The really, really, really wild wildcards in the 2022 and 2024 elections

It seems Donald Trump’s entourage is perceiving a need for him to lawyer up[1] as the legal ramifications[2] of the search of Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago[3] become more apparent, but

One lawyer told a story from early in Trump’s presidency of his legal team urging him against tweeting about the Mueller probe, only to find he’d tweeted about it before they got to the end of the West Wing driveway. Several people said Trump was nearly impossible to represent and that it would be unclear if they would ever get paid.[4]


It hardly seems surprising that Trump’s past behavior with lawyers[5] has come back to haunt him with lawyers—at least one has lost licenses to practice law for acting on Trump’s behalf[6] and complaints against others may be pending[7]—but of course, all this becomes moot if, as I have predicted,[8] Trump wins the presidency in 2024.

And if there’s one message we can draw from Liz Cheney’s drubbing in the Wyoming primary,[9] and the performance of Trump-supporting candidates in recent primaries,[10] as well as Republican support for Trump even in the face of suggestions of violations of the Espionage Act,[11] it’s that his support appears undimmed, which is to say that while some Republican politicians may have been shamed by what we now know of the Mar-a-Lago search,[12] for Trump’s base, it’s still my theory of the morality of polarization, “in which what ‘we’ do is good and right, simply by virtue of the fact that ‘we’ are doing it; and what ‘they’ do is evil and wrong, simply by virtue of the fact that ‘they’ are doing it.”[13]

A crucial aspect of the morality of polarization, of course, is that the moral implications of an action itself are irrelevant: For Trump’s supporters, it matters little that Trump may be accused of violating the Espionage Act or have committed obstruction of justice.[14] “We” stored some records at Mar-a-Lago and by virtue of the fact that “we” did it, it is good and right. “They” searched for and retrieved those records and by virtue of the fact that ”they” did it, they are evil and wrong. Conservative epistemology now appears not merely to value almost anything other than actual evidence,[15] but to have embraced the morality of polarization[16] as a way of knowing.[17]

There is, of course, a tell in Trump’s difficulty finding the kind of lawyers he needs for allegations that may arise from the Mar-a-Lago search.[18] The support Trump sees from his base and in Republican—for which, read white Christian nationalist—primaries is far from universal. It remains to be seen how all this plays in November and it may well be that between Trump’s apparent criminality in seeking to retain and return to the presidency and the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the outcome of November’s election may be far different from what was widely forecast even a very few weeks ago. What we can see are two potentially hugely significant wildcards on the electoral table.

But what we also see, both in the January 6 coup attempt[19] itself and even in the reaction to the Mar-a-Lago search[20] is a willingness of some—we do not know how many— of Trump’s supporters to resort to violence to try to get their way;[21] this has likely been a factor[22] in Attorney General Merrick Garland’s dithering, first, over whether to search Mar-a-Lago and, second, whether to charge Trump.[23] This is another wildcard and, at this moment, I cannot say which wildcard(s) will prevail.


Update, August 30, 2022:

“What we’re seeing now is either the beginning or the death knell of an extreme MAGA philosophy,” [Joe] Biden said, referring to [Donald] Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. “It’s not just Trump, it’s the entire philosophy that underpins the — I’m going to say something — it’s like semi-fascism.”[24]

But what have the Democrats actually done about it? Nothing. Even when it would keep them in the electoral game.[25]

It will take actual action, not mere performance, to make my 2024 forecast[26] wrong,[27] but what we keep seeing is that the Democrats do not actually stand in opposition to white Christian nationalism or to the longstanding Republican project to establish a competitive authoritarian regime. They enable white Christian nationalism and they enable the competitive authoritarian regime.

Such action, rather, comes from the Republicans themselves, overreaching in their support for Donald Trump, overreaching in their opposition to abortion rights.[28] It’s all the Democrats ever ask for: That you vote against the Republicans. And the infuriating part is that it just might be working.[29]

