For now I’ll put this out there simply as an impression, an intuitive or atmospheric one. I think Donald Trump is going to have trouble keeping up the unified support and defense facing these indictments. To be clear, I’m still very confident that Trump will be the nominee. The basic dynamics are the same. The indictments all but seal the nomination for him; they hurt him in the general. But look close and the ship is taking on water, hemorrhaging a bit at the seams.
In the upside-down world of Trump the day he gets indicted, gets called into court and taken, albeit briefly, into custody is the high point. It’s the day of maximum unity.
But it wasn’t quite perfect.
The day before, Nikki Haley said he endangered America and the American military before getting bullied back into saying she’d probably pardon him. Tim Scott had some silly comment somehow indirectly hinting that, as Trump might say, I like Presidents who don’t spend all their time getting indicted. This is all thin gruel if your standard is when is the GOP going to stand up and reckon with the President’s behavior. But more than a few are probing for ways to distance themselves from what is after all comically egregious conduct.
Trump didn’t look happy or on his game getting in his motorcade to go get booked, which is hardly surprising. The rah-rah stuff afterwards seemed forced. Most press accounts have left it unstated or implicit but while police rightly prepared for between 5,000 and 50,000 protestors, the actual turnout, if you looked closely at the video and photographs, appears to have been more like a couple hundred.
Do you remember this? Toward the end of his life Michael Jackson got indicted over one of his many abuse allegations. He went to get booked in a media circus setting. He emerged from the courthouse and got up on a truck to do some impromptu dance moves and other antics for the mix of hangers on and fans and press in attendance. He turned it into a mini-pep rally. Yesterday reminded me of that. Of course, tacky, but also protesting just a bit too much.
The GOP is still stuck with him. The prospect of him returning to the White House is an existential threat to the American republic. But there’s more damage there than the headlines suggest.