Voices: Donald Trump is in big trouble – but he’s not alone

·4-min read
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Waco Regional Airport on March 25, 2023 in Waco, Texa (Getty Images)
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Waco Regional Airport on March 25, 2023 in Waco, Texa (Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump is in trouble. But Trumpism in the GOP is more powerful than ever. Bigotry, lies, conspiracy theories—even as Trump goes down, his style of rage, resentment, and hatred ascends in the party that elevated him, and which he now embodies.

Trump may finally be facing consequences for his years of alleged rampant criminality and general awfulness. The public learned yesterday that Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg is going to indict the former president on charges of violating the law in conjunction with hush-money payments made during the 2016 election cycle to cover up an affair with adult performer Stormy Daniels.

If Trump abused campaign finance regulations in order to hide important information about his past and character from the public, he should be held accountable. Powerful people should not be above the law.

Trump, of course, disagrees. In 2020, when he lost the election to now-President Joe Biden, he attempted to stage a violent insurrection. A wealthy real estate scion with a long history of corruption and illegality, he boasted that being famous allowed him to sexually assault women with no consequences. The core of his ideology, as a person and president, is the belief that certain people are better than others, and that he, as the best of all, should be allowed to do whatever he wants, to whoever he wants, with no consequences.

The Republican party has quickly rushed to say that they too embrace the principle of impunity for powerful wealthy white Christian men. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham went on Fox in a tearful rant claiming Bragg was trying to “smear” the president—despite the fact that we don’t know the precise charges yet. Even right-wing Trump skeptics like pundit Erick Erickson came out against the rule of law, warning that Trump’s indictment ensures his election victory—as if dicey future predictions should inoculate the powerful against legal proceedings.

And of course Florida governor Ron DeSantis, Trump’s chief rival for the 2024 Presidential nomination, weighed in. Normally, you’d expect primary opponents to highlight scandals and present themselves as less corrupt alternatives. But Trump’s voters are intensely loyal. More than that, those voters are committed to the idea that democracy itself is untrustworthy, and that Republicans in general, and Trump especially, should not be restrained by law, morality, or fact.

And so, DeSantis posted to Twitter to show not just that he supports Trump, but that he can be as unhinged, cruel, and bigoted as Trump.

In his statement he said, “The Soros-backed Manhattan District Attorney has consistently bent the law to downgrade felonies and to excuse criminal misconduct.” He promised that his state, Florida, where Trump resides, “will not assist in an extradition request given the questionable circumstances at issue with this Soros-backed Manhattan prosecutor and his political agenda.”

DeSantis in his statement kept evoking George Soros. Soros is a Holocaust survivor and a billionaire donor to left-wing causes. He’s also over the last decade been the focus of a barrage of antisemitic conspiracy theories.

Soros has been accused of being the shadowy Jewish mastermind behind every left wing movement or initiative of prominence. The right blamed him for the George Floyd protests, for example. Soros has also been accused of trying to boost immigration to overwhelm white culture and white voters—a variation on the Great Replacement conspiracy theory. Trump himself boosted these accusations in 2018 as part of his midterm election campaign. The Pittsburgh man who committed mass murder at Tree of Life synagogue that year, killing eleven, was motivated in large part by Soros immigration conspiracy theories.

Trump has also claimed that Bragg, the Manhattan DA, is backed by Soros. This is a lie. Soros contributed to a political PAC that supports many liberal causes, including Bragg’s candidacy. That does not mean that Bragg is controlled by George Soros, or that Soros is the true power behind Bragg. The conspiracy theory is, again, antisemitic. It’s also anti-Black, inasmuch as it suggests Bragg, a Black man, is incapable of doing his job without nefarious direction from Jewish puppet-masters.

DeSantis is pushing the Soros conspiracy theory to associate himself with Trump. He’s also, though, simply a creature of the Trump era, who finds bigotry and conspiracy theories congenial. DeSantis has launched a vicious campaign to censor books about Black and LGBT issues in Florida. He’s also used the power of the state to harass and intimidate Black voters, arresting people for voter fraud even after officials told them they could vote.

The message of DeSantis’ Florida career is clear; certain kinds of people aren’t wanted and should have no voice. The state exists to serve the powerful and torment the marginalized. That’s the way of Trump, and of the GOP.

For Trump supporters, prosecuting Trump is a topsy-turvy nightmare perversion of morality. It’s Trump who’s supposed to use the state to get his enemies; it’s Trump who’s supposed to rule. Equal justice is anathema. Bragg has refused to follow the script. But DeSantis, rushing onto the stage spewing antisemitism, racism, and nonsense, is assuring the GOP that as far as he’s concerned, the legacy of Trump will never end.