Ron DeSantis, Donald Trump
Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump in 2021. Photo credit: Biden for President, Trump for President, and Mark Mathosian / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The indictment of Donald Trump opens the door for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to snatch the Republican nomination away from the former president.

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The indictment of former President Donald Trump for violating the Espionage Act and committing various other crimes is one of those events in history that likely has many losers and very few winners.

Right now, there are lots of people celebrating. It’s easy to see why. To many Americans, Trump is a crook and a conman, who has been getting away with all kinds of crimes for far too long. Whether its sexual assault and various financial crimes as a private person or obstruction of justice and inciting an insurrection as president (just to name a few), Trump has done lots of things ranging from shady to criminal without ever facing real consequences.

It is very possible that this indictment changes that. Any open-minded person who has read it, and all Americans should, must come away with a feeling that prosecutors “have the goods” on Trump.

Therefore, one could argue that the “rule of law” is a winner. As much as Republicans will have you believe that “If this can happen to a former president, then it can happen to you” is a bad thing, it is not.

Essentially, the argument they are making is that some people should be above the law. Sadly, in too many cases, that is what is happening in the US, where the rich and powerful often seem to get away with crimes without (adequate) punishment.

But make no mistake, a system in which even the most powerful can be held to account if they break the law is generally a good system.

In this case, however, upholding the rule of law will come at a steep cost.

Trump is a master at doing this. There is a reason the bio in his Truth Social profile reads, “They’re not coming after me, they’re coming after you — I’m just standing in their way.”

That’s because a right-wing misinformation and propaganda machine, fueled by right-wing lawmakers and pundits, will convince “their half” of Americans that the rule of law no longer applies, and that they are going to be targeted for who they are and what they believe.

Trump is a master at doing this. There is a reason the bio in his Truth Social profile is not some self-aggrandizing nonsense but rather “They’re not coming after me, they’re coming after you — I’m just standing in their way.”

Seeing how Trump is one of the most self-absorbed human beings on the planet, that seems ridiculous. However, millions of Americans believe it, and it remains to be seen what they will do when they believe that the one person who stands between them and the evil forces out to get them is attacked.

It seems likely that this indictment is the starting point of a time of great volatility, and there is a good chance that things will get much worse than on January 6, 2021. Back then, Trump was only fighting to stay in the White House after having lost the election — and that ended in an attempted coup and a bloody insurrection.

This time around, much more is at stake for him personally. If he loses this case, he could end up spending the rest of his days in prison (although, ultimately, whoever is president will probably foolishly pardon him, in which case the rule of law loses once again).

Therefore, he is going to fight like hell. The situation isn’t being helped by his sycophants who are already fanning the flames.

How many (armed) idiots will heed their call?

In that sense, everybody loses… but nobody more than the team of special counsel Jack Smith and Trump’s prosecutors, as well as their families. Their lives are going to be hell in the coming weeks as MAGA troops will inundate them with harassment and threats.

There is one big individual winner, however, and it may not even be for the reason you think: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

In the race for the Republican presidential nomination, he is the one who stands to gain the most by Trump being out of the picture. Not only because he is second in the polls but also because he is running in the MAGA lane that the former president currently dominates.

While nothing would preclude Trump from running (and probably winning) the Republican nomination from prison, DeSantis benefits from the indictment right now.

That’s because the former president seems incapable of attacking multiple targets at the same time. In the weeks before and ever since DeSantis announced his White House run, Trump has relentlessly gone after the Florida governor and exposed him as a guy who can punch down but not up.

Now, with a possible prison sentence at stake, that is going to change.

If you follow Trump on his social media site, then you will see that he is now solely training his fire on the Department of Justice, Smith, and other prosecutors.

In other words, DeSantis, who has made no headway in the polls since declaring his candidacy and has instead been battered around by the former president, gets a reprieve that will allow him to pretend to be loyal to Trump, regroup, and then be in a position to snatch the nomination away from him.

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