Donald Trump did not welcome news of his indictment yesterday by that Manhattan grand jury. Politics-wise, he may be better off.

Trump wanted the case dropped. On March 23, he attacked Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg as “a Soros backed animal who just doesn’t care about right or wrong no matter how many people are hurt.” Trump claimed that there “is no legal system, this is the Gestapo, this is Russia and China, but worse. Disgraceful!” 

On March 24, Trump wondered why Bragg would charge him “when it is known by all that NO Crime has been committed, & also known that potential death & destruction in such a false charge could be catastrophic for our Country? Why & who would do such a thing? Only a degenerate psychopath that truely [sic] hates the USA!”

And a grand jury. Thirty counts!

Last Saturday, Trump campaigned in Waco, where a supporter (probably many) wore a t-shirt reading, “God, Guns and Trump.” Elevated to an alternative trinity, Trump believes no law applies to him. 

The Waco crowd worshipped their leader, who promises to overturn America’s “Gestapo.” Such idolatry may stem from fearing that the nation’s non-white population continues to grow, and “they” are taking over to impose an inferior, non-”Christian” culture. Economic woes in rural areas contribute to the anger. Trump stoking resentment is dangerous. 

A passage from a 1934 novel, The Oppermanns by Lion Feuchtwanger, a Jew who fled Nazi Germany, suggests the direction America under another Trump administration could take:

“He read the insane speeches of the Leader. The aged President [Paul Von Hindenburg] had handed the Reich over to them [the Nationalist party] in good order. They had ruthlessly broken their solemn pledges. Trampled law underfoot, and submitted caprice, disorder, and brutality for civilization and order. Germany had become a madhouse in which the patients had overcome their warders.”

A Leader riding the tiger risks becoming its prey. New York Times columnist David French wrote of the speakers in Waco (“MAGA, Not Trump, Controls the Movement Now,” 3-26-23), “they looked at a seething, conspiracy-theory-addled crowd and indulged, fed and stoked every element of their furious worldview. I didn’t see a single true leader on Trump’s stage, not even Trump himself.”

Leader or not, Trump will work his indictment. As Bret Stephens commented in last Monday’s Times, “an indictment would force every Republican, including Trump’s primary rivals, to line up behind him, shine a media spotlight on him that can only benefit his candidacy . . .” Fundraising for Trump has increased. 

What if Bragg had withdrawn the case or the grand jury refused to indict? Trump fuels his campaign on victimhood. His appeal would have been reduced. It’s hard to play victim when the system works.

The base still loves Trump. They might make him the GOP candidate. They likely can’t swing the election. Trump thinking he can muster sympathy outside the base is an illusion. And, he has bigger worries.

A Fulton County, Georgia, grand jury may deliver indictments regarding election interference. A federal grand jury may indict Trump regarding illegally possessing government files and/or encouraging January 6. These are far more serious.

Tuesday, Trump will report for booking and arraignment. There might be some theater there. As the 1970 Carpenters song goes, we’ve only just begun.

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