By Rick Wilson
As one of the longest-serving members of the Never Trump movement -- August of 2015, if you’re wondering how long this mental hellscape has gone on for your writer -- I fell prey in the beginning to a naive belief in the wisdom, character, and strength of the American people when it came to defending the norms, traditions, values, and institutions that are the backbone of this big, messy, wondrous Constitutional Republic. I labored under the peculiar delusion that my old political party would come to its senses.
I wanted to believe that Trump’s obvious corruption, venality, and predation (sexual, financial, and personal) would catch up with him. I wanted to believe a man with the catalog of his cruelty, incompetence, and amorality would be rejected by the American body politic.
I was wrong. After 2016, America was fresh out of miracles. As the anthropologist of the worst person in the world, I know now that only work and effort beat Trump, not hope and a reliance on the old ways of law, politics, and morality. He ignores it all; his shamelessness is his superpower, and when I saw millions of Americans exulting over the Jack Smith indictment of Trump, relieved and joyous, the dark whisperer in my head said, “They’re doing it again. They think they’ve got him, and it’s so early yet.”
Sorry, Democrats and pro-democracy Republicans, but you don’t understand what’s happening. Here’s some tough love:
You don’t understand MAGA primary reality
The GOP primary is already over. Every meaningful candidate in the field has swallowed the poison; Ron DeSantis, Tim Scott, Nikki Haley, et al. have displayed their breathtakingly cynical postures by promising to pardon Trump, punish the DOJ, or some combination thereof. They’re playing to the cheap seats of MAGA (and they’re all cheap seats), hoping against hope that Trump will crash somehow, some way.
They’re already dead. They just don’t know it yet. Trump will be the nominee short of some wildly improbable miracle, and we’re fresh out of miracles around here. Why does this matter?
As the presumptive GOP nominee, the clock is running on legal accountability. Watch and see; Garland and the DOJ have weeks, not months, to make their move, get a trial, and make it stick.
It’s a long shot.
You don’t understand the normative power of their media.
What’s the big story in the right-wing media space right now? It’s not the clear crimes Trump committed as outlined in the Jack Smith indictment. Not, it’s the alt-reality of a Deep State DOJ, with the evil Joe Biden cackling like a Bond villain and throwing Trump in jail. The Fox chyron from Tuesday night saying, “Wannabe dictator speaks at the White House after having his political rival arrested,” was par for the course.
The MAGA media’s hermetic reality bubble will feed millions of Republicans a twisted, bizarro-world version of Trump’s crimes, casting him as a hero of the people, railroaded by the evil progressive Marxist Socialist Wiccan Lesbian Woke Poetry majors. The facts you find compelling will be distorted, diluted, and redefined by a massive media apparatus you’re barely aware of and for which fact and logic have no place.
You don’t understand the base
It’s easy from Washington to look out into the great unwashed masses of MAGA voters and think, “Surely they have a line, right? A limit? An outer edge of behavior past which even they won’t go?” Get them in a focus group, and watch them from behind the glass, and they’re like an alien species.
You don’t understand South Florida
The jury pool, in this case, will be drawn from South Florida. For those of you who aren’t from my home state, there is no greater hive of scum and villainy than South Florida. (Which is why, of course, I love it.) The jury pool will be drawn from a community so inured to public corruption that they routinely laugh off people busted taking briefcases full of cash and are barely stirred by preposterously corrupt schemes executed in broad daylight.
South Florida is also a MAGA hotbed of virulence and intensity that normies can’t grasp. The chance of drawing even one MAGA juror smart enough to keep his or her mouth shut is around 100%. South Florida was necessary for venue purposes…but damn, it is risky as hell.
Finally, you don’t understand the work ahead
There is no deux ex machina surprise ending, no sudden cure for the cancer of Trump. I understand what you want; sanity, stability, accountability, and predictability are perfectly desirable goals for a mature democracy. Adherence to the rule of law seems like the least one should do as President, a base minimum standard that even Richard Nixon realized made remaining in office untenable after a certain point.
Democrats and the vanishingly small fraction of Republican voters who want Trump consigned to the political toxic waste dump of history, reduced in his elder years to gumming prison glop, need to believe in work and real campaigning, not political miracles from the DOJ. Could a miracle happen? Sure, but I promise you that you’ll wake up with regrets every day after the 2024 election if Trump wins and your efforts to stop him ended with intense wishful thinking. On the other hand, regardless of the outcome, if you leave it all on the field, you’ll never regret doing the work.