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Trump’s trial and GOP tribulation

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) called out GOP corruption Sunday on CNN when she asserted, “The crime wave is within the Republican Party.” She was referring to former President Donald Trump’s recent arrest and the calls for an ethics probe into Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. But she could have gone further and implicated the GOP in the latest round of mass shootings in Louisville, Kentucky, and Nashville, Tennessee, and GOP lawmakers at the state and federal level have refused to act on gun violence.

All of this makes a mockery of the Republican claim to be “the party of law and order.” The GOP has allowed a culture of crime, corruption and violence to fester, and it has swept across the nation. It has become the party of dead kids in school and the Jan.6 Capitol attack.

The steadfast GOP support for the former president, regardless of his mounting alleged crimes, and the party’s refusal to take strong action to prevent the epidemic of killings of young children in schools has been unwavering. Does that not make the GOP the party that coddles criminals?

The lineage of the Republican law and order brand goes back to the days of Richard Nixon, who promised to crack down on civil rights demonstrators and protesters against the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s. Subsequent GOP presidents like Ronald Reagan and Trump followed his lead.

The hard line on crime has paid dividends for the party. Voters concerned about crime supported Trump over President Joe Biden by more than a 3-to-1 margin in the national exit poll in 2020. The big question is whether the GOP can maintain its political advantage on crime through Trump’s trial and tribulations as well as his party’s refusal to deal with the onslaught of gun violence, among other issues.

Trump’s legal problems will likely hang over the GOP like the Sword of Damocles well into next year’s presidential and congressional elections.

His trial on 34 felony counts by a grand jury in Manhattan for allegedly falsifying corporate records to conceal his affair with porn star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election won’t even start until late this year. This will overlap with Trump and the other GOP candidates ramping up their presidential campaigns. Trump recently added fuel to the fire when he responded to his arrest with a call to defund the FBI and the Department of Justice. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) even called for the arrest of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who prosecuted the case. This kind of extremist rhetoric puts the GOP in a defensive posture before the presidential election.

Trump’s trial in the Big Apple is just the tip of the iceberg. He also faces an investigation by a grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, related to Trump asking the secretary of State to “find” enough votes in 2020 to overturn the election. Trump is also the subject of a legal inquiry by a special prosecutor in the U.S. Department of Justice who is examining Trump’s role in the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as well as his possession of top-secret government-owned documents after he left the White House. Trump is the poster child for Republicans as the party for crime and corruption.

The biggest problem the GOP faces next year is the shadow that Trump has cast over his party. The charges will rally his diehard base of his Republican MAGA acolytes and make it even more difficult for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) or any other GOP candidate to deny Trump renomination in 2024. Even his opponents for the Republican presidential nomination have rallied behind him, which politically taints them with Trump’s alleged criminal behavior.

Trump also deserves a fair share of the blame for the rash of violence in American society. His angry and violent rhetoric from the White House and on the campaign trail threw oil on the fire of a bubbling cauldron of hate.

The Republican attacks on prosecutors and judicial officials undermine the party’s precious image as the party of law and order. What makes the problem even worse is the failure of Republicans to act against the wave of gun deaths.

The GOP — along with its staunch ally, the National Rifle Association (NRA) — has seemingly done everything it can to obstruct legislation in Congress and to block gun reform in state legislatures. Thoughts and prayers are nice, but Americans really need actions and laws to control gun violence. You can expect more pro-gun and anti-democracy rhetoric this week when Trump and other Republican leaders speak at a national NRA leadership conference.

The recent gun deaths of six people at a bank in Louisville, along with three adults and three children at a Nashville, Tennessee, school are just the latest episodes in a rash of gun violence that has swept the nation. Gun deaths are now the leading cause of death for children in this country.

There are indications that the GOP indifference to crime — whether it be gun violence or political corruption — has turned the tide toward Democrats when it comes to the question of law and order. The national exit poll from the 2022 midterms indicates the GOP advantage on crime was much smaller than it was in 2020. The level of concern about crime was more than offset by the Democratic dominance on gun control as a priority.

Last week, two Democratic candidates, who were pummeled by their opponents for being “soft on crime,” won victories in the races for mayor of Chicago and for Wisconsin’s Supreme Court. This trend could reverse the “soft on crime” curse that has plagued the Democratic Party for a generation and forfeit a GOP advantage that the party needs to succeed.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster, CEO of Bannon Communications Research and the host of his weekly “aggressively progressive” podcast, “Deadline D.C. with Brad Bannon.” Follow him on Twitter: @BradBannon

Tags 2020 election 2022 midterm elections 2024 presidential election Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Clarence Thomas Crime Donald Trump Law and order Politics Politics of the United States tough on crime

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