  1. [1]Isaac Arnsdorf et al., “Trump is rushing to hire seasoned lawyers — but he keeps hearing ‘No,’” Washington Post, August 16, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/16/trump-lawyers-fbi-raid/
  2. [2]David Benfell, “I cannot yet tell you my 2024 forecast was wrong,” Not Housebroken, August 16, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/08/13/i-cannot-yet-tell-you-my-2024-forecast-was-wrong/
  3. [3]Eric Tucker and Michael Balsamo, “Trump says FBI conducting search of Mar-a-Lago estate,” Associated Press, August 8, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/donald-trump-mar-a-lago-government-and-politics-9e8d683afe87389407950af7ccfdbdd6; Scott R. Anderson et al., “What We Do and Don’t Know About the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago Search,” Lawfare, August 9, 2022, https://www.lawfareblog.com/what-we-do-and-dont-know-about-fbis-mar-lago-search
  4. [4]Isaac Arnsdorf et al., “Trump is rushing to hire seasoned lawyers — but he keeps hearing ‘No,’” Washington Post, August 16, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/16/trump-lawyers-fbi-raid/
  5. [5]Eric Lutz, “Trump Is Reportedly Stiffing Rudy Giuliani on Legal Fees,” Vanity Fair, January 14, 2021, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2021/01/trump-is-reportedly-stiffing-rudy-giuliani-on-legal-fees; Max J. Rosenthal, “The Trump Files: Trump’s Long History of Getting Sued by His Own Lawyers,” Mother Jones, August 18, 2020, https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2020/08/trump-files-time-trumps-lawyers-sued-trump/
  6. [6]Jaclyn Diaz, “An Appeals Court Has Suspended Rudy Giuliani’s Ability To Practice Law In D.C.,” National Public Radio, July 8, 2021, https://www.npr.org/2021/07/08/1014047881/an-appeals-court-has-suspended-rudy-giulianis-ability-to-practice-law-in-d-c; Erica Orden, Veronica Stracqualursi, and Katelyn Polantz, “Rudy Giuliani suspended from practicing law in New York state,” CNN, June 24, 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/24/politics/rudy-giuliani-suspended-law/index.html
  7. [7]Heidi Przybyla, “Despite rebukes, Trump’s legal brigade is thriving,” Politico, July 5, 2022, https://www.politico.com/news/2022/07/05/trump-maga-lawyers-00043917
  8. [8]David Benfell, “My 2024 forecast,” Not Housebroken, July 28, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/03/10/my-2024-forecast/; David Benfell, “I cannot yet tell you my 2024 forecast was wrong,” Not Housebroken, August 16, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/08/13/i-cannot-yet-tell-you-my-2024-forecast-was-wrong/
  9. [9]Natalie Andrews, “Liz Cheney Concedes to Trump-Backed Challenger in Wyoming Primary,” Wall Street Journal, August 16, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/liz-cheney-faces-uphill-fight-in-primary-against-trump-backed-opponent-11660642201
  10. [10]Hannah Knowles, “Several election deniers backed by Trump prevail in hotly contested primaries,” Washington Post, August 3, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/08/02/primaries-arizona-michigan-missouri-washington/
  11. [11]David Frum, “Stuck With Trump,” Atlantic, August 9, 2022, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/08/trump-fbi-mar-a-lago-search-republicans-loyalty/671084/; Clyde Hughes, “Rep. Greene files articles of impeachment against Attorney General Garland,” United Press International, August 13, 2022, https://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2022/08/13/-Marjorie-Taylor-Greene-articles-impeachment-Merrick-Garland-Attorney-General/4231660394406/; Julia Ioffe, “Defund… the F.B.I.?” Puck News, August 9, 2022, https://puck.news/defund-the-f-b-i/; Tina Nguyen, “‘The DeSantasy Is Over,’” Puck News, August 10, 2022, https://puck.news/the-desantasy-is-over/; Steve Peoples, “GOP rallies around Trump following FBI search of his estate,” Associated Press, August 10, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/gop-rallies-around-donald-trump-a0f20a219b1090fd02f529acf744f246
  12. [12]Matt Ford, “Trump’s Republican Defenders Inexplicably Forgot To Expect the Worst,” New Republic, August 16, 2022, https://newrepublic.com/article/167422/gop-response-mar-a-lago-search
  13. [13]David Benfell, “The morality of polarization,” Not Housebroken, January 4, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2018/09/21/the-morality-of-polarization/
  14. [14]Betsy Woodruff Swan, Kyle Cheney, and Nicholas Wu, “FBI search warrant shows Trump under investigation for potential obstruction of justice, Espionage Act violations,” Politico, August 12, 2022, https://www.politico.com/news/2022/08/12/search-warrant-shows-trump-under-investigation-for-potential-obstruction-of-justice-espionage-act-violations-00051507
  15. [15]David Benfell, “A theory of conservative epistemology,” Not Housebroken, August 6, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/08/06/a-theory-of-conservative-epistemology/
