Donald Trump has 63 percent of Republicans in his corner and has pulled even with Biden among registered voters, even as Trump fights five lawsuits by Democrat prosecutors. Why?
Let’s unpack the shift toward Trump. He is a man who suffers no lack of self-confidence, a valuable attribute for a nation missing it. He is slow to throttle back, a two-edged sword. He takes things personally, slowing airspeed. But who would not resent being relentlessly targeted?
This may prove the nub of it, what 2024 comes down to – fairness. When everything is said and done, billions spent to sully, defend, crucify, humiliate, and resuscitate this former president, distinguished by an objectively solid policy record, his bumps and dents may come to nothing.
Americans despise unfairness more than anything except perhaps being told they have no sense of humor, are “too free,” “cling to their guns and bibles,” “deplorables,” “enemies of the state,” and “need to be deprogrammed,” Hillary Clinton’s latest brilliant idea for vocal conservatives.
Americans do not take well to such broadsides. Even more than insults to their way of life, intellect, heart, independence, faith, fortitude, and love of freedom, they hate unfairness.
Even with the broken state of our federal government, wild spending, cries of outrage from both sides, misuse, and abuse of legal process to settle scores, eyeball-to-eyeball teeth-gritting, nothing more riles Americans – on either side of the proverbial aisle – than to see profound unfairness.
Answer this question: Why, after each indictment of Donald Trump, each overstatement about him, each overzealous action to end his career, each kick by his political opponents, do more decide they could vote for him?
Put differently, how does one explain the chasm between Biden and Trump? As Democrats heap more on Trump, he becomes increasingly sympathetic, a victim emblematic of resisting abuse.
Americans hate to see power vested in leaders – whatever party or persuasion – misused, abused, and deployed against a political opponent. It tears deeply at something in good people.
If one thing sank Richard Nixon beyond paranoia, privilege, untouchability, and abuses by his advisers, including an attorney general who went to jail for cover-up, it was his “enemies list.”
Americans do not like that. They do not commission their leaders to “go Bolshevik,” send goon squads out, or raid political opponents. We have never consented to that sort of lawlessness, a proven tactic of autocrats, communists, and fascists – but not those who live in a republic.
The public perception grows that those in power have no respect for laws, rules, or constitutional rights as if they learned how far they could go in COVID – and now want to push more.
Average people who get it do not like it. They know individual liberties are the heart of a self-governing democracy. They know that suppression of liberties, not the reverse, kills democracy.
As time passes, more Americans resent this rise in lawlessness, at the top and bottom, but especially in politics. They resent those who abuse power and use it like a sword with arrogance.
To tell people they cannot have gas-powered trucks, cars, motorcycles, and snowplows must forfeit reliable gas stoves, water heaters, furnaces, and half of what they own, soon guns, is offensive.
When the government tries to morally shame Americans into conformity with hair-pulling hysteria about the climate, or make parents villains before their kids, train them to shame those raising them, it just becomes too much.
And now you have a former president being demonized, called every name in the book, legally humiliated, gagged, and gob-smacked, who stands his ground against these political injustices.
If you want to understand what is happening in the country, look no further than the basic instincts of a good people. Americans know their leaders are imperfect. They would like a lot less division, but they also know ideas do clash and teeth do gnash, which is part of democracy.
What they cannot tolerate, what they resist with every fiber, is being unfairly targeted by power, their own government, those supposed to work for them, who ignore the limits and dictate.
That is why, when they see someone systematically prosecuted by political actors facing the twisted application of black letter law, they are made uneasy. They do not like to see their government doing this, especially when the party is attacked for defending their rights. They cleave to him.
Watch closely. Even as the GOP produces a strong bench, ideas for restoring lost liberty and security, and brave souls like RFK Jr. speak up, 2024 may well turn on perceptions of fairness.
Bottom line: Trump’s popularity is growing because he is known, posted a sound policy record, is not Biden, and stands against abusive government, but most of all, Americans hate unfairness.
Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.