18 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY AUGUST 31-SEPTEMBER 6, 2023 www.montereycountyweekly.com Justice Served The Republican nominating process will be the footnote to Donald Trump’s courtroom drama. By John Nichols FORUM Aside from Nov. 5, 2024, when the entire country will weigh in on the presidential race, the busiest day on next year’s election calendar will be March 5. That’s when Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia will hold Republican primaries, choosing delegates to the party’s convention in Milwaukee. Republicans in Utah and North Dakota will caucus. Yet, for the first time in the almost 40 years after the “Super Tuesday” experiment was launched in an effort by party bosses to settle nomination fights early in the primary season, the voting is unlikely to be the top story. Instead, the news headlines will be focused on the trial of former president Donald Trump on charges of conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election that swept him out of the White House. His trial date is March 4. Will that give Trump the attention he covets? And the electoral advantages that go with that attention? Absolutely. By now, it is clear that Trump’s base expands and intensifies with each new legal challenge. Ever since Trump announced in 2015 that he would seek the 2016 presidential nomination, he has rewritten the rules when it comes to the intersection of scandal and politics. And that has been the case since he started accumulating the 91 indictments he now faces. Perhaps it is a function of the celebrity takeover of American politics, the degeneration of American media into stenographic coverage of Trump, or a function of the degeneration of the Republican Party into a cult of personality—or, most likely, it is a combination of all three of these factors—but there is no question that Trump is benefiting from the sort of legal morass that historically doomed political careers. There’s a decent chance Trump will be a convicted felon by the time of the Republican National Convention in July 2024. But don’t think for a moment that a criminal record will derail the Trump train. It will merely fuel the sense of victimhood that has infused the party since it decided to gamble its fortunes on a failed reality-TV star. While the disruption of the primary process will undoubtedly benefit Trump, however, it certainly does not guarantee that he will be returning to the White House. Just as Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, Nikki Haley and the rest of the Republicans who dream of displacing Trump will be struggling to get a word in edgewise during the primaries, so too could President Joe Biden find it hard to be heard. The best way to get ahead of Trump is to create a counternarrative that is as compelling as Trump’s courtroom drama. That won’t be done by running against Trump. Rather, that will be done by running around him, by mounting a bold, issue-driven campaign. Trump could be on trial, and on TV, every day of 2024. The biggest political question that Biden must answer is whether we’ll be talking about anything else. John Nichols is a national affairs correspondent for The Nation. OPINION Don’t think a criminal record will derail the Trump train. PRESENTED BY