Trump understands that to many Latinos terms like “communist” and “socialist” aren’t just meaningless terms of abuse.
Photo: CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP) (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images
Donald Trump has managed to make his multiple indictments on 91 felony charges a badge of honor among Republican primary voters — or at least nothing they should think less of him for — by pointing out that these indictments were issued by Democratic or Democrat-appointed prosecutors. Thus, according to the twisted logic of MAGA land, it’s proof that the opposition fears the 45th president so much that it will stoop to anything, including fake criminal charges, to stop him. Indeed, it’s clear that by labeling the indictments as “election interference,” Trump is laying the groundwork for his next “rigged election” claim if he happens to lose.
But effective as this tack has proved to be among Republican primary voters, it’s never been clear that the swing voters who will eventually decide the 2024 general election are going to buy it. They may have their doubts about and even grievances against Joe Biden, but by and large they don’t likely think he’s the mastermind of some diabolical criminal plot to manufacture massive amounts of evidence against the former president (who was no stranger to court long before he entered politics) and deploy it in an array of state as well as federal courts. This has led to an understandable if dangerous belief among some observers that even if Trump’s legal woes don’t take him down during the primaries, they will surely cook his goose in a general election, right?
We are now seeing some indications that Team Trump intends to extend his victimization message into the general election via highly targeted appeals to particular constituencies. As Axios reports, one of them is Latino voters:
Trump’s efforts to liken his legal woes and his clashes with Democrats to the difficulties many Latin Americans have faced under socialist and authoritarian rule represent a turn in his push to appeal to the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. electorate …
This strategy was a big reason why Trump chose Hialeah, Fla., as the site of his counter-programming rally during last week’s Republican presidential debate.
At the rally, Trump portrayed his “persecution” on felony charges — and what he called his resistance to communism — as similar to what many Cuban Americans and their families experienced during the communist regime of Fidel Castro.”
A lot of folks that fled Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba … understand full well what political indictments look like,” said Hialeah Mayor Esteban Bovo Jr., a Trump supporter.
This casts new light on the way Trump described his first federal indictment on classified-document charges back in June during a wild rant at his Bedminster golf club:
If the communists get away with this [Trump’s indictment], it won’t stop with me. They won’t hesitate to ramp up their persecution of Christians, pro-life activists, parents attending school board meetings, and even future Republican candidates … We must end it permanently and we must end it immediately.
They want to take away my freedom because I will never let them take away your freedoms … They want to silence me because I will never let them silence you … I’m the only one who can save this nation because you know that they aren’t coming after me, they’re coming after you, and I just happen to be standing in their way, and I will never be moving.
Yes, this “suffering savior” pose was in part narrowcast to GOP base voters who share Trump’s paranoid state of mind about any and all opposition to their plans. But it was also broadcast to voters for whom terms like “communist” and “socialist” aren’t just blustery terms of abuse but a precise description of real live people who have had a terrible impact on real live Americans. Yes, it seemed insane when Trump called now-Vice-President Kamala Harris a “communist” (not to mention a “monster”) during the 2020 campaign, but it may have been shrewder than it seemed. Trump probably had no idea at the time that he would be facing an array of criminal charges just a few years later, but it may prove handy to him to have gotten the suggestion into the air that key members of the Biden team were capable of unspeakable, tyrannical conduct.
Besides, as an old (and likely apocryphal) political tale about Lyndon Johnson had it, the most scurrilous charges against an opponent can have an automatic benefit. “Nobody’s going believe that, Lyndon!” an aide supposedly told him after he started a whisper campaign that his opponent was guilty of bestiality. “Yeah … but I want to hear the son-of-a-bitch deny it!”