The Unshockable Electorate

Arguably the biggest American political story of the week just passed is the Donald Trump hush money trial in New York City. Judging by “ink” it certainly was. I will comment on it a bit (some of which may violate my PG rating) but my main thrust is our collective attitude toward it. I plan to end on an unrelated high note.

Donald Trump is a former American president and the presumptive Republican candidates for that office in 2024. He is currently on trial (the only active one to date) on 34 felony counts for fraudulently falsifying business records. (The other 54 felony charges are still pending elsewhere.) They have been charged as felonies because the prosecutor claims that they were committed in the furtherance of covering up crimes whose goal was to influence the 2016 presidential election (which Trump won, in the Electoral College anyway).

The cover-ups were primarily to bury stories of at least two extramarital affairs Trump allegedly had. One with a porn star while his wife was home with their newborn infant and a long-term relationship with a Playboy Playmate.

Trump has a long business history of not paying his bills as originally promised. In the terms we used when I was in banking, he is a stiff. One of the arrangements was that The National Enquirer, then run by David Pecker, would buy (catch) stories that were negative about Trump and not publish (kill) them. On one occasion Trump did not repay (stiffed) Mr. Pecker leading him to refuse to pay for a subsequent story. If you are to believe Trump, his lawyer/fixer Michael Cohen paid the second accuser on his own. In response to that I like Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney’s line the best, “You don’t pay someone $130,00 not to have sex with you.” I’ll extrapolate from that; you don’t pay someone $130,000 – that you have to borrow – to not have sex with someone else.

Greed – one of the three pillars holding up the modern GOP – may finally be the undoing of Trump. If this mess undoes Trump his fatal error will not be the marital infidelity, but stiffing Pecker.

What shocked me the most is that Trump is still a very viable candidate who could win the 2024 contest. As of this writing his support remains solid at just below 50%. He may have hit his ceiling and depending on how that support is distributed in the electoral vote he may end up losing. The fact that he is still a viable candidate – and make no mistake at this point he very much is! – is the disturbing part. I’m not saying our presidential candidates should be choirboys (or choirgirls) but the other extreme is astounding.

I realize the judge is constrained by the law and this is a dynamic situation but just a word on the gag order fine to date. Trump has been fined $9,000. That is a spit in the bucket to him and I’d like to put it in perspective. I certainly don’t believe Trump’s household net worth figures but for the sake of discussion let’s say it is a half-billion dollars. The median family net worth in America is about $121,000. So fining Trump $9,000 is like fining the median American $2.22. I don’t want to pay any fine but one of less than the cost of a cup of coffee at Starbucks isn’t going to make me modify my behavior. If we look at the fine as percentage of net worth to equal $9,000 to the median American Trump would have had to have been fined $37 million. The $9,000 is less than a one-fingered slap on the wrist to him.

I haven’t even taken into account that you and I would pay our own fine; for Trump it is a moneymaking fundraising opportunity. It will be interesting when and if those numbers come out!

Trump announced he would appeal the fines. Would you appeal a $2 fine?

To all my readers in Mexico, the Mexican diaspora, especially the very important Mexican diaspora in America, Happy Cinco de Mayo!

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