Trump could soon be a criminal. Does it matter?

Trump could soon be a criminal. Does it matter?
Trump could soon be a criminal. Does it matter?

If I had imagined Donald Trump’s first criminal trial a few years ago, I would have imagined the biggest, most striking story in the world.

Instead, as we teeter toward a verdict that could brand the presumptive Republican nominee as a criminal and possibly even send him to prison, a strange sense of anticlimax looms over the whole thing.

In a recent survey of Yahoo News/YouGov, only 16% of respondents said they were following the trial very closely, and an additional 32% were following it “somewhat” closely. “

Those numbers are among the lowest of any recent news event,” wrote Andrew Romano of Yahoo News.

When people were asked how the essay made them feel, the most common response was “boredom“.

Television ratings tell a similar story.

Former President Donald Trump waves as he leaves Trump Tower on his way to Manhattan Criminal Court, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

“The television coverage of the secret money trial of donald trump has failed to produce a blockbuster audience,” Deadline reported in late April.

Cable news networks, Deadline said, have seen a decline in ratings among 25- to 54-year-olds since the same time last year.

Last week at the courthouse, I met news junkies who had lined up at 3 a.m. to get a seat at the trial and maybe take selfies with their favorite MSNBC personalities, but it felt more like wandering through a fandom. subcultural than by the burning center of the zeitgeist.

From a block or so away, you wouldn’t know anything out of the ordinary was happening.

Perhaps the trial would have garnered more public attention if it had been televised, but the lack of footage alone does not explain America’s collective shrug.

The special prosecutor’s report Robert Mueller It didn’t have any pictures either, but when it was published, famous actors like Robert DeNiro, Rosie Perez and Laurence Fishburne They starred in a video breaking it down.

I know of no similar effort to dramatize the testimony of this trial, and I rarely hear ordinary people talk about it.

“Saturday Night Live” attempted last weekend to satirize the courtroom scene with a cold, open mockery of Trump’s appearances in the press hallways, but ended with an acknowledgment of audience exhaustion:

“Just remember, if you’re tired of hearing all of my tests, all you have to do is vote for me and everything will disappear”.

It wasn’t a particularly funny line, but it gets at something true that helps explain why this historic trial doesn’t seem like such a big deal.

When Trump was president, his opponents lionized lawyers and prosecutors (often in ways that are mortifying in retrospect) because liberals had faith that the law could stop him.

However, that faith has become increasingly impossible to sustain.

Mueller addressed the question of whether Trump obstructed justice by trying to impede the Russia investigation.

The jury in the E. Jean Carroll defamation case concluded that he committed sexual abuse, but which had little discernible effect on his political prospects.

A Supreme Court deeply partisan, still mulling over his near-imperial claims for presidential immunity, has made it highly unlikely that he will face a trial before the election for his attempted coup.

A deeply partisan judge appointed by Trump postponed indefinitely his trial for theft of classified documents.

With Georgia’s election interference case against Trump tied to an appeal over whether District Attorney Fani Willis should be disqualified for an affair with a member of her team, few expect the trial to begin before 2025 — or 2029, if Trump wins the elections.

And if he becomes president again, there is no doubt that will overturn federal cases against him once and for all.

In theory, delays in Trump’s other criminal cases should raise the stakes in the New York trial, since it is the only chance he will face justice for his colossal corruption before November.

But in reality, your history of impunity He has created a kind of fatalism in his opponents, as well as enormous confidence among his supporters.

In a recent New York Times/Siena poll, 53% of voters in swing states said it was somewhat or very unlikely that Trump would be convicted.

That included 66% of Republicans but also 42% of Democrats.

These voters may be exaggerating Trump’s chances of being acquitted; many jurists believe that The prosecution has the advantage.

A hopeful possibility, then, is that a guilty verdict will surprise many Americans who have stayed out of the news cycle, perhaps causing them to reflect on the possibility of putting a criminal in the White House.

But I wouldn’t count on it.

In several polls, small but significant percentages of Trump supporters told pollsters that they would not vote for Trump if he were a criminal, but if recent history is any guide, a large majority of his supporters will easily rationalize a conviction.

Trump’s minions are already working hard to discredit the proceedings, with the House speaker Michael Johnson calling the trial “corrupt” and a “sham.”

It’s worth remembering that the recent embarrassing brouhaha at a House Oversight Committee meeting, where Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., insulted a Democratic colleague’s eyelashes, began with Greene’s advances about the judge’s daughter in the case of New York.

Of course, no matter what Republicans say, Trump could still face jail time if he loses this case.

But if he does, he will inevitably appeal, meaning there is little chance he will be jailed before Election Day.

It is not surprising, therefore, that most people are not paying attention to the twists and turns of the trial.

Whether Trump gets what he deserves depends on the voters, not the jury.

c.2024 The New York Times Company

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