The Conversation: How Trump could turn his politics of grievance into a get-out-of-jail card

by | Aug 3, 2023 | Stock Market

Donald Trump has declared, “I am your retribution,” and it appears to be a guiding theme of his 2024 presidential campaign. Trump now faces a total of three indictments, following special counsel Jack Smith’s announcement on Aug. 1 that Trump had been charged with four counts in his effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election — the most serious charges against the former president so far. There’s likely to be an additional indictment from Fulton County, Ga., prosecutor Fani Willis.

If elected, Trump promises to punish his perceived enemies — everyone from prosecutors at the U.S. Justice Department and in New York and Georgia to the Biden family and Republicans in Congress who don’t help him. Trump and his allies are ramping up their rhetoric, playing the victim card with cries of “witch hunt” and making promises to use the machinery of government to punish anyone who has attempted to hold Trump accountable. While appeals to grievance have been used in presidential campaigns, never before in American history has a leading contender for a major party’s nomination made personal grievances related to criminal liability and payback the centerpiece of a presidential run. Is a campaign based on grievance and retribution likely to sway voters? And what are the implications if Trump wins back the White House? Don’t miss: Bill Barr says Jan. 6 indictment is ‘legitimate’ and Trump knew Biden had beaten him Also see: Republicans — including Trump’s putative rivals in 2024 — have few criticisms of former president after Jan. 6 indictment in D.C. As scholars who study democracy, voting behavior and political corruption globally, we note that, while the politicization of prosecutions is becoming increasingly common in other democracies, it can be hard to figure out how these dynamics affect elections.Political muscle can trounce a prosecution Candidates under investigation can leverage their political muscle to run for office — and as a means to avoid prosecution. In Kenya’s 2007 presidential election, for example, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were two prominent politicians backing opposing coalitions that engaged in post-election clashes after allegations of vote rigging. Members of both factions were investigated, and Kenyatta and Ruto were personally charged with organizing violence among their supporters. Their cases were referred to the International Criminal Cour …

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