Donald Trump’s defense disqualifies him from high political office

  • Kenneth Zagacki is a professor of communication at North Carolina State University.
  • Richard Cherwitz is a communication professor emeritus at The University of Texas at Austin.

Following the second federal indictment charging former President Donald Trump with conspiring to overturn the 2020 election, Trump supporters claimed he truly believed Democrats stole the election from him. The belief, they asserted, justified his schemes to remain in power. As many legal scholars argue, the defense does not necessarily exculpate Trump in a court of law if he criminally operationalized the false belief. But just as importantly, Trump’s defense fails in the court of public opinion. It doesn’t argue a case as much as it exposes profound character flaws that should disqualify any person from holding high political office.

Trump’s defense depicts him as immediately apprehending truth and therefore justified in ignoring advisers, courts, expert legal and political officials (including his own attorney general), independent journalists, and the majority of the American people. The defense portrays Trump as brazenly going his way since only he (and a few cronies) comprehended what happened during the 2020 election and who won, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The certainty of Trump’s belief simply prohibited questions from his followers that might have undermined it.

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