Are Democrats setting a trap for Trump?

In Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Admiral Ackbar believes he is ambushing a partly built "death star," only to find that it is fully operational and an enemy fleet has arrived.  In a famous movie understatement, now embedded in pop culture, Ackbar exclaims, "It's a trap!"  Now Democrats have planted an even more nefarious trap by having their minions in the FBI raid Donald Trump's home at Mar-a-Lago.

The former president's estate in Palm Beach, Florida was the subject of an FBI search warrant in the late hours on Monday by two dozen agents, with 15 boxes of documents removed from the premises.  The papers allegedly contain classified national security information and correspondence between Mr. Trump and leaders of other countries.

Okay, that's a raid, not a trap.  The trap is what the Democrats hope the volatile and impulsive ex-president does in response.

Perhaps the worst kept secret in politics is that Donald Trump will, sometime this year, announce his candidacy for the 2024 presidential election.  The 2022 elections are still before us, however, and the Republicans are thought to have a good chance of reclaiming the House of Representatives in November, if not the Senate — that is, as long as no one rocks the boat.

The Democrats have had some limited success regaining momentum as a result of the January 6 committee hearings and the untimely decision of the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.  Their spin doctors are hard at work making small drops in gas prices and the rate of inflation look like a roaring economy despite two straight quarters of negative growth.  Crime, immigration, and multiple other issues remain a burden for the left.

Despite their best efforts, the relatively dim prospects for the Democrats in 2022 have led them to throw a Hail Mary: raiding the home of Donald Trump in the hopes that he will angrily announce his 2024 candidacy before the midterms.  If the documents they confiscated allow them to fabricate "crimes," even better!  The desired result is to rile liberals and moderates enough to have a massive anti-Republican turnout in November.  Remember the 2020 vote totals: 81 million Democrat votes compared to the Republican ticket's 74 million.

Donald Trump may well take the bait.  He has wanted to run again since the day after the 2020 election.  Aggrieved for good reason, it's taken every one of his advisers their mightiest efforts to delay him until now.  They hope he'll wait until after the midterms like most presidential candidates, but they worry that he'll make a sudden announcement that will upset a number of toss-up races and cost the GOP the House.

If you watch Fox News, you'd think the world is outraged by the unprecedented invasion at Mar-a-Lago.  Donald Trump is a former president!  Well, change the channel, and you'll find many outlets barely able to contain their glee at the prospect of taking down the Orange Man.  For every conservative angered by the outrageous actions of the Department of Justice, there's a liberal singing, "Hallelujah!"

Most Republican strategists fear that Trump will announce and denounce at the same time, full of vitriol over the last election and promising revenge in the next.  If he falls into the Democrat trap and announces early, he'll damage the chances for victory in twenty or so of the closest races in the House and, probably, a handful of Senate seats as well.  A Trump endorsement is an asset in a primary election but, perhaps, a detriment in the general election.  For conservative candidates, will he be a tailwind that fills the sails or a challenging headwind?

If Trump roils the waters too early, the red wave in the House would almost certainly be, at best, a ripple, and the GOP would be even worse off in the Senate.  Wouldn't it?

Politicians like Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina disagree.  He says: "If Trump is going to run, the sooner he gets in and talks about winning the next election, the better...less grievance, more about the future."

Graham implies that the Democrats will use Trump to drive their turnout whether he's an official candidate or not.  If he enters the race soon, he can work full-time to drive the Republican vote.  He might be right, no one energizes conservatives like Trump.  The problem is that no one energizes liberals like Trump as well.  Democrats will characterize all Republican candidates as "MAGA extremists," a term that may discourage the independents needed to elect conservatives.

Announcing early comes with risks for both him and the Republican party.  Donald Trump the presidential candidate will be blamed for close losses this midterm; that won't help conservatives in 2022 and won't help him in 2024.

For now, America might be best served by former President Trump keeping his hat out of the ring, continuing his rallies, talking about the many Democrat failures, and the future he envisions for our country.  Maybe then, the Democrats will be caught in their own trap.

Joe Alton, M.D. is a physician and N.Y. Times bestselling author of The Survival Medicine Handbook: The Essential Guide for when Help is NOT on the Way and other books.

Image via Pixabay.

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