Trump poses like Churchill, and supporters in the mugshot see the strongman

Trump poses like Churchill, and supporters in the mugshot see the strongman
Trump poses like Churchill, and supporters in the mugshot see the strongman

There are images that define an era, destined to pass from the news directly to the history books. The mugshot taken in an Atlanta prison of Donald Trump and then released by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office is one of them. At the end of a week of great importance for the race for the 2024 White House, that image becomes the icon of a political season that has lasted for seven years and which, like it or not, can now be clearly characterized as the “Trump Age”.. Nothing and no one for the moment seems able to put an end to an era that continued even during the presidency of Joe Biden and that does not seem to be scratchable either by four judicial investigations, let alone by a group of candidates for the Republican nomination who cannot to get out of the cone of shadow in which the former president keeps him.

The progressive American media hope to see in that mugshot taken in Atlanta, with the Fulton County sheriff’s logo, a photo of a new Al Capone or, given Trump’s television past, of a Tony Soprano. But the grim look that the person concerned gave in front of the policeman who photographed him tells a completely different story: Trump has already used that expression in the past, explaining that he was inspired by a famous image of Winston Churchill. And this is what his followers see in him, a strong leader who wants to make America “great again”. A boss full of energy – at a time when the White House has a senior commander in-chief with a feeble voice – persecuted by a judiciary led by Democrats. A former president unjustly deprived of an election victory that exists only in their imagination and who fights to clean up a corrupt Washington.

It is a narrative that the opponents for the nomination cannot change. In 2016 Trump had imposed himself in the debates between Republican candidates with the grandeur of his figure and with low blows and aggression that had displaced everyone. Now he too wins the debates without participating, as happened with Wednesday’s confrontation in Milwaukee between his challengers. The one who fared best on stage was the son of Indian immigrants Vivek Ramaswamy, but he did so by defending the former president, imitating his style and implicitly making it clear that he is not in the running for the nomination, but to hope to become the deputy in a presidential ticket with Trump. Perhaps with the help of Elon Musk who openly sponsors him on Twitter / X (Trump has just returned to posting on Musk’s social network, after a silence that lasted since January 2021).

Of course, it’s still early days and the impressions insiders get from the debates aren’t necessarily those of the electorate. Yesterday a first poll was released by the Washington Post, FiveThirtyEight and Ipsos conducted among a sample of Republicans who will vote in Iowa and New Hampshire (the first states in the race for the nomination) and the winner was Ron DeSantis with 29 percent, followed by Ramaswamy with 26 percent and former UN ambassador Nikki Haley with 15 percent. The governor of Florida, who is still Trump’s true challenger, had appeared somewhat in the shade to political analysts, but apparently he is starting to convince the general public. Haley, in turn, has impressed with the calm and authority shown in the midst of a group of males engaged in a high school brawl and is increasingly the champion of a Republican establishment that remains marginal in the Trump Age.

The problem is that everything that is happening in America in this period is unprecedented and so we are running towards the first real vote, in Iowa in January, without having reliable historical or statistical references. Now begins a very delicate phase made up of four months in which the Republican race will come alive at the same time that Trump and his legal team will move between hearings and trials in New York, Washington, Atlanta and Miami. Difficult to shift the attention of the media away from the former president, who immediately began to exploit his new status as a free-on-bail prisoner on social media, with a mug shot and prisoner’s identity number (P01135809). Trump’s campaign will invest in this prison look, with ready-made gadgets and T-shirts, making his constituents believe that the former president is a kind of American-style Alexei Navalny fighting against the strong powers of the “deep state” democratic. The risk, for those who observe all this from afar, for example from Europe, is to reduce it to something folkloric. Instead it is not only terribly serious, but very, very dangerous. Trump himself photographed the situation well in the interview he gave on Twitter / X to far-right host Tucker Carlson, while his opponents debated on TV. Carlson asked him if there is no risk of a civil war in America and Trump launched into a long praise of the people of the assault on Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021, explaining that “I have never seen so much passion and love and at the same time so much hate for what they have done to our country.” Passion and hate, Trump admitted, “are probably a bad combination.” They are certainly a dangerous mixture, in a country where the executive, legislative and judicial powers are engaged in an unprecedented confrontation and where the check and balance that kept the experiment standing in one way or another seems to have been blown American Democrat for two and a half centuries. The race towards the electoral year promises to be full of anxieties and, perhaps, of violence.

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