Newspaper headline says "Trump found guilty in hush money trial"

A newspaper, featuring front page coverage of the guilty verdict in former U.S. President Donald Trump's hush money trial, is read by a diner outside a cafe on May 31, 2024 in Walton-on-Thames, England.

(Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Trump Says the 'Real Verdict' Will Be in November—And Progressives Agree

"The simple fact remains: We must beat him at the ballot box."

In the aftermath of his conviction Thursday on 34 felony counts in the state of New York related to hush-money payments ahead of the 2016 election, former president Donald Trump predictably denounced the trial as a "rigged" process and a "sham" as he declared that ultimately the "real verdict is going to be November 5 by the people" on this year's election day.

But is the disgraced politician—the first of any sitting or former president to be convicted of a felony by his peers in U.S. history—right about that? Despite celebrating how the infamously slippery Trump was, indeed, finally held accountable for what the facts proved was criminal conduct, many progressives think he is.

"In the end, it is the election—and the voters—that will decide if Trump is held accountable or not," wrote Katrina vanden Heuvel, editorial director and publisher of The Nation magazine, in a column published shortly before the Thursday's news broke in New York.

"If voters decide to elect him, that will be the final verdict," she argued, beating Trump to the punch. "The verdicts in the cases will be irrelevant—and probably erased by presidential pardon. If he is defeated, that verdict will do more to inform the future behavior of presidents than any of the court cases."

"As predicted, Republicans are rushing in to tear down our institutions in defense of their cult leader."

On Friday morning, the Trump campaign announced it had raised an eye-popping $35 million in campaign donations in just over 12 hours since the jury's verdict. Meanwhile, the MAGA army and Trump's Republican allies in Congress and in state houses nationwide rushed to his defense and slammed the conviction as the result of a political operation orchestrated by Democrats.

In her defense of Trump, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) lied by saying Manhattan District Alvin Bragg "campaigned on a promise to prosecute Trump" which fact-checkers and journalists were quick to point out was "simply false." Sen. Mitch McConnell, longtime Republican leader in the Senate, said the charges "should never have been brought in the first place" and that he expected exoneration on appeal. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson called it a "shameful day in American history" for Trump to be convicted of crimes by a jury.

"As predicted, Republicans are rushing in to tear down our institutions in defense of their cult leader," said Ezra Levin, co-founder of Indivisible, which was created during Trump's first term in office to organize against his agenda. "They rally around a convicted felon found guilty of interfering in his own election. It's despicable. They have no shame. They must be crushed electorally."

It wouldn't be the first time, as Chris Hayes pointed out Thursday night:

Recognizing the political battle lines that are being drawn, Sulma Arias, executive director of the advocacy group People's Action, was among those progressives who cheered how criminal accountability in New York showed that "Trump is not above the law," but said voters must recognize 34 guilty verdicts guarantee nothing about what happens in the presidential race.

"The simple fact remains: We must beat him at the ballot box," said Arias. "Trump is still running for president, and if he wins, he would likely try to pardon himself–and the Supreme Court, which he stacked with MAGA justices, would be the only appeal if he did so."

The 2024 presidential election, she continued, offers a clear " choice between two futures: a corporate takeover of the country with a would-be dictator at the head, or a future in which working class people build a true multiracial democracy and well-being for everyone. Organizing will make the difference; we won't take our eye off the ball."

"Trump is still running for president, and if he wins, he would likely try to pardon himself."

According to vanden Heuvel, the "24/7 press coverage of Trump" and his numerous trial will have a major role to play in what comes next, especially as the media circus that follows Trump wherever he goes shows it has learned very few valuable lessons from the 2016 and 2020 campaigns or his first term in the White House.

What's crucial about the election is not necessarily Trump's well-documented crimes and misdeeds of the past (not that he shouldn't be held to account), she argued, but what voters should understand about a possible second term in the White House. She wrote:

The press is once more collaborating with Trump to enable him to dominate the news. You don’t have to buy the old saw that any press—good or bad—is good so long as they spell your name right. Trump, a corrupt and shoddy businessman born with a silver spoon in his mouth, has invented a persona as a rebel, an outsider willing to take on a corrupt establishment. He paints himself as the victim because he champions the betrayed majority. “I am your retribution.” He rails against the prosecutions as a Biden election conspiracy. The wall-to-wall coverage only provides a constant stage for his dishonest shtick.

No doubt a former president on trial will attract the news. But the press could do far more to balance its coverage. Provide equal time for Biden's campaign or actions as president. Report on the horrors of Trump's agenda—what the cost and chaos of his pledge to deport 10 million undocumented workers would be for example, detail the consequence of four more years of climate denial, expose Trump's plans to destroy the civil service, give more ink to his shamelessly corrupt offers to pass the agenda of Big Oil if they'll ante up $1 billion to his campaigns and more. Instead of echoing Trump's public posturing, do more to expose the corrupt little man behind the curtain.

In her estimation, former Ohio state senator Nina Turner argued Thursday night that Trump's ability to win reelection or not in November is only part of the political equation given what the Republican Party has become under his tutelage.

"This is a tense moment in history," Turner said. "Do not bank on conservatives abandoning Trump due to his conviction. And even if Trump loses in November, the threat of fascism is not over. The Republican Party is flush with those who want to erode our rights."

As Arias of People's Action put it, the progressive movement needs "everyone who cares about our families, our freedoms, and our future to join the fight" to defeat Trump and his Republican allies in November.

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