Sorry, Dave.

Eric Sondermann

Eric Sondermann

My valued friend, Dave, is of conservative bent, though certainly not a Trumper. Over dinner a few months back, he gently admonished me for writing too many columns about our defeated former president. He said something about regularly reading my commentary and often agreeing, except that he would cast it aside whenever Trump became the focus.

It was my friend’s view that Trump was withering, that the GOP was moving on, and that scribes and others should give him a lot less of the attention that is both political oxygen and existential purpose for his deep-seeded narcissism.

I have tried. Truly. I have bitten my tongue, turned off the keyboard, and found plenty of other topics to address and outrages to condemn.

But with regrets to Dave, the subject of Trump is unavoidable. He leads the field of 2024 Republican candidates by large and growing margins. His rhetoric of late has become ever more loaded, menacing, and even unhinged.

And for those residing in a cave, there is the pesky matter of that 34-count New York indictment a few weeks back. By the way, those are 34 more criminal charges than any previous U.S. president has faced.

Let’s start there.

Time will tell how the New York case plays out. With “time” being the apropos word here as the judge does not seem in any great hurry to move it along. Motion hearings may compete with early primaries next winter. Imagine a trial date coinciding with the summer 2024 nominating conventions.

Legal commentary is a whole different realm, though I read enough of it to be concerned that this case might not be the strongest of the ongoing investigations and potential charges. The particulars in Georgia seem far more damning.

Then, of course, there is the potential federal case relating to documents. There's also that little issue that even the Trump-iest of loyalists struggle to wish away of their dear leader fomenting a riot to overturn a lawful election.

It is axiomatic that no one should be above the law. But consider the consequence of a dismissal or acquittal given Trump’s proven ability to play the martyr.

Some legal analysts suggest the prospect of a death by a thousand cuts in which the sheer volume of cases and the likelihood of serious charges in other venues ultimately weigh Trump down and exact their toll.

Maybe, but Trump’s political history is one of thriving amidst a cacophony of attacks. In some weird way, the noise and the incoming from all sides bolster his soul, such as it is, along with his appeal.

Ralph Waldo Emerson is reputed to have said: “When you strike at a king, you must kill him.” The line has been adapted and is now applied in many contexts. The core point is apt and the danger is Trump has mastered the art of emerging stronger from any unsuccessful takedown.

To those in his ever-loyal fan club who cry crocodile tears over the criminal pursuit and prosecution of Trump, perhaps they might cue up a loop of “lock her up” rally chants, often led by the maestro himself. Though the double-standard will be lost on those for whom the only standards are purely situational.

To say nothing of the adoration Trump continues to enjoy from self-described Christian conservatives who are all too happy to look away from massive evidence that their anointed hero was cavorting with a porn star while wife no. 3 Melania was home with their newborn child.

The other byproduct of this criminal pursuit of Trump, along with one or more stronger cases likely to come, is that a few up-and-coming, excessively caffeinated Republican prosecutors are paying attention and making a list.

A political weapon once unsheathed is rarely put back in its protective case, even one reserved for extraordinary situations and never before used in our nation’s history.

No sane person wishes to live in a country where political enemies are routinely prosecuted. That is the turf of Trump’s best chum, Vlad.

Conversely, no person of rational thought would choose to live in a country where rank and privilege provide a grant of immunity from the rule of law.

The Republican Party handed their keys and deepest affections to Donald Trump and they continue to pay a horrific price for it. When Joseph Heller wrote “Catch-22,” he could have had this no-win dilemma in mind.

The current GOP would be barely recognizable absent Trump. Without him, there is little base. With him, there is limited chance of winning.

Joe Biden, he of finite appeal and worrisome chronology, prospers mainly in juxtaposition to Trump. Remove Trump from the equation and Democrats would quickly move on while Biden partakes of retirement life at Rehoboth Beach.

Nor is Trump improving with age or softening the edge. To the contrary, his conduct and rhetoric have grown even more bizarre and laden with grievance. If there is a promise to his 2024 campaign, it is only that of vengeance and retribution.

Look at his recent speeches, whether at CPAC or the rally in Waco (no subtlety to that choice of location) or in Mar-a-Lago a few hours after his court appearance. All of them were hardly indicative of mental stability or expanding his political tent. Trump’s strategy, beyond self-indulgence, appears that of feeding an ever-richer diet of red meat to a slowly shrinking base.

All the while, his dominance over the GOP only grows. If Ron DeSantis or Nikki Haley or Tim Scott are to make a race of it, they have some serious catching up to do.

A smart Republican consultant observes that his party will only be able to move on from Trump, and in so doing regain its bearing and viability, after one more conclusive defeat.

For all the chatter about indictments and arraignments, the final rejection of Trump lies at the ballot box, not in the jury box. Though he seems to be doing his level best to facilitate his rejection and sanction in both bins.

Eric Sondermann is a Colorado-based independent political commentator. He writes regularly for Colorado Politics and the Gazette newspapers. Reach him at [email protected]; follow him at @EricSondermann

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