Are You Not Entertained?
Some vague outlines are forming up for whatever fresh hell the 2024 presidential election has in store. There is no good reason for either Team Trump or Team Biden to assume that the nomination will be anyone but themselves, either way the matter will be more or less decided by Super Tuesday primaries on March 5.
Fortunately for the presumptive Democrat nominee, he’s got himself a relatively relaxed schedule. Trump is another matter: The Department of Justice had asked December trial in the case of Trump making off with classified documents to Mar-a-Lago. That would have had the ordeal over and done with before the first Republican primary in Iowa. If the Republican leadership had any horse sense at all, they’d have been rooting for an early trial date as well. For Trump’s part, his lawyers argued that he could only get a fair trial after the election, presumably so he could pardon himself. As it was, Judge Aileen Cannon has the trial date of May 20, 2024 – some two and a half months after the Republicans have crowned its nominee and five months before the election.
It may put the GOP in a nasty position, but Trump will use it as a campaign stunt – and that’s got to break some record of earned media somewhere. And to give credit where credit is due, if anyone can pull that stunt off, it’s the Donald. His supporters have already decided that if their man is found not guilty, it proves that he’s innocent and a guilty verdict proves the same, with a corrupt legal witch hunt thrown in to spice things up. Nor does a guilty verdict scratch him from eligibility for president – it may not even matter at all.
The 2024 Presidential election will be more affected by whether or not the trial is televised. Seeing the former president submit to a judge, forced to observe the stilted etiquette of the court room just may do the man in.
Trump tapped into the resentment of dismissed white people sick of feeling like left’s punching bag. He managed it largely by bullying the people his supporter’s felt bullied by. A great part of Trump’s allure was his ability to dominate the those dominating the conversation.
The man is great at a rally but terrible at debate – so he just talks over everyone. This is very hard to do before a judge who can to compel Trump to answer the question asked whether he wants to or not and (this is crucial) tell him to keep quiet. Unlike a CNN reporter, Judge Cannon has legal ways of controlling the courtroom: Contempt of court or, if push comes to shove, she’ll have less peaceable methods in her tool kit (she can order a defendant gagged!) He is not going to like being cross-examined.
The simple visual of Trump dominated, forced to actually answer uncomfortable question about his shifting, scattershot defenses as they wilt under cross-examination, opens up another problem.
Humans are funny creatures: we use narrative and stories to make sense of the world, and have gotten very good at ignoring evidence that doesn’t fit whatever it is that we want to believe. We’ve literally evolved to be pretty mellow about being lied to. Up to a point. Once we hit that spot where the incongruity can’t be comfortably ignored, we turn on the liar.
Remember that there was almost nothing in the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky circus that changed anyone’s mind – until Clinton was forced into a corner and admitted the affair. Then even the Democrats were sick of him.
If the proceedings are televised, or even footage gets leaked, it’s hard to how a Trump playing by the rules will do anything but break the spell. If he follows his trusty play book, it might be worse. Very likely the trial will be the end of this strange phenomenon: A Trump no longer in dominating the room is no Trump at all – and that was always his secret sauce. If he’s the GOP man when the penny drops on his supporters it is quite possibly the end of the party as an electoral force.
For reasons that ought to be self-evident, some contributors to the Circus Maximus Project wish to remain anonymous. And why not? it worked for the Federalist Papers.