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Just give Donald Trump, baggage and all, the GOP crown

The Republican convention this summer will be more like a coronation

People gather outside Trump Tower in New York as Donald Trump holds a post-conviction press conference on May 31. His fans are loud and proud of their guy, no matter what a jury decided, Curtis writes.
People gather outside Trump Tower in New York as Donald Trump holds a post-conviction press conference on May 31. His fans are loud and proud of their guy, no matter what a jury decided, Curtis writes. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Donald Trump does not have to be the Republican nominee for president of the United States.

No, the man who has been found guilty of 34 felonies in New York state, a twice-impeached former president, liable for a multimillion-dollar judgment for sexually assaulting and defaming a woman, who has placed retribution at the top of his agenda for a second term and promises to be a dictator on Day 1, doesn’t have to be a lock for the top spot as the GOP tries to recapture the White House.

But he is.

There is no suspense, even though there is more than a month before the Republican convention begins July 15 — just days after the world hears Trump’s sentence on July 11 for those felonies, and not long after a June 27 debate in which Trump, based on past performance, will spend a fair amount of time insisting without evidence that he won in 2020.

But his fans are loud and proud of their guy, no matter what 12 ordinary Americans and anyone else have decided. Heck, do they even consider Manhattanites American? 

Donald Trump and the person Trump chooses for the second spot — someone who has debased himself or herself the most in the humiliating veepstakes now underway — will take the stage at that Milwaukee convention to thunderous applause.

On that, I will bet the house. That’s because the Republican Party has already made its choice — a man instead of a country.

The traditions Americans profess to hold dear, including respect for the rule of law, apparently mean nothing if they stand in the way of him taking control. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden can head straight to jail, no trial needed.

One incident embodies the party’s transformation.

In the not-that-long-ago past, a statement from former Maryland governor and current GOP Senate nominee Larry Hogan would have been the template for anyone from any party. Before the verdict in Trump’s New York state trial was announced, Hogan posted on X: “Regardless of the result, I urge all Americans to respect the verdict and the legal process. … We must reaffirm what has made this nation great: the rule of law.”

The answer from Chris LaCivita, a senior adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign: “You just ended your campaign.” Lara Trump, Republican National Committee co-chair, Trump daughter-in-law and someone with some control over RNC purse strings, added her own comments on CNN: Hogan “doesn’t deserve the respect of anyone in the Republican Party at this point and, quite frankly, anybody in America, if that’s the way you feel.” 

With others in his party denouncing the U.S. justice system and repeating every Trump lie about how he wasn’t allowed to testify in his trial and more, Hogan’s hardly incendiary words did indeed register as an outlier.

That Trump acolytes left someone who could swing party Senate control hanging out to dry is telling. That some of the former president’s supporters are already making threats against the jurors, the judge and district attorney is dangerous.

It didn’t have to be this way.

All those Republicans who made a case against the president, who tried to take the lead and perhaps lead the party away from someone who elevates strongmen in North Korea and Hungary as role models, did not have to just give up.

Where did they all go — Nikki Haley, who was getting votes in primary races long after she dropped out, or Sens. Tim Scott and Ted Cruz, former Trump opponents who once promoted a different way forward? Back to Trump, of course. Risking the support of a base that goes along with whatever Trump plans to do became a step too far for anyone who wants a future in that Republican Party.

I wonder what those veterans traveling this week to Normandy to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landing think of a U.S. contemplating giving up on allies, as Trump and several congressional Republicans repeating his bad-mouthing of NATO threaten to do. The right to criticize is one thing they fought for — but abandonment?

One of them, D-Day veteran Harold Terens, told NBC, “I believe that freedom and democracy are definitely under threat.” Now, why do I think that at 100 years old, he would be a more reliable defender of democracy than someone who has disparaged military veterans with nary a peep from party members?

What won’t we hear at the July convention?

Congressional Republicans won’t be able to crow about bills passed, since committee meetings to bark accusations at Attorney General Merrick Garland or Dr. Anthony Fauci are the only agenda items that matter. Eleven senators have signed a letter promising to obstruct bipartisan progress because of the New York state case against their leader. And Speaker Mike Johnson is leading calls for the Republican House majority to investigate Trump’s investigators.

Nothing new there.

What we haven’t heard many people say is that he didn’t do it — whatever he is accused of doing. It’s usually just excuses that whatever it was, it wasn’t that bad, or someone else did worse.

In his post-trial press conference, the one where he did not take questions but ranted about being a victim, Trump gave a preview of what is to come. That alone should have triggered some self-reflection: Is this the guy we want to represent us? Is this the America we want to see?

Will Democrats ask themselves similar questions at their own Chicago gathering in August before their inevitable nomination of the incumbent, with some having doubts? Of course. But neither President Biden nor any candidate from any party has ever made denying the result of an election or attacking the U.S. justice system a litmus test.

This summer, one convention will more closely resemble a coronation in a country that overthrew its king, with party members who hedge when asked if they will accept the results in November, for whom the Constitution is a mere suggestion.

Who knew “Mad” King George III would get the last laugh?

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. She is host of the CQ Roll Call “Equal Time with Mary C. Curtis” podcast. Follow her on X @mcurtisnc3.

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