Medved: Can a new Trump victimhood campaign win back the White House?

28 July 2023

Facing more than a half-dozen hostile legal proceedings before next year’s presidential election, can Donald Trump mount an effective campaign of innocent, aggrieved victimhood that will return him to power in the White House?

In other words, will the crowded schedule of indictments, investigations, depositions, and trials serve to boost or block his pending presidential ambitions?

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A recent caller to my daily radio show made a novel argument on behalf of the former president’s unprecedented strategy and introduced a provocative analogy to explain why the legal and political forces arrayed against him are likely to fail.

Identifying himself as a high school teacher named Tim in Snohomish, Washington, my guest suggested that the situation in today’s national politics resembled a school that’s been horribly, constantly disrupted by a plague of cruel and unconscionable bullying. The offenses follow a consistent pattern in which a clique comprised of the most popular, privileged, and arrogant students regularly persecutes a noble outcast who doesn’t fit in.

The situation becomes so dangerous and destructive that disciplinary expulsions are not only appropriate, but required. The question for administrators: Should we punish the whole crowd of spoiled thugs at fault in this situation or try to remove the one long-suffering soul who has been their unfortunate victim?

In Tim’s perspective, the former president is the incorruptible non-conformist who, as a matter of conscience and conviction, refuses to submit to the expectations of the haughty establishment, the governmental and media elites who comprise the all-powerful deep state and can’t tolerate Donald Trump’s unbending determination to drain the putrid swamp that has become their comfortable habitat.

This line of thinking helps to explain the odd phenomenon that sees Trump’s poll ratings improve with each new charge against him. Having already survived two impeachment attempts to drive him from office, the so-called “Russia Hoax,” the dubious dossier, decades of questions about his business practices and tax returns, the “Access Hollywood” tape, and the payment of hush money to a porn star, the MAGA Man has made his pursuers look not only relentless but ineffectual.

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To his loyal supporters, the fact that no prior president endured prosecution for mishandling classified documents doesn’t show Trump as distinctively irresponsible but as uniquely targeted by unscrupulous and implacable enemies. Each fresh accusation makes its predecessors seem less serious and singular, not more so, indicating a pattern of pointless persecution, not personal wrong-doing.

As the analogy about one brutally bullied student would seem to indicate, the ferocious focus on Trump’s personal shortcomings also helps in a strange way to elevate his stature –the same way that a school would devote special attention to any kid who suffered cruel and consistent abuse.

As the undisputed center of attention and controversy, the former president confirms the conviction of his loyal followers that their hero plays a gigantic, utterly disproportionate role in this moment of history.

While war rages in Ukraine, deficit spending menaces our economic future, homelessness and rising crime afflict our major cities, the multiple charges against Trump seem to suggest a blinding obsession on the part of his political foes who, recalling the indelible images of Gulliver’s Travels, look like tiny, irrelevant Lilliputians struggling vainly to bind and subdue a giant they can’t comprehend but instinctively fear.

The fears about bullying, the “weaponization” of government, and the politics of personal destruction threaten the national welfare not through needless battles but by paralyzing distraction. Instead of a much-needed new willingness to cooperate in addressing the most pressing common problems, we deploy ubiquitous assaults on the opposition. Trump’s prosecutors were hardly the first to lead lusty chants that demanded that the leaders of the other side should promptly be locked up.

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Just as an educational institution damaged by a plague of bullying will find less time for learning or development of constructive connections among the student body, so too a political system in which both parties claim victimhood and accuse each other side of persecution will be unable to address the nation’s most substantive challenges.

In announcing his candidacy, Trump promised Americans who felt disregarded by the Democrats that he would become “your voice, your justice, your retribution.” The overriding conviction on the part of the candidate himself that he has been treated unjustly gives rise to the reasonable fear that the retribution he has in mind involves personal grudges more than fresh approaches to politics or policy.

As far as conducting a revenge-seeking, victimhood campaign for the nation’s highest office, Trump’s true believers may try to persuade the public of the faults of their rivals but face a much tougher fight to establish the blameless innocence of their own eternally embattled leader.

Listen to Michael Medved weekday afternoons from 12 – 3 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3).

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