January 23, 2024 - 9:00 pm
Many of my Democratic friends aren’t worried about a rematch between presidents — the current and the former.
While they’re not bullish on President Joe Biden’s chances of being re-elected given the polls, they’re confident that former president Donald Trump will be his own undoing. It doesn’t bother them that they’re relying on the criminal justice system to do for them what they can’t seem to do themselves: keep Trump away from the White House.
Their assumption is that, if Trump is convicted of even one of the 91 charges he faces in four criminal cases, the conviction will be enough to persuade at least some of his supporters to abandon him.
I don’t buy it. The Trump acolytes don’t scare off that easily. The avalanche of indictments looks to them like piling on, and it seems to help Trump, not hurt him. That might explain why the GOP front-runner seems to have incorporated his court appearances into his campaign schedule. He’s using the legal proceedings against him to make his own case — that he’s a martyr voters should support.
My Republican friends tell me they feel liberal prosecutors are the ones trying to subvert the democratic process by taking away Americans’ right to choose their president. They agree with Trump when he describes the prosecutions as part of an elaborate “witch hunt” to keep him out of the White House by any means necessary. And, they say, the fact that Democrats are so determined to neutralize Trump shows how much they fear him and proves he should finish what he started as president.
Judging by the results of the nation’s first presidential primary contest, that view seems to be holding among Iowa Republicans.
As expected, Trump easily won the state’s caucuses with 51 percent of the vote. The surprise came when caucus-goers were asked about the possibility that Trump could be convicted of a crime.
In an entrance poll by Edison Research, nearly two-thirds of voters (65 percent) said Trump would still be fit to serve as president even if convicted of a crime. About the same percentage (66 percent) said they did not believe that Biden legitimately won the presidency in 2020.
A lot of my Democratic friends, including members of the media, have always claimed they don’t understand Trump supporters.
I get it. Because, lately, where the former president is concerned, I don’t understand my friends. After Trump was elected president in 2016, the Democrats I knew prided themselves on the fact that they didn’t have the foggiest idea why anyone would vote for the con man.
Now, facing the terrifying prospect of Trump regaining the White House, Democrats are betting the farm on the assumption that they know exactly how his supporters will react if he is convicted of a crime.
But what is the assumption based on? Democrats acknowledge they don’t have a clue about what motivates Trump supporters. So now those same Democrats consider themselves experts on Trump voters, to the point where they can predict their next move?
I come at this question differently. I’m a Never Trumper who nevertheless prides himself on trying to understand what makes Trump supporters tick. I undertook this mission several years ago because there is mucho MAGA in the tribes with whom I identify — Mexican Americans, people who grew up in farm country, members of Generation X (many of whom are now in their 50s).
One thing I learned is Trump supporters can sniff out a double standard, and they won’t put up with it.
Consider the conservative caller who recently dialed up Michael Smerconish’s show on SiriusXM radio. “Mike from Pensacola” was commenting on first lady Jill Biden’s recent comment that her stepson Hunter — who faces legal troubles of his own — was being treated cruelly by the president’s political enemies.
“This is what’s great about journalism,” Mike told the host. “Because poor Hunter. Everyone is feeling sympathetic toward him. But they’re throwing the book at Trump for kinda the same thing, tax purposes and those types of things.”
The way Mike sees the world, the liberal media is sympathetic to Hunter Biden but unforgiving toward Trump even though the two men are being accused of “kinda the same thing.”
The charges against Trump include allegedly falsifying business records. Hunter was charged with tax evasion.
Some Trump supporters don’t see the distinction. All they see is a double standard — part of an overall pattern of unfairness toward their guy that makes them determined to fight back the only place they can: the ballot box.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is email@example.com. His podcast, “Ruben in the Center,” is available through every podcast app.