Alison Rowat: Donald Trump makes history and hay in Manhattan
Still, a former US President is not prosecuted every Tuesday in April. As any overcaffeinated reporter felt obliged to point out, this was historic, unprecedented, extraordinary, and yada, yada, yada, as a local used to say.
Team Trump said they didn’t want a circus, but they set the tone with this odyssey to the courthouse. The motorcade from Mar-a-Lago to the airport, the private jet bearing the defendant’s name (unusual note) to LaGuardia, another parade of cars to and from Trump Tower, blue and twos flashing.
It was OJ in reverse, a flight toward justice rather than away from it, all captured on camera for a global audience to marvel at. A real former President in real trouble over an alleged payment to an actress (Mr Trump denies any wrongdoing). Get his fingerprints taken. standing before a judge. Keep track of your reality shows; that was something else. But what exactly?
Trump history is full of such surreal but real moments. Land the Republican nomination, beat Hillary Clinton, run again, lose, refuse to accept the result, a fatal mob marches on the Capitol, get impeached twice, run for the presidency again.
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The noise in New York made one look back with admiration at Richard Nixon’s departure from office. The 37th President told the country in a live televised address that the surrender was “abhorrent” in every way, but he must put America’s interests first.
“As we look to the future,” he added, “it is first important to heal the wounds of this nation, to put behind us the bitterness and divisions of the recent past.”
Contrast this with Donald Trump’s warning of “death and destruction” on the streets if he is charged. Making Nixon look classy – mark that as another first for Mr Trump.
Much of Mr Trump’s staying power is due to his talent for reinvention. With that, along with the help of his father’s money and a willingness to sue anyone who got in his way, he blazed his way from real estate development to reality TV host to contestant and beyond. His latest role is that of victim. Poor Donald. He tried to make America great again, but the liberal elite wouldn’t let him. They even stole an election from him and now they’re filing criminal charges against him? What else can he do but fight back on behalf of all the little guys out there?
It’s a ridiculous narrative that’s generating serious revenue for the candidate’s comeback bid. The day after his indictment, aides said $4 million in donations was received. Its appearance in court provides more opportunities to make money through “merch”. The victim role also suits him well in the polls.
Before his court appearance, 39% of Americans still had a positive opinion of their former president. He hasn’t been this popular among Republicans in general in a long time. A Yahoo News/YouGov poll shows him ahead of his closest rival for the nomination, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, by 57% to 31%. By posing as the victim of a biased legal system and a Democrat “witch hunt,” he has managed to do the seemingly impossible and unite Republicans behind him.
The support goes beyond its die-hard base. Even those who wouldn’t normally give Donald Trump time have looked at the various investigations being conducted and the nearness of the next presidential election, and decided something smells here.
So America is generally where it was: split down the middle and unsure of where it’s going except for a presidential contest between two old men.
Times like these make it difficult to be optimistic about American politics. Television, that ever-reliable monitor of national sentiment, has picked up on the pessimism and sense that things are coming to a head. In a recent episode of Succession, the character of Shiv Roy, daughter of media mogul Logan (played by our own Brian Cox), spoke of the upcoming election as a 1933 moment in Europe. Others prefer to refer to 1968 America, that hideous year when the country seemed bent on tearing itself to pieces.
For the ultimate high-stakes move, it’s hard not to mention the Civil War. It is remarkable how quickly the idea of a second civil war caught on and entered the mainstream. Barbara Walter, academic and author of How Civil Wars Start and How to End Them, says: “Two years ago nobody was talking about a second American Civil War. Today it is common.”
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Donald Trump’s past, present and future were discussed in a recent interview with Jon Meacham in The New Yorker. The Lincoln historian and biographer, and now an occasional advisor to Joe Biden, told the magazine that having a dictatorial figure is nothing new in American history. “What’s new is that so many people are willing to give up their better judgment to support him.”
Those who thought Donald Trump was gone and wasn’t coming back were living in a fantasy world, Meacham said. “The story isn’t over yet,” he insisted. He, too, had used 1933 or 1968 as a comparison, but now he was drawn to the 1850s and the “competitive versions of reality” that existed at the time. The story tells only too painfully how this conflict was finally settled.
It could have been depressing news were it not for the glimmer of hope that accompanied it. Many people, Meacham included, had spent the past eight years thinking that one event or another would end Donald Trump’s political career, only to be proven wrong. “He has overridden the usual rules of political gravity.” Meacham’s advice? Stop hoping Trump and Trumpism will just go away, be vigilant and keep voting. The fever only breaks when they lose and keep losing, he says.
But here we are again, the place, this time a courthouse in New York City, and Mr. Trump seemed to defy gravity again, trying to turn a moment of deep shame into a campaign opportunity. A very long pre-election period suddenly seems even longer.
https://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/23435395.donald-trump-makes-history-hay-manhattan/?ref=rss Alison Rowat: Donald Trump makes history and hay in Manhattan