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On Donald Trump and 2024

Trump may be running faster than the bear – but is it enough?

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Last August I wrote a column titled, “Endorsed by Donald Trump.” It elucidated Trump’s long history of scandals, impeachments, and legal battles, and then it posed the question: “In light of his many scandals and transgressions, including his involvement in the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, why would anyone welcome, much less herald, an endorsement by Donald Trump?”

In April, former president Trump was charged by a New York grand jury with 34 felony charges of falsifying business records, to which he pleaded not guilty. He is the first former US president to face criminal charges.

In May, a jury found Trump liable for sexually abusing and defaming advice columnist E. Jean Carroll and awarded her $5 million.

On June 13, ex-president Trump was arraigned in U.S. District Court in Miami on 37 felony counts – including 31 counts of willfully retaining national defense information, much of it involving Top Secret documents, as well as several charges for obstructing justice and concealing or lying about sensitive documents.

Special counsel Jack Smith and the DOJ are also investigating ex-president Trump for his alleged role in the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, when thousands of Trump supporters rioted to stop Congress from confirming Joe Biden’s election victory.

In Georgia, prosecutors are investigating alleged attempts by Trump and friends to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis says any charges against Trump and his allies will be announced between July 11 and September 1.

New York attorney general Letitia James has filed a $250 million civil fraud lawsuit against Trump, three of his adult children, the Trump Organization, and others. The suit alleges that Trump and company repeatedly overstated the values of his assets in statements to banks, insurance companies, and the IRS.

In light of Trump’s serious and ongoing legal problems, I was surprised (and sadly not surprised) to see a Daniel Cameron for Governor campaign ad proudly proclaim: “Endorsed by Donald Trump.” In his victory speech on May 16, Cameron thanked ex-president Trump for his help and support. Cameron has endorsed Donald Trump for president in 2024.

When Trump campaigned for president in 2016, he accused Mexico of “sending people that have lots of problems. ... They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

According to the article “Donald Trump is the accelerant” by Fabiola Cineas, published in Vox in January of 2021:

“As far back as 2015, Trump has been connected to documented acts of violence, with perpetrators claiming that he was even their inspiration. In fact, dozens of people enacted violence in Trump’s name in the years before the Capitol attack. ...

“Two Boston brothers invoked Trump when they were arrested for urinating on a homeless man and beating him with a metal pipe. While in custody, one of the brothers told the police, ‘Trump was right. All of these illegals need to be deported.’ The 58-year-old Mexican American they assaulted was a permanent US resident.

“In 2016, a white man told officers ‘Donald Trump will fix them’ while being arrested for threatening his Black neighbors with a knife. That same year, a Florida man threatened to burn down a house next to his because a Muslim family purchased it, claiming that Trump’s Muslim ban made it a reason for ‘concern.’ Then there are the more widely known examples, like Cesar Sayoc, who mailed 16 inoperative pipe bombs to Democratic leaders and referred to Trump as a ‘surrogate father’; and the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, in 2019 that left 23 dead, where the shooter’s manifesto parroted Trump’s rhetoric about immigrants.”

For eight years – as a presidential candidate, as president, and again as a presidential candidate – Donald Trump has promoted racial hatred and violence. At first, people wondered when his followers would finally say, “Enough.” Eventually, though, the answer to that question became obvious. The answer to that question is “never.”

The Serenity Prayer was adopted and made popular by Alcoholics Anonymous: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

I accept the obvious fact that Donald Trump will have a loyal following as long as he’s alive – and possibly longer, like Jesus and Elvis. In ways, that’s quite disturbing. But not when it’s looked at in perspective.

First, consider the irrefutable fact that the Republican Party is America’s minority party. In December 2020, Gallup polling found 31% of Americans identified as Democrats, 25% identified as Republicans, and 41% as Independent. When Independents were asked if they leaned more to the Democratic Party or Republican Party, 50% said they are either “Democrats or Democratic leaners” and 39% are either “Republicans or Republican leaners.”

Simply put, Republicans can’t afford to lose any voters – not Trump supporters, not white supremacists, not crazy conspiracy theorists who believe in a “deep state” and Q – not anybody, really. That’s why more traditional Republicans like Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will only go so far when denouncing Donald Trump.

In 2016, 88% of Republicans voted for Trump and 8% voted for Clinton. Democrats supported Clinton 89% to 9% for Trump. Independents voted 46% for Trump and 42% for Clinton.

NOTE: Trump won the Independent vote in 2016.

In 2020, 94% of Republicans voted for Trump and 6% voted for Biden. Democrats supported Biden 94% to 5%. Independents voted 54% for Biden and 41% for Trump.

NOTE: Biden overwhelmingly won the Independent vote in 2020.

Polls and surveys indicate Trump’s ongoing legal battles haven’t hurt him with Republican voters. In fact, the Associated Press reported that the Trump campaign raised $4 million in the 24 hours after Trump was indicted by a New York grand jury in April. A poll taken by Yahoo News/YouGov right after Trump’s indictment showed his support surging among Republican voters.

In the runup to the 2016 election, many Independent voters said they didn’t want another four years of the Clintons in the White House. They had seen enough of the Clintons when Bill Clinton served as president from 1993 – 2001.

So, why not take a chance with the billionaire playboy, Donald Trump?

Donald Trump had four years to prove himself as president. Most people expected Trump to become “more presidential.” Instead, we saw four years of scandals, investigations, and two impeachments – all labeled “witch hunts” or “hoaxes” by Trump.

Many Independents who voted for Trump in 2016 switched sides and voted for Biden in 2020 because they were tired of the never-ending scandals and divisiveness that typified Trump’s four years in office. Some call it “Trump fatigue.”

As author Jim Butcher has famously noted, “If you and your friends are chased by a bear, you don’t have to run faster than the bear to get away. You just have to run faster than your friends.”

Trump knows he just has to run faster than his Republican rivals to win the Republican primary next year – and so far he is succeeding.

But how can Trump win back the Independents he needs to win the 2024 general election?

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Mark Heinz

Mark Heinz served as an Army journalist, and is now a freelance writer who has written eight novels. He lives at Nolin Lake with his wife Carrie. (Read the full bio on the Contributors page.)

Nolin Lake, KY

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