This morning, former President Donald Trump announced to his Truth Social followers that he expects to be arrested in New York this coming Tuesday. The arrest will presumably involve the Manhattan District attorney’s investigation of hush money allegedly paid by Mr. Trump to porn star Stormy Daniels. See, https://www.reuters.com/world/us/trump-says-he-expects-be-arrested-tuesday-manhattan-da-case-truth-social-2023-03-18/ . “Protest, take our nation back!” Mr. Trump told his supporters.
Assuming the arrest occurs, then, looking ahead, we can expect events to unravel at some point along a spectrum from worst to best, as illustrated by the following three scenarios:
- Enough of his followers turn out so that they do, indeed, “take their nation back.” This would require something akin to a civil war—one in which police across the country are unable to hold back the angry mobs. (Imagine the events of January 6, 2021, on steroids.) Government would no longer be held by duly elected officials in our 50 states, but rather by leaders of whatever local MAGA mobs happen to win their respective battles.
- Demonstrations spring up across the country sporadically in various places. One or two may even become violent, particularly those happening in proximity to Mr. Trump himself. (We assume the Manhattan District Attorney is aware of these dangers and has taken steps to protect the courthouse.)
- MAGA supporters are largely silent, leaving Mr. Trump to fend for himself.
The insurrectionist nature of January 6, 2021, events notwithstanding, this Spirited Reasoner finds the first scenario highly improbable. Too many Americans, including most Republicans, were sickened by the violence they witnessed during the storming of the U. S. Capitol.
The third scenario, on the other hand, seems equally improbable. There are simply too many energetic MAGA supporters willing to do whatever their master commands them to do.
We should therefore expect the coming days and weeks to be marked by a series of protests—some violent, most not—in places where Trump support is most pronounced, and in places like Manhattan, where the legal action is taking place.
What we find ironic in all this is the degree to which all three scenarios tend to weaken Mr. Trump’s political support over the long run. The first two hurt Mr. Trump because they allow President Biden to assume the posture of national keeper of law and order. (“Look at the way Donald Trump is sewing violence and discord across our nation!”) The third hurts Mr. Trump because it proves him to be a paper tiger, one whose words (“Protest, take our nation back!”) go unheeded by his supporters.
Once upon a time, it was the Republican Party that called itself the party of law and order. Now, with Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy himself declaring political war on the Manhattan District Attorney, it would seem that Republicans are no longer willing to encourage Americans to settle their disputes peacefully, via our third branch of government.
Welcome to the land of the Upside Down.