Image Credits: Louis Ruediger/Reuters.

How to organize my thoughts? I waited and waited, and waited some more for Donald Trump to be convicted of felonies in a court of law. On Thursday, it finally happened with a jury of 12 ordinary New Yorkers determining that the ex-president is guilty on 34 counts of filing false business records in furtherance of a second crime. It’s an outcome I desperately needed for psychological reasons, and I have to say that I was optimistic that a hung jury and mistrial would not happen.

Trump won’t be sentenced until July 11, mere days before the Republican National Convention begins in Milwaukee where the new convict is scheduled to accept the GOP’s presidential nomination. It’s unimaginable that the party’s delegates will renege on their pledge to support Trump, even though that’s clearly what they ought to do. The truth is, Trump was never more prescient than when he said he could commit a murder on 5th Avenue and not lose support from the Republican base. Some people argue that the Stormy Daniels election interference case was the wrong trial, but first of all it was the only one Trump hasn’t been able to delay and, secondly, do you really imagine things would be meaningfully different if he’d just been convicted on the federal January 6 or classified materials charges? Do you think the Republicans would, in those cases, call for Trump not to be nominated at the convention?

Axios reports, “A profound sense of rage — and an insatiable thirst for revenge — is permeating virtually every corner of the Republican Party in the wake of former President Trump’s historic conviction.” The Manhattan jury’s decision is not being accepted by Republican congressional leaders Mitch McConnell and Mike Johnson. House Republicans are now summoning District Attorney Alvin Bragg Jr. and his deputy, Matthew Colangelo to testify before their Select Committee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government on June 13th. Sen. Marco Rubio, who clearly is auditioning to be Trump’s 2024 running mate, told Republicans, “Don’t just get angry about this travesty, get even!”

And this is the mild stuff.

So it goes.

Writing for The New Republic, Greg Sargent argues that the verdict has “shattered Trump’s aura of invincibility.” That might turn out to be true, but there are precious few signs of it right now. Historian Tim Naftali, who once directed the Nixon presidential library, seems more on point when he writes, “Donald Trump will now force every GOP candidate to trash our judicial system. There will be a chorus of poison likely worse than what we heard before Jan. 6th.”

That’s both accurate and a new expression of Trump’s magic deflector shield. His malignancy is not curable through known political science. I’ve often argued that the biggest crime John McCain committed was forcing the GOP to defend the qualifications and credentials of Sarah Palin to be president if need be because it compelled the entire right-wing of the country to jettison minimum standards for the office. In my mind, there is a straight line between that and accepting Trump as a nominee eight years later. But the malign influence of Trump on the right’s standards is many orders of magnitude more dangerous, as can be seen now in the reaction to him becoming a convicted felon.

For those who might be worried that the Stormy Daniels verdict will unleash “an insatiable thirst for revenge,” it really clarified and distilled the organizing emotion behind the MAGA movement for the beginning. Remember that Trump rose to prominence on the right by vocally trolling President Barack Obama about his place of birth. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t true that Obama was born in Kenya. What made Trump popular was his willingness to sling mud at a black president. Trump was saying Obama didn’t belong in the White House because of who he was, and that’s how many racists in the country felt but didn’t feel they could vocalize. A black president was a shattering event for these people and Trump became their primary vehicle for revenge.

That the right stuck with Trump after January 6, 2021 and is hellbent on him being their nominee in 2024 shows you that this thirst for revenge has only strengthened. This is what drives them, and the 34 felony convictions don’t change that in any material way. Their willingness to shrug off a jury’s ruling and characterize it as illegitimate isn’t a new demonstration of the right’s disregard for the rule of law. We’ve already seen this disregard in two impeachment trials, and in their response to January 6. Driven by racial animus and religious bigotry, the MAGA movement is a full-blown fascist enterprise, and the response we’re seeing to Trump’s conviction just brings this more out in the open. Nowhere is it clearer than in Trump’s ability, as Naftali says, to “force every GOP candidate to trash our judicial system.”

Is this a good thing?

That’s the wrong question. Nothing about Trump is good in any way. But it makes the stakes in the election harder to miss. People have reasons, some of them real and principled, to oppose the reelection of Joe Biden, but those considerations pale in comparison to the consequences of empowering a white nationalist and Christian nationalist populist fascist movement and its revenge-minded leader.

In that sense, both Trump’s conviction and the troubling response from the right are beneficial because they help people who aren’t motivated by hatred and revenge have less reason to flirt with the Republican Party’s alternative to Biden.

It would be better if Trump were convicted of attempting a coup and mishandling the country’s most sensitive documents. But if we can’t have that, at least we got something. Is it dangerous? Hell, yes, but it didn’t increase the danger. The danger was already at the highest level.

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