Trump’s Indictments Prove Politically Beneficial Amid Presidential Race

Just over a year ago, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg announced the indictment of Donald Trump on 34 counts of falsifying business records, marking the first time a former U.S. president faced criminal charges. This moment was seen as a significant turning point, with many believing it would end Trump’s political aspirations. However, as Trump’s trial in New York City nears its conclusion, it’s evident that the conventional wisdom was mistaken.

Initially, Trump’s dominance in the Republican primary appeared inevitable. Yet, by early 2023, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had narrowed the polling gap between himself and Trump to within 15 points, even leading in several key states without formally declaring his candidacy. This momentum, however, was halted by Bragg’s indictment. Within a month, Trump’s lead over DeSantis had doubled, effectively sidelining his strongest competitor before the campaign had even started.

While the rally-around-the-leader effect among GOP voters was anticipated, the broader impact of the progressive establishment’s aggressive prosecution of Trump has also played to his advantage in the general election.

Among the four sets of charges Trump faces, Bragg’s is considered the weakest. The case, seen as an attempt to raise Bragg’s political profile, is criticized for its shaky foundation and reliance on the dubious testimony of Michael Cohen. The trial’s mundane details have underscored the perception that this case would not be pursued against any other individual under similar circumstances.

Media coverage has amplified these sentiments. CNN, for example, dedicated extensive airtime to the “Trump Hush Money Trial,” reinforcing the notion that personal animosity, rather than justice, drives this case. This perception has cast doubt on the motivations behind the other, more substantial, charges against Trump, potentially numbing voters to his genuine misconduct.

Trump’s character flaws have long been apparent to voters, and the New York trial has not unveiled new revelations about him. Instead, it has shown that much of the criticism of Trump’s threat to political norms may have been more about personal attacks than principled stands. By focusing on Trump’s legal woes, Democrats have inadvertently restored some of his moral standing.

Moreover, Democrats’ approach has appeared vindictive and disconnected from the public’s concerns. With widespread dissatisfaction over Joe Biden’s handling of post-pandemic inflation and international relations, Biden is the least popular incumbent president seeking reelection in 70 years. Rather than addressing policy issues, progressives have concentrated on celebrating Trump’s legal problems, failing to bolster Biden’s standing.

If Biden were a robust candidate with strong public approval, a single, well-substantiated case against Trump might have ended the former president’s political career. However, given Biden’s shortcomings, the multitude of criminal allegations against Trump has backfired, reflecting poorly on the current administration.