Niall Ferguson Niall Ferguson

Trump’s second act: he can still win, in spite of everything

Everyone knows F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous line from the end of his unfinished novel The Last Tycoon: ‘There are no second acts in American lives.’ But Fitzgerald wasn’t talking about second chances. He meant that, unlike in a traditional play – where Act I presents a problem, Act II reveals the complications and Act III resolves it all – Americans want to skip Act II and go straight to the resolution.

The more I think about it, the more I think the Joe Biden presidency is Act II – and Donald Trump is not the last tycoon. He’s Act III. He’s the next president.

The campaign of lawfare against him has already begun to backfire

Democratic strategists think otherwise. First, they believe that Biden will always beat Trump, even if they somehow face each other in every presidential election from now until hell freezes over. Second, they believe that Trump’s sea of legal troubles will ultimately drown him as a candidate. Both these views betray a failure of imagination.

Yes, it’s true: Trump is the first former president to face criminal charges, after a grand jury voted to indict him on 30 March over hush-money payments made to the porn star Stormy Daniels. That case is just one of an estimated 17 lawsuits and investigations the 45th president currently confronts. On Tuesday, in a civil case, a Manhattan jury found him liable for sexually abusing and defaming (though not raping) the journalist E. Jean Carroll, awarding her $5 million in damages. Carroll could not recall if the alleged assault happened in 1995 or 1996.

E. Jean Carroll leaves a court house in New York City, 9 May 2023 (Getty Images)

Yet the campaign of lawfare against Trump has already started to backfire. This should not surprise us. Consider eight recent cases around the world when a leading presidential candidate or likely prime minister was indicted.

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