Why do Republicans still support Trump? Verdict rage is hypocritical

The conservative outrage over the trial of the former president doesn’t mean he’s innocent or a victim.


As predicted, conservatives have rallied around former President Donald Trump since a New York jury found him guilty of 34 criminal charges Thursday.

Right now, they’re not really filled with passion for Trump’s many qualities as they are united in their disdain for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the criminal justice system and his alleged use of lawfare for this unprecedented conviction. Even before the guilty verdict, conservatives cast doubt on Bragg’s motives, legal reasoning, and whether or not Trump’s alleged crimes warranted felony convictions. Now, they’re outraged.

The truth is that Trump is still the worst choice for a Republican presidential candidate, and the cynicism over his conviction could have been avoided if the GOP had embraced a better nominee.

Why are Donald Trump’s indictments not a bigger deal for Republicans?

A bevy of conservatives have expressed outrage following Trump’s conviction on 34 counts of falsifying business records related to the hush payments made to Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election.

In New York magazine, former prosecutor Elie Honig blasted Bragg for using the law to punish Trump: “The DA’s charges against Trump push the outer boundaries of the law and due process. That’s not on the jury. That’s on the prosecutors who chose to bring the case and the judge who let it play out as it did.”

Conservatives, why Trump? I don’t like the questions Trump’s guilty verdict forces conservatives to ask ourselves

Trump supporters ignore the other criminal indictments, peppered in other states, that will likely not go to trial before the election. Are they all also based on flimsy misdemeanors-turned-felonies?

Republicans act as if all the GOP candidates for president had indictments and we chose the one with the least legal problems.

Conservative outrage over Trump verdict seems hypocritical

Cynicism over the legal process and Bragg’s prosecution has rallied conservatives around Trump. His reelection campaign announced that it raised $34.8 million in the first six hours after the guilty verdict.

Rather than unite for Trump because he’s such a great candidate, conservatives seem to be uniting for Trump because this conviction has revealed a common enemy.

Josh Hammer, attorney and senior editor-at-large at Newsweek, where I have written, called the verdict “outrageous” and a mechanism of the “Democrat-Lawfare Complex.”

Yet when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ran against Trump in 2016, conservatives rallied around him with a different strategy: They and Trump himself repeatedly suggested that Clinton shouldn’t be a candidate or president because of the FBI investigation into allegations that she stored classified information improperly. Republicans, perhaps rightly, suggested that alone disqualified the Democrat from running for office.

What about Trump after his conviction?

Trump shouldn’t represent Republicans and the conservative movement

This is precisely why Trump is still an awful choice for the GOP. Conservatives are picking apart the verdict and think their outrage means Trump is innocent and, thus, still an excellent candidate. Even if Bragg’s case against Trump is appealed and overturned, it will not exonerate Trump of other charges and still doesn’t make Trump a good candidate to represent the GOP.

In terms of political strategy, Trump puts the GOP in a constantly weak position. We are now no longer the party of conservative values. We’re just the party of Trump. And what does Trump primarily do? He moans. He complains. He obfuscates. He explains away. He shirks responsibility. This is so tiresome and should be beneath this great party.

GOP after Trump: Republicans need to rebrand in a post-Trump world. Here’s how we can do it.

Now, with the verdict handed down, the GOP has taken to being collectively outraged − whiny even − as they have been since the 2020 election loss. The similarities are eerie. Both times, Republicans continue to complain about their treatment rather than accept responsibility for their decisions and pivot to a stronger position and accept some responsibility.

Did some rioters receive a harsh sentence after storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021? Yes. Does this overreach mean they should have stormed the Capitol? No.

Should Bragg have succeeded on his flimsy hush money case, and should the jury have found Trump guilty? Perhaps not. Should Trump have given hush money to a porn star and lied about it? Probably not.

This is a bad look for conservatives. We could have chosen a candidate like former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley or Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who could beat President Joe Biden and who haven’t been indicted.

We could have focused on how we want to improve American lives by reducing inflation and spending, improving foreign relations and boosting the military. Now that the Republican Party has stood by Trump through his conviction, the GOP will be forced to defend him the rest of the way instead of helping a better candidate beat Biden and fix the country.

The GOP still should have taken the opportunity to pick somebody better when we had it. Instead, we’re back to someone with a record of fraud, lies and, now, a felony.

Nicole Russell is an opinion columnist with USA TODAY. She lives in Texas with her four kids.

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