The Politics of the Mugshot

The 2024 election is still more than a year a way, and we’ve already entered a vicious cycle: Democrats indict Trump on bogus charges, the left cheers and thinks Trump’s political career is in on the road to ruin, his primary poll numbers go up, he raises a lot of money, repeat.

The indictments have done very little to poison him politically. General election polls have him roughly even with Biden. The latest poll from The New York Post even has Trump up by three points. Polling at this point isn’t very indicative of what’s going to happen a year from now, but if you’re a Democrat thinking that Trump’s legal issues would make him unviable in a general election, polling over the past few months has something entirely different to say on the matter.

Meanwhile, Trump is going all in, using the indictments and his recent mugshot as part of his campaign strategy. Far from being the humiliated and defeated politician Democrats were hoping for, Trump is literally selling merchandise featuring the mugshot, along with captions like “Never Surrender” and “Election Interference,” making him the poster boy of partisan prosecution. His pseudo-return to Twitter (now called X) was a post with the mugshot and a link to his website.

As of this writing, it’s closing in on 250 million views.

There’s no doubt this is working for Trump in the primary. But will it work in the general election? Former White House Press Secretary and current MSNBC host Jen Psaki doesn’t think so. According to her, the mugshot might play well with Republican primary voters, but won’t sit well with general election voters.

“This photo will be shared on every text thread in America. Sometimes, images are more persuasive than anything,” Psaki said. “And it is hard to imagine that this image, of Trump scowling into the police camera, will make him more appealing to anyone who is not already a hardcore supporter.”

It’s true that it’s playing well with Republican voters, as his fundraising numbers attest. Since he was booked Thursday, his campaign has raised over $7 million — more than half of that on Friday, a record one-day haul for his campaign.

But will the mugshot that resonates with Trump’s hardcore supporters turn off general election voters? It may for some, but these indictments also give Trump the opportunity to point out that Democrats are abusing their power to keep him out of office, not only in acts of election interference but in the weaponization of the Justice Department.

It’s a powerful message that Trump could take all the way back to the White House. History is full of revered people being arrested and wrongfully persecuted, which makes Psaki’s argument fall flat. History is full of venerables who have been arrested, including Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr., to name a few. History is also filled with political leaders who have jailed (or done worse to) their political opponents. And let’s not forget, Biden promised to use the power of the government to stop Trump. “I’m making sure he, under legitimate efforts of our Constitution, does not become the next President again,” Biden said in November 2022.

Related: [UPDATED] The Great Backfire: Did Big Left Set the Conditions for Trump Persecution to Flip Their Captive Constituencies?

The moment is ripe for Trump to demonstrate just how evil and power-hungry the radical left has become, and it might just work.



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