The lingering malady of Trump Derangement Syndrome
Arresting Trump over the Stormy Daniels affair would be the stuff of a banana republic.
There’s a whiff of the banana republic to the reports that Donald Trump will be arrested this week over the Stormy Daniels affair. Trump said on Truth Social that he expects to have his collar felt by the cops tomorrow. It would be related to the 2016 investigation of the hush money Trump gave to porn star Daniels after he caught wind of the fact that she was trying to hawk the story of their extramarital affair. Trump gave her $130,000, which is perfectly legal, but he registered the hush cash as ‘legal fees’, which is not legal – that’s the falsification of business records, prosecutors say, which is a misdemeanour in New York. NYC district attorney Alvin Bragg set up a grand jury on this rather minor matter, and it’s possible an indictment will be announced this week.
You don’t have to be a Team Trump, ‘January 6’ hothead to know that such an indictment would be a brazenly political act, motivated more by coastal-elite animus towards the Bad Orange Man than by concern about a little white lie in Trump’s business accounts. Bragg is a radical Democrat. His loathing of Trump is well known. He’s also notoriously soft on crime, to the fury of many New Yorkers. As the National Review put it, ‘crime is rampant in New York’, in part because ‘Bragg’s default position is leniency and often non-prosecution when it comes to hardened criminals’. The idea that he’s now having sleepless nights over a fib told by Trump seven years ago is preposterous. No, this is ‘bare-naked politics’, in NR’s words.
What we have here, boiled down, is the ruling party using a trumped-up charge to punish the leader they pushed out of power. That’s what happens in banana republics. Republican senator Eric Schmitt was surely right when he said that ‘if this same behaviour occurred in an authoritarian state, our own US State Department would condemn it’. In liberal, woke New York City, however, it’s seen as perfectly okay. The shamelessly political nature of this legal act can be seen in the social-media crowing over it, too. Every detail of the possible indictment is being relished by Trump-haters. Memes abound showing Trump in cuffs. CNN and others can barely contain their glee that Trump would have to be ‘processed and arraigned at the courthouse, which includes fingerprinting and mug shot’. That mug shot would be everyone’s Twitter pic by Wednesday morning.
If Bragg pushes ahead with the indictment, this would be the use of the law as an instrument of political vengeance. That would be bad for law and bad for politics. Law-wise, it would be an affront to the principle of blind justice. As the National Review says, ‘Everyone knows Bragg would never bring [this case] against anyone other than Trump’. We’re talking about a ‘non-violent misdemeanour that is stale’ – there’s no public interest in pursuing this, only a political interest. This is a ‘classic, invidious selective prosecution’, says NR. And politics-wise, both this legal move against Trump and the whooping and cheering of it by Dems and radicals would further hollow out the political sphere, replacing political contestation with judicial machination, democratic debate with silencing, cynical lawfare.
This has been a key tactic of the anti-Trump wing of the elite – the use of legal means to settle political scores. The Russiagate probe. The two impeachments. The investigation of the Top Secret docs found in Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. The ‘January 6’ hearings that turned into a showtrial of the entire Trump era and of populism more broadly. Political actors frustrated with politics, disappointed that things don’t always go their way in the democratic realm, have continually looked to law and bureaucracy to do the dirty work of taming Trump. Commentators are gleefully pointing out that Trump was the first president to be impeached twice and might now become the first to face criminal prosecution, unaware that this reveals more about their class’s feverish, post-democratic determination to cancel Trump than it does about any especially unusual behaviour on Trump’s part.
The double standards of the Get Trump lobby really are extraordinary. When Trump does something bad, it’s an existential threat to the republic, yet when Joe Biden does something similar, they look the other way. The BBC reports that New York prosecutors might argue that Trump’s payment to Stormy Daniels was an offence against election law, too, given he was ‘motivated by not wanting voters to know he had an affair with her’. And yet the Biden set’s media-enabled hiding of the Hunter Biden laptop scandal, that use of severe censorship to bury an embarrassing story, is never discussed in the same terms. Likewise, when classified docs were found in one of Biden’s homes, there was nowhere near the same pearl-clutching political angst as there was over Trump’s stash of docs. As for sexual misbehaviour, even the Guardian felt moved to ask why, given all the handwringing over Trump’s ‘grab her by the pussy’ remarks, ‘the media [have] ignored sexual assault and misbehaviour allegations against Biden’.
It’s because Trump Derangement Syndrome is the lingering malady of the woke elites. It really has driven them over the edge. So convinced are they that Trump is Hitler 2.0, and that everyone who voted for him is a Fox-brainwashed deplorable, that they think any method can be justified to cleanse the poison of Trumpism from the body politic. Underpinning Trump Derangement Syndrome is the conceited, anti-democratic belief that the political sphere is for good, educated, grown-up people like us, not for brash rule-breakers that the dim throng put in power every now and then.
It matters not one jot what you think of Trump. His faults are clear to most. The fact is that Trump Derangement Syndrome is a bigger threat to the American republic than Trumpism could ever be. This week’s potential indictment of Trump captures that beautifully, or terrifyingly. Bending the law to the low aim of removing a political opponent from public life is immeasurably worse than falsely labelling hush money as ‘legal fees’. Trump only wanted to hush Stormy; Bragg and others want to hush millions of voters.
Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy
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