senate, and his positioning for reelection will have been strengthened by the process,” Parker wrote in 2019.

She went on to rail against the “Mother Superior Nancy Pelosi, the prim and pursed-lipped Adam Schiff and grumpy scold-meister Jerrold Nadler” while explaining that impeachment would only encourage people to “take their chances with a player like Trump.”

Trump supporters were right there with Parker. So was Trump. He told those attending his rally that he intended to use his impeachment against Democrats. Trump supporters cheered him on and reassured their candidate that they were sticking with him.

Spoiler alert: Other people did not go with the “player” because he got impeached. Trump lost decisively in 2020. Impeachment did not make him stronger. Neither did indictment. Neither did conviction.

Earlier this month, an ABC poll of independent voters found a majority wanted Trump to drop out of the race. In fact, 16 percent of Republicans felt that Trump should withdraw.

I’m guessing that none of those people were texting Jennings to tell him that they guessed they had to vote for Trump.

On Monday, the Trump-worshiping Washington Examiner moved to the next stanza in the "Trump Always Comes Back Stronger" theme song.

Republicans are warning Democrats that if former President Donald Trump’s sentence in his New York criminal case prevents him from attending the Republican National Committee convention, it will guarantee a red wave for the 2024 election.

They’re “warning” us, are they? I think there’s only one answer to this. And it’s just one word.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

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