Trump verdict was about one thing: Democrats being able to call him ‘convicted felon’ | Opinion

Donald Trump, convicted felon.

In the end, those four words are all that matter about the verdicts delivered Thursday against the former president. Democrats have lusted for the phrase, eager to use it to try to bail out one of the most poorly positioned incumbents ever seeking reelection.

No one really cares if Trump paid a former porn star to be quiet about a sexual encounter (one that Trump, for what it’s worth, still denies). No one really cares how the books at the Trump Organization were filed. If a crime was committed, it was a misdemeanor, and the statute of limitations had expired.

And spare us the pearl-clutching about how the payment to Stormy Daniels was an effort to rig the presidential election. We didn’t exactly hear that when Bill Clinton’s fixers bragged about squelching “bimbo eruptions” in 1992.

Nope, it’s entirely about getting Trump, as Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg pledged as a candidate. Hey, at least one politician is keeping a campaign promise!

It was shameful, but it worked. And a Manhattan jury eagerly complied despite a baffling case built on the testimony of a known perjurer and decorated with all kinds of distractions, such as the testimony of Daniels herself.

Note that the case is constantly described in media shorthand as a “hush money” trial. But paying hush money — usually through the much nicer term “nondisclosure agreement” — isn’t a crime. It’s a business deal. Prosecutors didn’t try to hang Trump for that, but by calling Daniels, who knew nothing about the record-keeping, they were happy to keep the unseemly original sin front and center for the jury.

Trump’s legal team has several grounds for appeal. Should Judge Juan Marchan, a Biden donor, have recused himself? Why was only Trump subject to a gag order? How about prosecutors leaving it open what crime the bookkeeping machinations were meant to conceal, so jurors could play Dial-A-Felony? For the people who claim to be defenders of norms and the rule of law, it sure seems like twisting the rules to get one guy.

In terms of politics, we’re in uncharted territory. We’ve never had a convicted felon as a major-party nominee. We don’t know if Trump will land in jail at some point and how those images would hit typical voters.

Besides, there’s so much more to all elections — and this one in particular.

Many voters have already chosen sides between the two men who they’ve seen as commander in chief, a level of exposure to both candidates that’s nearly unprecedented. Few have yet to make up their minds, and even fewer live in the states where the election will be decided.

Americans know Trump is, at best, ethically challenged. Many are wary of re-inviting his brand of chaos. But they have seen enough chaos from Joe Biden to know they want something else. They’ve seen groceries skyrocket to unaffordable levels, housing increasingly out of reach, elite college campuses in revolt, and unchecked illegal immigration encouraged by the president’s policies.

Oh, and they know Biden’s not getting any younger, either.

All of that is chaos that factors in every bit as much as what Trump brings.

Maybe repetition will have an effect. A billion dollars of ads repeating “Donald Trump, convicted felon” could move the needle.

And if you believe in karma, maybe this is Trump’s, arriving all at once for a lifetime of business, legal, personal and political sins. It doesn’t appear he’ll face specific reckoning any time soon on his Jan. 6 abuses, his mishandling of national secrets or his pressure on Georgia election officials to flip the state’s results.

In that sense, Trump can primarily blame the person who got him into all those messes: “Donald Trump, convicted felon.”

Do you have an opinion on this topic? Tell us!

We love to hear from Texans with opinions on the news — and to publish those views in the Opinion section.

• Letters should be no more than 150 words.

• Writers should submit letters only once every 30 days.

• Include your name, address (including city of residence), phone number and email address, so we can contact you if we have questions.

You can submit a letter to the editor two ways:

• Email letters@star-telegram.com (preferred).

• Fill out this online form.

Please note: Letters will be edited for style and clarity. Publication is not guaranteed. The best letters are focused on one topic.