The Carroll Verdict as an Inflection Point for Trump’s Future

Alan Zendell, May 9, 2023

Today, a jury of six men and three women in a New York Federal Court found Donald Trump liable for sexual battery and defamation against the plaintiff, writer E. Jean Carroll. Considering how difficult it is to prosecute sexual abuse and rape trials and the fact the event in question occurred more than thirty years ago, the evidence must have been damn convincing for the jury to unanimously agree after deliberating for only half a day that Trump must pay Ms. Carroll almost five million dollars to compensate her for the harm she suffered.

Media pundits were quick to address how the verdict may affect voters, explaining the obvious, that they can be divided into three groups, as Republicans at the recent CPAC conference did: those who would never vote for Trump under any circumstances, those who would vote for him even if he committed a murder on live television, and those whose minds can be changed, especially if they voted for Trump in the past and now feel disillusioned. I believe the latter group, the only one that really matters in a close election, represents between ten and fifteen percent of the electorate.

It’s an important reminder that even in a strong democracy, a relatively small minority can determine the outcome of elections. That’s why red states are passing voter suppression laws that have already been shown to effectively reduce voter participation by black, Hispanic, and young voters. Finding ways to enable an angry, loud minority to hold sway over the majority has been the dominant strategy of far-right Republicans since the 1980s.

Leaders as diverse as Napoleon Bonaparte and Winston Churchill told us history is written by the victors, and that notion is what drives the current attacks on democracy by right-wing extremists. This isn’t the first time a committed minority has achieved a beachhead of power and control. From here, things can go two ways. Either the lazy, ill-informed masses wake up and fight to preserve our democracy or the slide toward autocracy continues unabated until billionaires, racists, misogynists, and xenophobes redefine our Constitution in line with the values of Donald Trump.

Trump has been clear about his values. As early as his famous ride down the escalator eight years ago, he told us all non-white immigrants and refugees looking to America for succor are drug dealers, murderers, and rapists, a lie that appealed to a shocking number of Americans. A few months later the infamous 2005 Access Hollywood tape surfaced, in which Trump bragged that as a celebrity he could sexually molest women whenever it suited him, confident that he would get away with it, after which thirteen women, most of whom had never met each other went public accusing him of rape or sexual assault.

I and millions of other Americans were confounded by the way Trump supporters, particularly Evangelicals, wrote off Trump’s immorality and sexual conduct in 2016. Trump and evangelists have an important thing in common: when the prize is power, they’re both willing to treat women as secondary citizens whose rights should be defined by men.

Each incident that would have destroyed most politicians, taken by itself in a festering political environment, was somehow ignored. Trump and his allies at Fox News understood that anti-Semitism, bigotry, and resentment of people with bigger homes and cars would stir up far more intense emotions among Trump’s base than concern about women’s rights. I couldn’t understand that until I realized most of Trump’s constituencies were male-dominated sects in which women were already conditioned to be subservient and accept their role as baby makers and sex toys.

An organism as large as the United States has enormous inertia. It’s harder to change the direction of American politics than to make U-turn in a battleship. But once momentum starts to swing in a new direction it can be inexorable. Historians look back to identify events that were pivots for change, or as our president would say, inflection points. They’re real, although they’re far easier to identify in hindsight than in real time.

The Carroll verdict may be the inflection point that marks the decline and eventual destruction of Donald Trump as a political force in America, and Trump will undoubtedly makes things worse by not being able to control his hate-laced outbursts. This was not some kangaroo court verdict by a politicized state court. Federal courts are an essential line of defense in preserving our rights and our Constitution, and this one just spoke loud and clear.

The snail’s pace at which our legal system operates and the startling lack of confidence Americans feel in their Supreme Court conspired to help doubters believe Trump would never be brought to justice. I never believed that. The worm is turning, and by the time we vote in the 2024 primaries, Trump will be drowning in his own personal cesspool.

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1 Response to The Carroll Verdict as an Inflection Point for Trump’s Future

  1. A. L. Kaplan says:

    Let’s hope so, but I’m not holding my breath.

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