The most recent headline added to former President Donald Trump’s repertoire is the loud and ruinous indictment he is now facing. In early April, the city of Manhattan prepped for his appearance in front of a grand jury, where Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts. These charges are related to what prosecutors are arguing was a cover-up job regarding an affair during the campaign season of 2016. Trump’s lawyer, Micheal Cohen, made a $130,000 hush money payment to the adult film star Stormy Daniels, a woman Trump had an affair with back in 2007. The payment was made to prevent Daniels from opening up about their relations while Trump was on the road to the presidency.
The felony counts claim that Trump falsified his business records surrounding this transaction, though Trump protested that “There was nothing done illegally!” It is important to note that normally, a crime of this level would not fall under a felony classification. However, the prosecutors are trying to prove that Trump’s “intent to defraud” also contained the intent to cover-up a second crime. While this alleged second crime has not yet been revealed, Trump could face serious prison time if a maximum sentence is reached.
No other politician in today’s political sphere has faced the allegations Trump has while continuing to garner support from a dedicated base of followers. Such a phenomenon raises the question of how this will this affect Trump, who announced he was running for the Republican nomination in November and has been campaigning ever since. While some may believe an indictment to be a roadblock for someone trying to run for presidential office, nothing in the Constitution hinders Trump from carrying out his campaign for the nomination, or even from becoming president while behind bars. Therefore, this indictment technically does not cause Constitutional issues on the electoral front.
Based on the sentiment behind Trump’s campaign, the indictment could even play in his favor. The former president has already sent messages to his followers, calling the indictment “political persecution.” The fear is that if he continues stoking the MAGA movement’s fire, America could find itself in a similar situation as the aftermath of the January 6 Capitol riot. The messages he releases attempt to convince donors that there is a “witch hunt” against him, potentially causing a spike in campaign funds. He also has been able to thrive politically despite numerous legal allegations and charges brought up against him.
However, despite the support Trump has garnered from his base, the platform he has been operating on has become obsolete—potentially even ironic—in today’s context. Trump was previously able to garner millions of American votes by appealing to the everyday citizen. He reframed the Republican party around his own ideology that he crafted in 2016 and gained a diehard following from. This recent indictment makes it difficult for him to follow that same path. Being charged on 34 felony accounts, all related to hush-money payments concerning an affair, discredits his commitment to the conservative principles he built his 2016 campaign on. While many could relate to his ideals before, it will likely be much much harder for these same people to relate to a man paying ostentatious amounts of money to hide his meetings with a porn star. Preaching his innocence to his solidified base will strengthen their support of him, but not much else, as it will be difficult for him to obtain new voters with the indictment now looming over him. Clearly, he does not—and will not—have the same support in this election cycle as he did in 2016. And while the upcoming election is currently unpredictable, with there still being a lot of time before November 2024 rolls around, Trump could be in for a rude awakening during his campaign for reelection.