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Donald Trump persecution complex | Vanity Fair

Donald Trump persecution complex |  Vanity Fair
Donald Trump persecution complex |  Vanity Fair

 


Like many autocrats before him, Donald Trump loves projection. And why wouldn't he? He used the method with great success! Who could forget when, during his 2016 campaign, he gave Hillary Clinton labels like monstrous, unhinged, unstable and dangerous, even saying at one point, “She's really almost unhinged.” You might not have been a big Clinton fan in 2016, but, if anything, she might have been a little too articulate, which is part of the reason she struggled to convey an authentic personality to voters. In contrast, when it comes to Trump, hinges aren't even part of the political toolbox.

It's been more than two weeks since the former president's criminal conviction, and instead of, say, reflecting on his past misdeeds, the former president continues to use this moment as a prime opportunity for projection. In fact, from the moment Trump was indicted in the New York secrecy case, he began attacking Joe Biden and his allies. This is all done by Biden and his people. It's Washington that does it. No one has ever seen anything like this, Trump baselessly claimed shortly after his guilty verdict, even though his hush money case was brought by the state, not the federal government. Attacks from former presidents are hardly limited to Bidenworld; he also attacked the judge, jury, witnesses and prosecutors before, during and after the case. It was a rigged trial led by a contradictory and corrupt judge, he said late last month.

None of these projections are surprising. That's sort of Trump's way of operating, Liz Cheney told Anderson Cooper in December as Trump, the man who tried to overturn a free and fair election in 2020, accused Biden of trying to destroy the democracy. His political success would be seriously threatened if people recognized that he himself was trying to destroy democracy. Cheney was right; To cover up the delusion of his supporters, Trump employed three tactics: intimidating his enemies into supporting him by projecting his own qualities onto them (remember Lyin Ted?); labeling unwinnable enemies, RINOs (Cheney and Adam Kinzinger); and portraying himself, the aggressor, as the ultimate victim.

Trump's recent conviction is perfect fodder for the latter, which is why so many people in Trumpworld consider it a boon. Many experts have speculated that his legal troubles could galvanize the MAGA base. An adviser to a Trump rival called the series of criminal indictments a solar eclipse-like event that has stymied other Republican contenders trying to gain ground.

Yet, as I have argued before, what works with GOP primary voters can turn off swing voters. A new Politico Magazine/Ipsos poll suggests the political fallout from Trump's conviction may be greater than initially expected, with 21% of independents saying the guilty verdict has made them less likely to support the former president. (This finding flies in the face of a late May poll that indicated conviction was essentially not a factor, meaning that, at the very least, undecided voters could be somewhat malleable until November .)

Polls aside, the ex-president also has another problem: Nearly two weeks after Trump's conviction in New York, Hunter Biden was convicted on highly unusual federal gun charges. Many of Trump's allies were secretly calling for an acquittal, as the Times noted after Hunter's guilty verdict. The talking points wrote themselves: it would have been further proof that the American justice system was rigged in favor of the Bidens and against the Trumps. In other words, it will be difficult for Trump to look forward to his criminal conviction when it also happens to the other side.

Adding to Hunter's inconvenient conviction is the fact that a Democratic senator (Bob Menendez of New Jersey) and a Democratic congressman (Texas Henry Cuellar) are both being prosecuted by Biden's DOJ. Wouldn't a rigged system avoid prosecuting members of the president's own party? Isn't Hunter's belief a testament to the fact that the system is actually not rigged against Republicans? Of course, instead of attempting to answer these uncomfortable questions after Hunter's conviction, Trump remained mysteriously silent.

Biden, meanwhile, was loud and clear. When the president broke his silence on Trump's attacks on the justice system, he said: “It's reckless, it's dangerous, it's irresponsible for anyone to say this is rigged just because they don't don't like the verdict. It was right, because if we've learned anything from eight years of Trumpism, it's that our institutions aren't as strong as we need them to be.

This may not always be true, but right now, Democrats are the standard bearers of our institutions. They must defend them and raise democratic standards. Biden is not an aspiring autocrat, just as Hillary Clinton is not unhinged. Trump, however, is both of those things; this is why he accuses his political enemies of being them too. Every accusation is a reflection. And if democracy is to survive, Democrats must continue to hold up the mirror to Donald Trump.

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