The view from last August, when the FBI raided Mar-a-Lago: “They just started a civil war.” That’s what an acquaintance told me, doing so with the terse matter-of-factness of a person looking past you to the big picture. Conservatives, thinking smaller, tweeted that the feds’ overreach had handed Donald Trump the 2024 nomination. Either way upcoming events would be dominated by this thunderclap of an event. The view from more recently: “Unfortunately now he’s running for president of the United States for revenge against the FBI,” says, or possibly shrugs, a former Trump supporter.
He implies that the big guy should learn to look past his personal problems.
The raid surely has its place in right-wing grievance history, but the subject seems not to have come up among those voters (“more than 150 Trump supporters across five pivotal electoral states”) who talked to The Washington Post for a recent article about Trump and the Republican base. One says that maybe Trump has taken his adversaries’ measure after incidents such as the documents dispute, that now he may be a wilier opponent for the deep state. But that’s it. If anybody’s worked up about the raid, or about the documents battle, they didn’t get the reporters’ attention.
The shrugging ex-supporter comes from a second Post article, which is about a gathering of GOP fat cats, operatives, and office holders who spent three days hearing what Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida had to say about America’s future. DeSantis held his event just four miles from Mar-a-Lago. The shrugger, a Texas investment banker, “once co-chaired Trump’s Texas finance operation,” the Post tells us, “and stood in the front row of the East Room of the White House as Trump spoke on election night in 2020.” No more. The fellow turned down a candlelit fund-raising dinner at Mar-a-Lago but showed up for the DeSantis event. A Politico article says attendees at the DeSantis gathering also included an Arizonan who’d been on a slate of pro-Trump pretend-electors submitted after the 2020 vote, and Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who had “tried to arrange for a list of fake electors backing Trump to be handed to then–Vice President Mike Pence,” presumably so Pence could certify them as winners and steal a presidential election. Now Johnson’s gone cool. The senator plans to “remain impartial in 2024,” said a spokesperson.
So the raid doesn’t appear to be much of a bloody shirt, and the supposed election steal hasn’t bound Ron Johnson, at least, to the man he thought was robbed. On the other hand, no one seems to hold much against Trump. In the news articles just mentioned, many people sound wan about the old beast (“I just don’t feel Trump is the best person to move this party forward”), but only one person reproaches him. “I think he let us down,” says John, 69, a resident of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He doesn’t say how, but earlier he mentioned feeling unthrilled beginning with Trump’s second or third year, and the Jan. 6 insurrection “didn’t help.” Still, John doesn’t say he feels cheated, as opposed to disappointed, and neither does anyone else in the articles. If there’s nothing about the raid, there’s nothing about the nonexistent wall or the Keystone Kops non-replacement of Obamacare. It’s all just noise and the gang looks ahead. Walter Buckley Jr., “one of the Republican Party’s top donors in 2022,” also “backed Trump significantly in 2020,” the Post says. Now he’s sold on DeSantis. “As long as he’s in the race, I’m right beside him,” Buckley says. “This guy is special.”