Trump: Finally Trumped?
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Trump: Finally Trumped?

If Trump is charged and brought to the courts in these cases, will he be able to contest the 2024 presidential election? 

April 4 was a historic day in the United States politics because, for the very first time, a former president was arraigned on criminal charges before a court of law. President Joe Biden’s immediate predecessor Donald Trump, protected by Secret Service personnel, turned himself in to the law enforcement agencies on that day in a New York court premises. He was finger printed and brought before a judge and criminal charges were read to him. These related to his ‘falsifying’ his accounts for the ‘hush’ payments made on his behalf to an adult film star during his presidential election campaign in 2016. Trump pleaded that he was not guilty.

According to the New York state prosecutor Trump action’s attracted the criminal statutes and he had to be charged like any other US citizen who had committed acts. There are, however, some US jurists who feel that these charges may not stand judicial scrutiny and therefore may be dismissed by a judge even before a trial begins. Significantly, this is not the only matter against Trump involving the law enforcement agencies. Investigations are ongoing on the question whether he unlawfully took secret documents with him while leaving the presidential office in January 2021. Another matter relates to his alleged role in the inciting the mobs that rampaged through the US Capitol, the seat of the US Senate and Congress, on January 6, 2021, to prevent the US Congress from formally endorsing Biden’s election victory.

Some media reports suggest that investigations may get completed in both these matters soon. They are far more serious than the one in which he is arraigned. If Trump is charged and brought to the courts in these cases, will he be able to contest the 2024 presidential election? US jurists opine that even a US citizen who is convicted in a criminal case can run for the presidency even while the conviction means that he cannot vote! Thus, the real question is if these cases can so damage Trump politically that the Republican party voters decide that he is not fit to be the party’s candidate for the 2024 presidential election. By all accounts, Trump himself is keen to contest the election.

Despite all his bizarre conduct during his term as the US president and after losing the 2020 election to Joe Biden, Trump has retained his support base. Indeed his core supporters supported him even as criminal charges were pressed against him in the New York court. It is this core base that also ensured that the absolute number of votes he secured in the 2020 elections were greater than those that he had got across the US in the 2016 elections. It is one of the ironies of the US political system that he won the 2016 presidential election beating Hillary Clinton even though she had secured more votes countrywide than Trump. In 2020 though Biden had got more votes than Trump.

The US presidential elections are now a little more than a year and a half away. With Trump’s core base intact the Republican party electors will have to really consider if they will ensure his victory in the party primaries so that he secures their nomination for the presidency. Clearly, as of now, it seems that he may emerge as the Republican party nominee to take on Joe Biden in the 2024 presidential race; Biden has not indicated that he does not intend to contes the next election. Both are old: Biden, born in November 1942 is already 80 and should he contest and win the 2024 election he will he over 82 when he takes office; Trump, born in June 1946 is 76 and will be over 78 if he becomes president in January 2025. Age will certainly be a factor for Biden if he decides to contest the 2024 presidency. It will be less so for Trump not only because of his supporters for whom he can do no wrong but also because he continues to show greater physical vigour than Biden.

But more than age of these two men what will be at greater play in the next election are the continuing ideological divisions in the United States. These show no sign of healing. The deep rifts in US society and polity between conservative forces and those who are committed to liberal values are not getting reduced. Indeed, the US Supreme Court decision in June 2022 to reverse its Roe vs Wade decision of 1973 which gave women the right to abortion on a nationwide basis was an eloquent illustration of the ideological polarisation in the country. What the Court did in 2022 was to empower the states to decide on the abortion issue. Thus, instead of becoming a bigger beacon of hope for liberalising US society the Court went back to more conservative views. This was made possible because the judges nominated by Trump to fill the vacancies that arose in the Supreme Court were conservative in their thinking. Indeed, Trump chose them precisely because of their views and succeeded in pushing their nomination through the Congress even when the 2020 elections were only some months away.

The US continues to be polarised on international issues too. This is illustrated by the drastic differences in Trump and Biden’s policies towards climate change and political matters such as the handling of relations with Russia and Iran. What the international community will undoubtedly notice is that the US is ideologically split when its challenger is getting more powerful under a supreme and aggressive leader, Xi Jinping.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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