The finding by a jury of his peers that Donald Trump sexually abused a magazine writer and then defamed her by calling her a liar, and their award of $5 million in damages to her, ought to be an eye-opener for the American voter. And yet, as the former President pulls ahead in opinion polls, and seems at least for now the man most likely to enter the White House in 2024, questions must be asked about the moral compass by which the country judges its politicians.
For the record, Mr Trump has denied the charges leveled against him as a “complete con job” and a “hoax”, and vowed to appeal the verdict of a New York jury. But the preponderance of evidence, including the pieces presented in this trial, bears out that at the very least Mr. Trump is a misogynist, a man who has treated women as sexual objects almost all his adult life.
Two women testified at this trial about his sexual advances, while in another case, Mr. Trump faces prosecution for falsifying business records and concealing payments to a pornographic star with whom he had an affair. But the evangelical right-wing in America continues to support him with many Republicans actually believing that Mr. Trump’s troubles are a result of his political opponents targeting him. In the aftermath of a verdict that ought to have been a game changer, and where jurors found Mr.
Trump had recklessly abused a woman’s rights, analysts say his support base is unlikely to be impacted, with only a small section of suburban women and moderate Republicans likely to be swayed. When you add to these entanglements and charges, the prosecution the former President faces for instigating riots in America’s capital, and for attempting to alter the outcome of the 2020 election, the only reasonable conclusion that can emerge is of a deeply flawed and morally compromised individual, even after making allowance for the partisan nature of some of the allegations.
And yet Mr. Trump, according to the most recent polling aggregations, has a one percentage point lead over President Joe Biden, who has already announced his intention of seeking a second term. As the well-respected Politico magazine has pointed out in an essay published after the jury verdict, this is a “qualitatively new development” that should make America “grapple with the implications of a leading candidate for President having been found liable for conduct as grotesque as sexual assault”. Yet, the essay concludes by pointing to the “distinct possibility that the verdict will not significantly shift voters’ preferences”. If it does not, it will speak as much of the man as it will of a country that