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Trump's indictment: How it will affect the 2024 U.S. Presidential Election

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Donald Trump is the first U.S. ex-president to be indicted on criminal charges (Image by Notions Capital/Flickr)

Far from his recent indictment being a problem, Donald Trump's legal jeopardy makes him popular with far-Right Republicans who could help him win the 2024 U.S. Republican nomination, writes Dr Martin Hirst.

SO, IT'S FINALLY happened. Donald Trump has been indicted by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office in the Stormy Daniels hush-money case.

However, I think the question is not Trump’s guilt or innocence in relation to the charges but how it will affect the 2024 Presidential Election.

The liberal doomsayers and rusted-on Trump supporters both tend to think it will help Trump, but there’s also an equally valid argument that the indictment will finish him off. The thinking on both sides tends to be a little one-dimensional and a review of Trump’s recent history would suggest caution in writing him off too soon in the race.

Let’s deal with the Republicans first. Trump has always been a problem for them. In 2016 his notoriety was a bonus and they won the White House — in 2020, it was a liability and they lost it again. Now they have to decide if the party will stick with the devil they simultaneously love and hate through one more presidential election cycle.

It’s a given they can’t win in 2024 without Trump’s voters, but maybe they can’t win with him as the party’s nominee, either.

"Sensible" – I use that term only relatively – Republican voters have deserted the party in the wake of Trump, but for the (Make America Great Again) MAGA loyalists, Trump is king. This contradiction has seen his potential rival for the Republican nomination, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, decry the indictment as 'un-Americanand a 'weaponisation of the legal system'.

This is a problem for the Florida Governor, whatever he says about the indictment. DeSantis hates Trump, but he wants to be him and he wants to be president of the United States. If Trump is sidelined by his legal problems, DeSantis knows he will need to win the Trumpian Republicans to his cause. On the other hand, if he fills his sails with too much of Trump’s blowhard rhetoric, he will most certainly put off less rabid Republicans.

And, let’s face it: DeSantis' record as Governor is appalling. He is anti-trans, pro-gun and anti-books. It seems he hates homosexuals, teachers and abortion in equal measure. He is Trump without the bad hair and orange patina.

The Republican old guard is also caught up in the Trump dilemma. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham – who has been hot and cold on Trump in the past – has been on Fox News defending the former president and calling the indictment, literally, "legal voodoo”.

It’s perhaps also problematic for Fox, whereby Tucker Carlson and the usual suspects are all outraged that Trump has been charged. Have they learned nothing from the various lawsuits they’re facing for uncritically repeating Trumpian lies in the past?

What we do know is the indictment is causing the mango Mussolini to melt down faster than a cheese slice in a microwave.

Donald Trump is worried. Very worried.

As well as his indictment in the Stormy Daniels bribery case, Trump is facing a slew of potential criminal charges in New York and Georgia to do with vote tampering and pressing for the 2020 election to be illegally overturned. He is still a central figure in potential criminal proceedings around the 6 January 2021 Capitol Hill riots.

He is also involved in several civil cases, including defending himself against allegations of rape and sexual assault launched by writer and journalist E Jean Carroll. Trump’s ill-advised social media rants are also a factor in this case, with a judge recently ruling that they form part of the defamation proceedings brought by Carroll.

As we’ve come to expect, Trump doesn’t like being the centre of scrutiny. He hates being under the legal microscope because it tends to quickly show that his whole pretence of fortune, intelligence and political acumen is no more than hollow boasting and narcissistic projection.

So, the edge lord of sleaze reverts to type and starts issuing threats. Mostly, he is personally incapable of acting on these threats and hints of violence; but we know from history that his MAGA-stepping, conspiracy-addled followers are willing to be his blunt instrument of revenge.

Last week, Trump went on one of his familiar and pathetic social media diatribes aimed at making his last remaining foot soldiers giddy with confected outrage. The target of Trump’s digital farting into the wind is Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

The tangerine tyrant tweeted a badly photoshopped image of himself holding a baseball bat (nobody holds a baseball bat better!) as if he was about to swing at Alvin Bragg’s head.

As many legal experts have pointed out, this is probably a criminal act right there – another one – because Trump appears to be issuing a direct threat to a judicial officer.

Trump later deleted the post, but this batshit crazy bat tweet wasn’t the only incendiary social media post from the ex-President.

On his own platform, Truth Social, Trump put his whiny ass on blast in the last couple of weeks. He has repeatedly called on his dwindling band of bonehead supporters to create death and destruction if he is – as is widely predicted – indicted on criminal charges any time soon.

Why, exactly, is Trump so upset about the swirling rumours of his potential arrest?

Well, the simple truth is that his star is fading, even amongst his once loyal fan base in the Republican Party. I don’t think there’s any doubt about this, hence the importance – to Trump – of rallying his most ardent supporters to denounce his indictment as a witch hunt.

His recent rallies have been dismal failures with small crowds and very little media coverage outside Fox News and the far-Right One America News (OAN).

The Republican upper crust is trying to back out of its Faustian agreement with him and his rivals for the party’s 2024 nomination and appears to be doing reasonably well in the polls. But, Trump being Trump — reality doesn’t concern him. He’s more than happy to boost more supportive “poll” results from a Twitter account called @catturd2.

Trump has never been famous for his ability to reason, use logic or act responsibly; he is wildly throwing the dice in a chancy game of high-stakes craps. The last hope he has – in his mind, at least – of staying out of an orange jumpsuit is to convincingly win the 2024 U.S. Presidential Election.

This is why some Democrat supporters are worried about the Trump indictment. They argue that the former president’s legal jeopardy makes him even more popular with some far-Right, evangelical, conspiracy theorist elements of the Republican party.

Trump is certainly playing to the crowd in this regard too. His recent trip to Waco, Texas, coincided with the 30th anniversary of the badly-bungled and deadly raid on the Branch Davidians compound. This was read as a deliberate move by Trump to court the conservative Christian cultists who regard the 1993 disaster as an attack on religious freedom.

In Waco, Trump ominously – but maybe ineffectually – warned of 'death and destruction' if he were to be indicted. Eighty Branch Davidians died in a suicidal pact with their messiah figure David Koresh in the 1993 stand-off at their compound.

It was suggested that Trump’s visit to Waco was to invoke an association with the cultists, who were also heavily armed and killed a number of FBI and ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) officers during the raids. He also described the 2024 election campaign as the final battle in another reference to the apocalyptic beliefs of the Branch Davidians.

Perhaps it’s a long shot, but the 2024 Republican nomination is Trump’s last throw of the dice and – frankly – if he’s in an election contest with Joe Biden, he might very well win. This is more an assessment of Biden’s lacklustre performance and conservative politics than Trump’s ability to rally his forces.

Biden has presided over a number of crises and his botched handling of them is adding to perceptions that either he is not up for the job or that he is perhaps just another rich, white guy who is governing America in the interests of other rich, white guys.

The unpopular war in Ukraine, the economic mess, Biden reneging on promises like cancelling student debt and his solid support for the corrupt, big-polluting fossil fuel cartel are perhaps bigger problems for the Democrats than a Trump resurgence.

We really don’t know how this will play out. How many legal torpedoes can the Trump ship absorb before it sinks? Can Joe Biden stave off dementia long enough to win in 2024?

Watch this space.

Dr Martin Hirst is a journalist, author and academic. You can follow him on Twitter @ethicalmartini.

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