Attack Trump Verdict or Be Exiled – A New Test for Republicans

Oliver Chang
Oliver Chang
5 Min Read
"Donald Trump" by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

There’s a new front line in Donald Trump’s battle to get elected. Just minutes after Trump was found guilty on all 34 counts against him, a person close to the former president described this moment as a “civil war” within the Republican Party.

Trump’s conviction is being leveraged by his campaign as a sort of roll-call vote to see which politicians will defend him and which will uphold America’s legal system. It seems you can’t do both.

Testing the Waters

Larry Hogan, a moderate Republican running for an open Senate seat in Maryland, took to social media urging all Americans to “respect the verdict and the legal process.” Chris LaCivita, a top official on Trump’s campaign, swiftly replied: “You just ended your campaign,” implying that any Republican not standing with Trump is politically doomed.

Republican Reactions

A different Republican official, who worked on Trump’s last presidential campaign, dismissed the idea of a civil war within the party, stating, “Even if you don’t like Trump, he’s better than what we’ve got [in Joe Biden].” This sentiment appears to resonate with most Republican politicians, at least publicly.

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Speaker of the House Mike Johnson called Thursday “a shameful day in American history” and described Trump’s conviction as “a purely political exercise, not a legal one.” Steve Scalise, another top Republican in Congress, likened America’s legal system to a banana republic. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis compared the process to a “kangaroo court.” But the strongest defense came from Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who compared the trial to show trials in communist countries.

A Strategy of Defiance

These types of defenses align with Trump’s larger belief that many American institutions, like the electoral process, judicial system, media, and intelligence agencies, are rigged against him. At his rallies, he calls for the dismantling of the “deep state,” receiving enthusiastic support.

In Trump’s eyes, affirming the functionality of America’s legal system is a de facto critique of him, risking alienation from both Trump and his significant base of supporters. Many Republican officials are wary of taking that step.

The Road Ahead

It’s too early to tell whether this moment will escalate into a civil war within the Republican Party or if Trump’s influence will suppress any significant dissent. What is clear is the aggressive stance of Trump’s camp in securing support.

Throughout Trump’s political career, several scandalous moments have threatened his support within the party: the Access Hollywood tape, his impeachments, indictments, and the FBI raid on his home. Despite these, he has retained the backing of prominent Republican politicians.

However, the same might not hold true for voters. An ABC News/IPSOS poll earlier this month found that one-fifth of Trump’s supporters said they would reconsider or withdraw their support if he were convicted of a felony.

In an era where presidential elections are decided by a few thousand voters in swing states, it remains to be seen whether this guilty verdict will shift the balance.

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