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Wednesday, June 12, 2024
Wednesday June 12, 2024
Wednesday June 12, 2024

Trump’s conviction adds uncertainty to the 2024 presidential election

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Historic firsts for Trump with a criminal conviction, raising questions about its impact on his 2024 campaign

Donald Trump’s criminal conviction has created a series of historic firsts. He is the first former or serving US president to be found guilty of a crime. He is also the first presumptive major-party nominee to become a convicted felon. While Trump plans to appeal the hush-money case and awaits a sentence on 11 July that could theoretically include prison time and a hefty fine, the political fallout is already a subject of intense speculation.

Jeffrey Engel, director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University, emphasizes the unprecedented nature of this event. “We often look to history to find some kind of hint of what’s going to happen,” Engel says. “But there is nothing in the record that comes even close to this.”

Trump secured the Republican presidential nomination earlier this year. He is scheduled to be officially nominated at the party’s convention just days after his sentencing. Polls indicate he is in a statistical dead heat with President Joe Biden. However, those same surveys suggest this conviction might shift voter sentiments.

During the Republican primaries, exit polls showed significant numbers of voters expressing reluctance to support Trump if convicted of a felony. An April survey by Ipsos and ABC News found that 16% of Trump supporters would reconsider their support in such a scenario. Now, with a real conviction in place, these voters have a concrete basis for their judgment.

“The real verdict is going to be [on] 5 November, by the people,” Trump declared after leaving the courtroom. Doug Schoen, a pollster for Democratic President Bill Clinton and independent New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, believes voters might prioritize other issues by November. “While it’s not a great thing to be convicted of a crime, what voters will be thinking about in November is inflation, the southern border, competition with China and Russia, and the money that is being spent on Israel and Ukraine,” Schoen explains.

Nonetheless, even a slight drop in Trump’s support could be significant in a tightly contested race. If a few thousand voters in key swing states like Wisconsin or Pennsylvania decide against supporting Trump, it could alter the election outcome. Ariel Hill-Davis, co-founder of Republican Women for Progress, asserts, “I do think it will have an impact and damage him as a candidate.” She notes that younger, college-educated suburban voters have already been wary of Trump’s demeanour and governing style. “The guilty verdict is going to shore up those concerns further,” Hill-Davis adds.

Despite this, leading Republicans quickly rallied behind Trump, with many attending the trial in a show of loyalty. House Speaker Mike Johnson condemned the trial as a political exercise rather than a legal one, calling it a “shameful day in American history.”

For years, experts and opponents have predicted Trump’s political downfall, only to be proven wrong. His 2016 presidential campaign survived scandals that would have ended most political careers, including the infamous Access Hollywood tape. Trump’s party largely stood by him through two impeachments and the chaotic end of his presidency, which included the Capitol riot. None of these events prevented Trump from staging a political comeback.

“It’s axiomatic at this point, but Trump’s continued support, despite the kind of scandal that would have scuttled literally any other previous candidate in American history, is truly astounding,” says Engel. This criminal conviction might be different, particularly if Trump’s appeals fail and he faces prison. However, it could also be another disruption that, in retrospect, was just a bump on Trump’s path to power.

Allan Lichtman, a professor at American University, developed a political model that has successfully predicted the winner of every presidential race since 1984. He admits that Trump’s conviction could be the kind of “cataclysmic and unprecedented” event that disrupts his model and alters history. “History books will record this as a truly extraordinary, unprecedented event, but a lot will depend on what happens afterwards,” Lichtman says.

Ultimately, voters will decide the importance of Trump’s conviction in November. If Trump loses, his guilty verdict will likely be seen as a key factor. If he wins, it may become just a footnote in his tumultuous political career. “History is written by the winners, as we all know,” Engel concludes.

Analysis

Trump’s conviction introduces unprecedented elements into the 2024 presidential race, raising complex questions about its impact. Politically, this event disrupts traditional expectations and forces analysts to navigate uncharted territory. Trump’s conviction might significantly influence voter behaviour, particularly among demographics already sceptical of his leadership. Younger, college-educated, and suburban voters may be more likely to reconsider their support due to the conviction, potentially swaying the election outcome in critical swing states.

From a sociological perspective, the conviction challenges the norms surrounding political accountability and public perception of leadership. Trump’s ability to maintain support despite legal troubles reflects a broader trend of polarized political loyalty, where partisan identity often overrides ethical considerations. This dynamic underscores the deep divisions within American society and highlights the challenges of fostering a unified political discourse.

Economically, Trump’s conviction could shift focus to his policies and their impact on the economy. Voters concerned about inflation, the southern border, and international competition might prioritize these issues over the legal proceedings. However, the conviction might also amplify concerns about stability and governance, influencing economic stakeholders’ perceptions of the political landscape.

Locally, the conviction’s impact will vary across different states and communities. In key swing states, small shifts in voter sentiment could have outsized effects on the election’s outcome. Additionally, Trump’s legal battles might mobilize both his supporters and opponents, intensifying grassroots political activities and shaping local electoral dynamics.

Gender and race perspectives highlight the intersectionality of Trump’s conviction with broader societal issues. The conviction might resonate differently among various demographic groups, influencing their political engagement and perceptions of justice. Marginalized communities, in particular, may view the conviction through the lens of systemic inequities, adding another layer of complexity to the election’s narrative.

In conclusion, Trump’s conviction adds a multifaceted dimension to the 2024 presidential race, influencing political, sociological, economic, local, and demographic dynamics. Its ultimate impact will depend on how voters interpret and prioritize this event amid other pressing issues. The election will serve as a pivotal moment, determining whether Trump’s legal troubles mark a turning point or become another chapter in his resilient political journey.

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