Former President Donald Trump has solidified his position as the front-runner in the GOP race by successfully persuading a majority of Republican voters to view his four criminal indictments as a politically motivated “witch hunt” not just targeting him, but also them.
This achievement can be attributed to several immediate factors. Chief among them is the decision of Trump’s primary competitors and influential voices within conservative media to echo, rather than challenge, his narrative. However, the broader willingness of Republican voters to dismiss the charges against Trump underscores a deeper trend: the growing inclination among conservatives to perceive themselves as the real victims of bias in an increasingly diverse society.
Throughout Trump’s political journey, he has harnessed this sentiment to forge an unbreakable connection with his core supporters. Presently, Trump has turned his multiple indictments, particularly those brought by Black prosecutors he has criticized as “racist,” into yet another illustration of the pervasive belief within the GOP base that the primary targets of discrimination are the very groups to which most of them belong: Christians, men, and Whites.
Tresa Undem, a pollster for progressive causes, observes, “Victimhood is woven into every aspect of Trump’s campaign, persona, communication, and strategy. The only variables that change are the subject and the target of blame.”
The unanimous decision of GOP leaders and voters to rally behind Trump in the face of 91 felony charges highlights the protective shield that this sense of victimhood affords him against actions that would have previously been politically devastating for any leader. However, as the forthcoming debate is likely to illustrate, this approach also indicates that Trump’s confrontational stance toward the perceived threats against conservatives – spanning from the “deep state” to the media and entertainment industry, as well as activists in movements like Black Lives Matter and #metoo – will continue to be a focal point of the GOP’s messaging, whether or not he remains the central figure of the party.