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Trump, convicted

  • 11 June 2024
  Like millions of others, for four years I binge-watched a show about a grifter who was elected President of the United States. It was compelling stuff. Viewers awaited each new daily episode with the white-knuckled tenacity of an addict. It became an obsession, gleefully gripping every late-night talk show host and anyone not participating in the 24/7 punditry cycle felt irrelevant. The show lasted four years, and rated well. Then when it was over, I woke up dazed and carried on living my life. 

As an Australian, my involvement in the Trump years was always that of viewer, popcorn in hand, watching deranged political theatre. This month I find myself a viewer again. I took only marginal interest in Trump’s criminal trial in New York, partially because it felt like that whole Trumpian carnival sideshow wrapped back in 2020, and partially because it seemed implausible that the Stormy Daniels hush money affair was anywhere near to being the worst thing Trump had ever done.

But then Donald Trump was found guilty of 34 counts of falsifying business records and is now a convicted felon. From Thursday, every news outlet in the world ran the same scowling courthouse sketches. I must say, the conviction felt weirdly anticlimactic. Not exactly the heady and thrilling moment of celebration I would have welcomed four years ago. It was like they finally aired a new episode to a show I used to watch, but four years too late. 

Like everyone else, I’ve been wondering about the conviction, and what it might mean for Trump’s chances in November, for the health of democracies around the world, and for our collective ethical consciousness.

I like to think it represents a long-awaited triumph of the rule of law, a demonstration that even the most powerful are not above accountability. For many, last Thursday was a moment of vindication, a reassurance that justice can prevail against those who seek to manipulate it for personal gain. It suggests that the United States legal system can still steer the ship away from the rocks when it needs to.

But maybe we shouldn’t get too excited. Especially when Republican reactions to Trump’s legal downfall come ripped from the 2020 MAGA playbook. Either they don’t seem too bothered about who gets convicted of what in the state of New York, or they bristle with defiance believing that the conviction was not a fair application of justice, but a politically motivated witch hunt. This perspective, while predictable, should