  16. [16]David Benfell, “The morality of polarization,” Not Housebroken, January 4, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2018/09/21/the-morality-of-polarization/
  17. [17]David Benfell, “In Alice’s Wonderland, or, rather, its Gilead equivalent, a bluff is not a bluff,” Not Housebroken, August 14, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/08/12/in-alices-wonderland-or-rather-its-gilead-equivalent-a-bluff-is-not-a-bluff/
  18. [18]Isaac Arnsdorf et al., “Trump is rushing to hire seasoned lawyers — but he keeps hearing ‘No,’” Washington Post, August 16, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/16/trump-lawyers-fbi-raid/
  19. [19]Ted Barrett, Manu Raju, and Peter Nickeas, “US Capitol secured, woman dead after rioters stormed the halls of Congress to block Biden’s win,” CNN, January 6, 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/06/politics/us-capitol-lockdown/index.html
  20. [20]Andrew Solender, “Political threats spiral,” Axios, August 11, 2022, https://www.axios.com/2022/08/12/political-threats-spiral
  21. [21]David Benfell, “The danger that remains,” Not Housebroken, May 23, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/01/07/the-danger-that-remains/; David Benfell, “The danger that still remains,” Not Housebroken, January 22, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/11/24/the-danger-that-still-remains/; David Klepper, “Trump’s angry words spur warnings of real violence,” Associated Press, August 16, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/ghislaine-maxwell-social-media-donald-trump-mar-a-lago-31741bb13f708ee68b523592623341eb; Andrew Solender, “Political threats spiral,” Axios, August 11, 2022, https://www.axios.com/2022/08/12/political-threats-spiral
  22. [22]Ken Dilanian, “Does the Justice Department want to charge Trump? Here’s what could happen,” NBC News, June 11, 2022, https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/justice-department/justice-department-want-charge-trump-happen-rcna33042
  23. [23]Sadie Gurman and Aruna Viswanatha, “Merrick Garland Weighed Search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago for Weeks,” Wall Street Journal, August 15, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/merrick-garland-weighed-search-of-trumps-mar-a-lago-for-weeks-11660601292
  24. [24]Ishaan Tharoor, “The debate over American fascism gets louder,” Washington Post, August 30, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com//world/2022/08/30/fascism-biden-trump-american-history/
  25. [25]Mike DeBonis, “Senate Republicans block debate on a third major voting rights bill,” Washington Post, November 3, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/senate-voting-john-lewis/2021/11/03/de00974e-3cc5-11ec-bfad-8283439871ec_story.html; Mike DeBonis, “Senate Republicans block voting rights bill, dealing blow to Democrats’ effort to overhaul election laws,” Washington Post, January 19, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/democrats-brace-for-likely-defeat-of-voting-rights-push-due-to-gop-filibuster/2022/01/19/2f9a734c-792d-11ec-bf97-6eac6f77fba2_story.html; Mike DeBonis and Seung Min Kim, “Sinema and Manchin confirm opposition to eliminating filibuster, likely dooming Democrats’ voting rights push,” Washington Post, January 13, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-set-to-visit-senate-democrats-in-a-final-improbable-pitch-for-voting-rights-action/2022/01/13/fde533b6-7475-11ec-8b0a-bcfab800c430_story.html; Matt Ford, “The Democrats’ Voting Rights Bill Is Dead,” New Republic, July 13, 2021, https://newrepublic.com/article/162974/democrats-voting-rights-bill-dead; Sam Levine, “Voting rights advocates frustrated by ‘same-old, same-old’ meeting with White House,” Guardian, December 3, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/dec/03/voting-rights-advocates-frustrated-meeting-white-house; Greg Sargent, “Joe Manchin finally makes it plain: He is in favor of minority rule,” Washington Post, January 19, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/01/19/joe-manchin-filibuster-voting-rights-minority-rule/
  26. [26]David Benfell, “My 2024 forecast,” Not Housebroken, August 17, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/03/10/my-2024-forecast/
  27. [27]David Benfell, “I cannot yet tell you my 2024 forecast was wrong,” Not Housebroken, August 16, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/08/13/i-cannot-yet-tell-you-my-2024-forecast-was-wrong/
  28. [28]David Benfell, “The really, really, really wild wildcards in the 2022 and 2024 elections,” Not Housebroken, August 17, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/08/17/the-really-really-really-wild-wildcards-in-the-2022-and-2024-elections/
  29. [29]David Benfell, “More questions than answers as Donald Trump flags come down,” Not Housebroken, August 28, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/08/28/more-questions-than-answers-as-donald-trump-flags-come-down/

5 thoughts on “The really, really, really wild wildcards in the 2022 and 2024 elections

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.