What can stop Donald Trump’s juggernaut? A civil court jury found guilty of sexually assaulting a female journalist in the 1990s. This week’s award of $5mn in damages to E Jean Carroll for battery and defamation — although Trump was acquitted of a separate rape claim — was, as Carroll noted, a victory “not just for me but for every woman who suffered because she wasn’t. Believed”. It was also a demonstration that the US legal system is capable of holding Trump to account. Sadly, it seems he is the only part of America’s political and institutional set-up that can do so.
The difficulty for the “mainstream” media in acting as a check on the former president was highlighted by his contemptuous town hall appearance on CNN a day after the verdict. Not only that, Trump continued his verbal attack on his accuser. He fired off a volley of lies — that the 2020 election was stolen, that he tried to quickly avert the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — that came so thick and fast that one presenter admitted to the channel that “there was no time. Every lie he told Fact check.The audience of Republicans and Republican-leaning independent voters in New Hampshire responded with mostly laughter and applause.
Many senior Republicans and presidential hopefuls continue to be woefully unable or unwilling to hold Trump to account, meanwhile, as a sign of his grip on the party. After Carroll’s ruling, most refrained from criticizing him. And the case seems likely to do little to change opinion among his supporters — even after his indictment for business fraud, and the January 6 congressional committee’s findings that he was part of a conspiracy to overturn the US election. The Trump base increasingly inhabits an alternate reality from the rest of America, willing to overlook its most egregious faults.
Not sure if this will be enough to get Trump back into the White House next year. Women voters may be further repelled by the Carroll case and his stance on abortion (Trump called Roe v. Wade a Supreme Court overturn.A great victory“). Some moderate Republicans and influential donors who have been privately hand-wringing may yet decide to abandon him — especially if further allegations surface about his role in the Capitol riots or his alleged attempt to induce Georgia state officials to “find” lost votes. have to face
For now, however, the impression that Trump is a waning force after Republicans’ poor performance in last November’s midterms seems premature. A recent poll showed him a A six point lead In a possible rematch against President Joe Biden — who most Americans would prefers not to run Again and who faces adverse economic headwinds.
Trump’s renewed dominance has important implications. One is his ability to throw grenades into the US political process, such as urging Republican lawmakers this week to let the US default on its debt unless Democrats agree to “major” spending cuts. The second is that the world needs to at least prepare for the possibility of a second term for President Trump—who is vindictive and abusive, and has a better sense of how to get what he wants.
US allies in Europe and around the world should take note – especially the NATO alliance, and the UK and Australia, who have included much of themselves with Washington in the Aukus agreement. With Trump refusing to say this week whether he wants Ukraine to win the war against Russian aggression, Kiev will also feel more pressure to gain a decisive advantage in its next counter-offensive. It needs strong collaborative backing. All those who support the US-led international order will continue to hope for the best in 2024. But it is only prudent that they prepare for the worst, at the same time.