Indictments? Who cares? Donald Trump backers say they don’t trust government anyway

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WASHINGTONNever mind the indictments in four separate criminal cases – Donald Trump has persuaded millions of Republicans that prosecutors are only playing politics, and he has actually increased his lead in the GOP presidential race.

And it’s been a pretty easy sell: Most Trump supporters never liked the government anyway

Distrust of institutions – from Congress to the media to the legal system – fueled Trump’s journey to the presidency; nowadays, disdain for “the establishment” is sustaining the ex-president’s comeback bid as he faces up to four criminal trials on charges that would have destroyed previous candidates, according to a variety of Trump backers and political analysts.

Trump voters like Janet Cozzone, a retiree who lives in Trenton, Fla., said the businessman-turned-presidential-candidate “opened the eyes” of people who once had faith in public officials to do the right thing.

“Donald Trump taught us that we may be great, but we are not as great as we think we are,” she said.

‘I’m being indicted for you’

Since the start of his political career, and throughout a tumultuous presidency that included two impeachments, Trump has cast the various investigations into his conduct as attacks on his political supporters and their movement.

“I’m being indicted for you,” Trump has told his followers, appealing to people who have long been suspicious of what he calls “the swamp” of government.

Tobias Hernandez, 32, a trucking company manager from Warwick, R.I., said Trump “might be on to something” when he says that too many officials are only out for themselves – and that sometimes includes Trump himself, he added.

“I support the movement, but I don’t really support him personally,” Hernandez said. “I don’t know what his true intentions are.”

‘Getting burned’

Other Republicans said too many Trump supporters are fooling themselves, and that the indicted president is only looking to protect himself. They also said Trump’s legal problems will hurt him with independents voters who will decide the 2024 general election

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has mocked Trump’s claim of being “indicted for you,” noted this week that Russian President Vladimir Putin a dictator who is considered an enemy of the U.S. echoed his claim that a rotten system is targeting an ex-president.

“Trump is under indictment because of his conduct,” Christie said on the social media website X. “He played with fire and is getting burned.”

The former president is expected to spotlight his message Friday with two speeches in Washington, D.C. One is to the Concerned Women for America organization and the other is at a “Pray Vote Stand Summit.”

‘It’s a sham’

Trump faces two legal cases involving efforts to overturn the 2020 election, another one involving obstruction of justice and hiding classified documents, and another one involving hush money payments – yet many of his backers are sticking with him out of distrust of the accusers.

Jacob A. Fokken, 28, an automotive repairman from Las Vegas, Nevada, said the government only wants to “help the people they want,” and go after opponents like Trump.

“You can say what you want against anybody without any proof,” he said.

As for the system itself, he said: “It’s a sham.”

Many Republicans seem to agree. The Real Clear Politics website average of national polls gives Trump more than 56% of the Republican vote. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is far behind in second place at 13%.

Local polls also give Trump huge leads in early contest states like Iowa and New Hampshire.

Can you believe what you’re told?

Trump’s long-term campaign against institutions feature another prominent target: the news media. His supporters agree with that message.

Carrie Park, 45, a truck driver who lives in Waukesha, Wisc., said the news media over-emphasizes the negative, particularly about Trump: “Can you believe everything that’s being told to you by the news media? No, you can’t.”

Park said Trump is the “the lesser of evils,” and that she has no faith in government officials anyway.

“Everybody has been so corrupt,” she said.

‘How stupid are our leaders?’

Trump has pounded an anti-government theme his entire public life, especially in his presidential announcement speech of June 16, 2015. Speaking from Trump Tower in New York City, the new candidate said that national leaders had let people down on items like border security, trade with other countries, health care, and the influence of special interests.

“How stupid are our leaders?” Trump said at one point in declaring his presidential bid. “How stupid are these politicians to allow this to happen? How stupid are they?”

During the 2016 campaign, his term in the White House, and his post-presidency legal defense, Trump continued to play off “crisis levels” of “distrust, polarization, and frustration” within the electorate, said Jennifer Mercieca, author of a book called “Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump.”

Historically, distrust of government has been a political mainstay ever since colonists revolted against Great Britain and created the United States of America.

Attitudes toward institutions have worsened, on and off, since the national traumas of the Vietnam war, Watergate, and other scandals of the 1960s and ’70s.

In July, Gallup reported that an annual survey showed that “historically low faith in U.S. institutions continues.”

A majority of Americans – more than 50% – expressed confidence in only two of the 16 institutions surveyed, “small business” and “the military.”

Reported Gallup: “The five worst-rated institutions – newspapers, the criminal justice system, television news, big business and Congress – stir confidence in less than 20% of Americans, with Congress, at 8%, the only one in single digits.”

Related: Supreme Court approval dips with Democrats, Republicans equally unhappy, poll finds

‘Don’t trust the elites’

Most of Trump’s Republican opponents in the 2024 have avoided attacking him for his indictments, in part because they don’t want to alienate Trump’s anti-institutional base.

For years, many Republicans have followed Trump’s lead in opposing “the establishment,” however it is defined. Two years ago, DeSantis titled a Wall Street Journal op-ed on COVID restrictions: “Don’t Trust the Elites.”

There are signs, however, that some candidates are starting to push back on Trump-style populism.

In a highly-promoted speech this month, former Vice President Mike Pence appeared to reference Trump’s mindset by criticizing a style of populism that strays from true conservativism.

A “growing faction” of voters, he said, would “substitute our faith in limited government and traditional values” for an agenda that consists of little more than “personal grievances and performative outrage.”

‘It’s become a cult’

Republicans who have left the party during the Trump years said too many of his followers are racists, sexists, and xenophobes, the kinds of people who like government when it does things for them, but don’t like it when it does things for others.

“It’s become a cult,” said Rich Galen, a former Republican political strategist.

To many of them, Galen said, the criminal charges are “more evidence that Trump is being persecuted,” and they will continue to defend him no matter how many times he is put on trial.

The only question is how many diehards will stick with Trump when the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary roll around in January.

Trump’s world: Us-versus-them

Mercieca, a professor of communication and journalism at Texas A&M University, said Trump uses “strategies to take advantage of negative qualities in the electorate.”

“It is us versus them,” she said, adding that Trump is telling his people: “‘I’m on your side, and you should be on my side.'”

Some Trump supporters said they like it that way

Carlos Pacheco, 44, a general contractor from Oregon City, Ore., said people sense that things are “messed up,” and Trump connects with those who feel that way – and there are a lot of them.

“There’s something about him that captures people,” he said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Indictments? So what? Trump backers don’t trust the system anyway

EMEA Tribune is not involved in this news article, it is taken from our partners and or from the News Agencies. Copyright and Credit go to the News Agencies, email [email protected]

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