Don't let MAGA theatrics fool you: Donald Trump's 34 felony convictions are not helping him

If guilty verdicts are so great for Trump, why are Republicans cheering the delay of his other three trials?

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published June 4, 2024 6:00AM (EDT)

Former U.S. President Donald Trump attends his campaign rally at Crotona Park in the South Bronx on Thursday, May 23, 2024 in New York City. (James Devaney/GC Images/Getty Images)
Former U.S. President Donald Trump attends his campaign rally at Crotona Park in the South Bronx on Thursday, May 23, 2024 in New York City. (James Devaney/GC Images/Getty Images)

Many people mistake cynicism for savviness. So, of course, it took no time at all for some political pundits to rush forward to declare that Donald Trump's historic 34 felony convictions would somehow "help" him. Republicans rushed to beat their chests and made loud threats that Democrats will rue these convictions, even though it was 12 randomly selected jurors in Manhattan, and not the Democratic Party, that convicted Trump. He falsely claimed that his "poll numbers have gone up substantially" since the verdict. (So far, it hasn't moved the polls much, though it seems to have made some voters more hesitant to support Trump.) The campaign claimed a $53 million fundraising haul in the aftermath of the verdict, though this should be taken with a grain of salt, as they lie constantly. And, of course, Republicans ran towards every microphone is sight to feign outrage and declare that an upswell of once-skeptical Americans would now vote for Trump. Who knew there was a massive constituency of voters outraged that New York would enforce its laws against criminal conspiracies to defraud the public? 

Alas, the GOP theatrics appear to have scared some folks.

Conservative media has been downplaying these charges for over a year now, so it's possible many of these voters are only now just realizing these were serious crimes indeed. 

Failed presidential candidate Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., called on Gov. Kathy Hochul, D-N.Y., to "pardon" Trump, claiming failure to do so is "[m]aking him a martyr" and "energizing his base." Future failed presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — pretending still not to be on the right — insisted this will "backfire" on Democrats. (It cannot be stated enough that the Democratic Party did not convict Trump, a jury did.) But even some well-meaning liberals had a nearly superstitious reaction to the celebrations, worried that somehow Trump would find a way to turn this to his advantage. 

I don't want to jinx things, but it seems highly unlikely that Trump will benefit from having "convicted felon" replace "former president" as his most recent title. It doesn't mean Trump's presidential bid is doomed, as the polls remain alarmingly tight. But the notion that Trump is going to find some fresh wellspring of support because he's been proved a grubby little criminal by a jury of his peers? I'm not buying it. 

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Even Jonathan Chait of New York magazine, who tends to be the voice of the Democratic skittishness, had to admit that the MAGA hollering over the Trump conviction has failed to intimidate. He points out that Republicans are always claiming Democrats are forcing them to support an odious policy or candidate. Even 24 years ago, Republicans argued they had no choice but to vote for George W. Bush because Bill Clinton lied about an extramarital affair. Now, of course, they are "forced" to vote for Trump, which they definitely weren't going to do before, in defense of candidates breaking the law to cover up sexual misdeeds. "Next thing you know, Trump is going to be so angry about his conviction that he will resort to attempting to overturn an election result," Chait joked. It's ironic because Chait was one of the loudest quisling voices freaking out over hypothetical backlash when District Attorney Alvin Bragg indicted Trump on these charges in April 2023. So that even he's not scared of Republican threats says a lot.

But ultimately, it comes down to this: If getting convicted of crimes is so goshdarned awesome for Trump, then why are his allies doing everything in their power to delay Trump's other criminal trials? If a guilty verdict is such a boon to Trump, you'd think the six corrupt Republicans on the Supreme Court would be eager for the January 6 trial, instead of dragging their feet on releasing a decision on presidential immunity that will likely push the trial until after the election. If Judge Aileen Cannon believed a conviction would boost the man who appointed her to the federal bench, you can bet the classified documents trial would have happened already. Instead, she's indefinitely delayed it. If felonies give Trump such an edge in the polls, Republicans in Georgia would be rushing forward with the RICO case there, instead of filing frivolous motions against District Attorney Fani Willis to keep the case from trial. 

Certainly, the post-conviction Reuters poll showed 35% of Republican voters saying the verdict makes them more likely to vote for Trump, but that's a number roughly no one is taking seriously. Those are quite obviously people whose political motives are defined entirely by resentment of liberals and feelings of entitlement, i.e. folks who were going to vote for Trump anyway. What's more interesting is the 10% of Republicans who say they are less likely to vote for Trump now. Conservative media has been downplaying these charges for over a year now, so it's possible many of these voters are only now just realizing these were serious crimes indeed. 

What all this discourse about "the base" is missing is that it's not just Trump who has a base of supporters to motivate. Trump hasn't actually risen in the polls. It's just that President Joe Biden's support has eroded. It's not entirely clear why so many people who voted for Biden in 2020 are unhappy. They keep saying "the economy," even though unemployment is at record lows and inflation has dropped back down to low rates. I agree with Heather "Digby" Parton, however, that the actual reason is the general bad vibes caused by Trump's continuing presence on the political scene. "For all of Biden's successes, he couldn't put an end to the single biggest problem we face," she writes. Biden, although it's unfair, is paying the price for our Trump-caused psychological malaise. 

But that's a reason to hope that Trump's conviction might actually matter. It's not a cure-all for the corruption and institutional failure that is wearing people down, to be sure. But it's energizing to have proof that Trump is not invincible. Especially if Democrats can find the discipline to hammer the words "convicted felon" and "jury of his peers" home through brute repetition. It's not just about reminding voters what a terrible man Trump is. Those phrases are a promise that the system can work, if people put their minds to it. It might actually help put a little pep in people's steps, all the way to the polls. 

Certainly, Trump himself is not acting like a man who thinks things are going great for him. His post-conviction appearance at Trump Tower more closely resembled the ravings of an addled person screaming about demons on the subway than a press conference. Over the weekend, he gave an interview to Fox News that appears to have created a lot of headaches for their talented editing staff. 

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As many have pointed out, the only way the Trump trial in Manhattan really benefitted him is by keeping him off the campaign trail. Whenever he speaks publicly, the lies and rants are startling, even to people who follow politics closely and are aware that Trump's already low levels of coherence have fallen through the floor. Beyond just the rabid MAGA base, a lot of Trump's polling support comes from people who just aren't paying much attention, and have no idea what Trump is sounding like these days.

The prediction is that once some of these folks hear Trump's word salad rage dumps, they might rethink their complacent acceptance of a grievance-addicted liar with 34 felony convictions. Certainly, if that theory has any juice, there's reason to hope they'll be alarmed, as the guilty verdicts increase the number of truly unhinged statements from Trump. He won't have the Fox News editing staff around every day to protect him from himself. 

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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