The chaos churns on: Trump claws for attention as pending indictment swirls | Opinion
He’s rude, crude, profane and insulting. He pins derogatory nicknames on his opponents, often ridiculing their physical characteristics. He accuses the media of corruption and “an enemy of the people.” He’s under ongoing Federal and state investigations into allegations of criminal behavior and stands in the shadow of an indictment.
And, as Americans prepare to elect a new president in 19 months, he’s the leading contender for the Republican nomination.
He, of course, is Donald J. Trump, president from 2017 to 2021, and he is precisely where he has always wanted to be — at the center of the national political discourse, the dominating presence in control of the narrative.
He holds no public office and his single term as president is his sole experience in elective politics and public service. Yet, stories are not written nor broadcast without Trump as a central figure. He can single-handedly drive news coverage like no other who’s come before him.
Whether it is the Sunday morning network news roundtables or the 24-hour-a-day cable news verbal jousting, Trump is the pivot point on which discussions and arguments turn.
His rage and demands on his social media posts ricochet through the media universe, amplified by repetition and reaction.
He can play the role of victim or victor with equal gusto and his force of nature persona has created a fervent band of followers dedicated to returning him to the White House and an equally fervent band of opposition dedicated to sending him to jail.
The prospect — some say certainty — of an indictment by the New York District Attorney for by allegedly directing payments to buy the silence of a woman with whom he had an extra marital affair and disguised the payments as business expenses. It shook the national political landscape but has failed to place even a small dent in standing.
He’s made clear that he’ll not be deterred, boldly declaring that his candidacy will continue even if he is criminally indicted.
The potential indictment and the actions of District Attorney Alvin Bragg have come under scrutiny as well as questions have been raised over whether the case against Trump is a winnable one, based as it is on the testimony of a disbarred and convicted attorney who was the intermediary between Trump and the woman involved delivering the hush money to her. In this instance, intermediary is a polite term for bagman.
Bragg has been criticized for seeking an indictment after Federal authorities and his immediate predecessor as District Attorney refused to pursue it. Bragg himself dropped the inquiry only to reinstate it after he was criticized.
Of the investigations of Trump, Bragg’s is the weakest and most vulnerable one. If, for instance, he chooses to drop the case at this point because of doubts about its strength or if it reaches trial and Trump is acquitted, the former president will be enormously empowered and his characterizations of all the Investigations as a witch hunt will gain some credibility.
While he’s lost the support of major donors as well as that of Republican groups like the Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity, his grip on his rank and file base remains as firm as ever.
His lead over potential challengers has been consistent in poll after poll — often reaching well into double digits — while in a handful of surveys he runs ahead of President Biden.
His challengers, along with a number of Republicans in Congress, have tip-toed around Trump, avoiding a confrontation while carefully couching their criticisms in language calling for a new generation of leadership to move on from the past.
Tip-toeing around Trump, though, is like tip toeing around the lion’s den at feeding time — he and the lion see it as an act of weakness and both will react accordingly.
As he declared in his 2016 primary contest, he’s asserted that he will not pledge support to the nominee and upped the ante dramatically with a threat to run as a third party candidate if denied the nomination, a prospect horrifying to the party establishment as certain to deliver the election to the Democratic candidate.
His closest rival — though as yet unannounced — is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis who has registered encouraging polling strength in the 20% and 30% range.
Hand wringing Republican leaders seem at this point to be unable or unwilling to confront Trump even though they are convinced the baggage he carries will be so great that the entire 2024 Republican ticket will suffer a landslide defeat.
They understand his base of support will continue to accept his insistence that massive fraud cost him re-election in 2020 and that he is innocent of allegations that he encouraged the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U. S. Capitol, but believe the broader national electorate will reject those claims.
President Joe Biden is, they believe, seriously vulnerable, beset by a public approval rating in the 40% range while inflation and economic turmoil have taken a major toll on the American people.
At the same time, they believe, the chaos and uproar which marked the Trump presidency, along with his post-presidency controversies, will negate the shortcomings of the Biden Administration, that Americans — when pressed — will opt for calm and concerned government rather than constant disorder and strife.
Trump’s style will not be altered, indictment or not. He cares not for the Republican establishment and its only available response is to care not for him.
Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Donald Trump indictment: Center of GOP attention