Back when Donald Trump was in office, one thing that was really surprising was just how little he seemed to understand leverage. Maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise. This was a guy who had spent his entire real estate career cutting bad deals for himself, and not suffering from it because he was always just going to lie, cheat and steal his way out the deal anyway. But he found out the hard way that politics doesn’t really work that way, and he never did figure out how leverage worked.
It’s fairly obvious that Trump expects to be criminally indicted for espionage long before 2024 – and those aren’t charges you magically weasel out of. When he is arrested, he wants to be able to fleece his base for money by claiming that he’s only being targeted because of what a viable presidential candidate he is, so they’d better donate to his campaign! Trump knows he can’t stop the path to prison that he’s on, but it’s actually not a bad plan to line his pockets in the meantime.
The thing is, Trump had all year to make such an announcement. He could have announced right after the DOJ carried out a search warrant at his home. Or after DOJ court filings revealed he’s being criminally targeted for espionage. Or, crucially for him, before the midterms revealed whether or not he had any political viability left. But instead of announcing a campaign before his candidates could get wiped out in the midterms, he waited until after they indeed got wiped out in the midterms. Now everyone can see that Trump would have no political future even if he weren’t being indicted. And his base has got to be so dejected from having tried and failed to elect Trump’s midterm candidates, this is the worst time for Trump to make his big attempt at hitting them up for money.
Trump needs his own base to gullibly believe this is a real campaign, so they’ll flood him with money. Trump also needs his detractors to gullibly believe that this is a real campaign, so they’ll refer to it as a real campaign, and thus lend credibility to his fake campaign, which will help steer his base toward believing it’s a real campaign.
But again, Donald Trump has never understood leverage. He’s never understood how any of the most basic concepts work in politics. And because of that, he’s making his fake “campaign announcement” at the precise time where the fewest people (on his side or our side) will fall for it. He could have made a far bigger splash a month ago, before his base and his detractors could see that he’s so toxically unpopular, he almost single handedly tanked the midterms for his own party.
Of course even if Trump did understand leverage or political timing, he’s at a point where it probably wouldn’t have helped him anyway. He’s about to be indicted for espionage. He can’t do anything to change that. He has no good options. No path to surviving this. And many of his own party leaders are now clearly opposed to his plan to pretend he’s running for President for a bit in order to line his pockets, given that it’ll just end up making a huge mess for the actual Republican field when Trump is still pretending he’s a candidate while he’s sitting in a prison cell. Trump knows he’s going down, and he’s just trying to use this stunt to make his descent a bit more comfortable for himself.
In the meantime, it’s absolutely crucial that we all make a point of calling out his fake “2024 campaign” as indeed being fake. Yes, he filed papers. So what? I could go file the paperwork tomorrow to run in 2024, and it wouldn’t mean I’m really running either. Trump is desperate for everyone to gullibly fall for the notion that his fake campaign is real, and that he’ll somehow magically still be outside of a prison cell by the 2024 election. Trump needs us to gullibly help him sell the notion that his fake campaign is real, by referring to his fake campaign as real. Don’t give Trump what he wants. Now is the time to, as loudly as possible, call out Trump’s fake campaign as nothing more than a weak attempt at distracting everyone from the fact that he’s about to be indicted for espionage.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report