Donald Trump's Felony Conviction Has No Impact On Black Voters


Newspaper headlines the morning after Trump conviction

Source: Andrew Lichtenstein / Getty

For someone like Donald J. Trump, accountability can feel like an attack when you have spent decades maneuvering and manipulating legal and financial systems for personal gain. Falsifying business records and paying off someone to withhold factual character evidence during a presidential election may seem like no big deal. But voters in New York City and New York State elected two Black prosecutors to handle the people’s business and hold elites who exploit legal and financial systems accountable.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and New York State Attorney General Letitia ‘Tish’ James have steadily built a case against Trump and his family enterprise. People are tired of elites like Trump brazenly flaunting, circumventing, and exploiting legal and financial loopholes while others languish. Trump has used the Big Apple as his private playground for a long time, and now it’s time for him to pay the piper.

 

Both James and Bragg have prioritized going after business entities and corporate elites. Last month, Bragg’s office announced the conviction of a real estate developer who stole over $750,000 from her investors and obtained $11.5 million loan through forgery.

And despite what some social media shock jocks have said, the recent hush money case isn’t just simply an issue of Trump paying off his “side chick.” In this case, Trump was unanimously convicted by a Manhattan jury for falsifying business records in an attempt to hide payments to a former associate. Reportedly, these payments were reimbursement for paying off Stormy Daniels during his 2016 presidential campaign. Bragg’s team laid out the facts, and the jury responded in kind, even to those who might be more likely to agree with Trump. Among the jurors who joined in the unanimous verdict to convict Trump were some who got their news from Fox News, Truth Social, The Daily Mail, and The Wall Street Journal.

“As a white man, Donald Trump is allowed to walk the street being already convicted of 34 felonies, without bond or worry.”

Trump’s conviction is just a case of chickens coming home to roost

It’s not lost on this writer that the same New York criminal legal system Trump attempted to influence to railroad the Exonerated 5 (formerly known as the Central Park 5) is now holding him accountable. Contrary to what Trump and his fiercest supporters say, the issues with the American criminal legal system are not the root cause of the 34 felony counts handed down against him. Judith Scully, a criminal law professor at Florida’s Stetson University College of Law, said despite the systems issues, Trump received an appropriate outcome.

“The criminal legal system does not always deliver just verdicts,” Scully said. “But the evidence of guilt in this case was overwhelming, and the jury delivered the legally and factually appropriate verdict.”

Scully, a seasoned criminal defense and civil rights attorney, said that Trump’s conviction has little bearing on democracy.

Don’t rejoice so much that you unwittingly become advocates of felony disenfranchisement.

“Trump’s campaign is focused on autocratic and anti-democratic principles,” she said. “The only presidential candidate interested in preserving even a semblance of democracy is Biden.”

For Mondale Robinson, mayor of Enfield, North Carolina, and founder of the Black Male Voter Project, Trump’s conviction reminds him of the two-tiered nature of the criminal legal system and the additional burden borne by Black people. Given his status as a defendant in the New York case and three other criminal cases, the former president has been afforded more leeway and consideration than the average person.

“In all of the greatness that should come with this verdict, none of it is realized,” said Robinson, “As a white man, Donald Trump is allowed to walk the street being already convicted of 34 felonies, without bond or worry. We are solemnly reminded that we have never been afforded such a luxury, and instead, we’ve been sentenced to death for a lot less, like being Black, man, and innocent.”

Addressing the claims that the criminal legal system was rigged against Trump, Advance Carolina Executive Director Marcus Bass said this is precisely why separation of powers exists. The American criminal legal system is riddled with flaws and inequities that disproportionately target Black and brown people, but that’s not the issue here with Trump. For Bass, Trump’s attempts to attack the criminal legal system represent nothing more than a distraction.

“Despite many attempts by Trump and the GOP to control the courts, an independent jury of his peers found the former president guilty of acts that further delegitimize his presidency and current candidacy,” Bass said. “It’s not lost on Black voters the real problems of our criminal justice system. The Trump guilty verdict is not one of those problems.”

Trump’s felony conviction likely will have little impact on the 2024 election

Absent a major crisis of conscience within the Republican party, Trump’s conviction likely won’t change his status as the GOP presidential nominee. Further, unless he’s sentenced to prison, Trump will likely retain his voting rights in Florida. As explained by Politifact, Trump’s ability to retain his voting rights in his home state of Florida is dependent upon the law of the state where he was convicted. In this case, New York does not disenfranchise people convicted of felonies who do not get jail time.

While Trump’s conviction will likely have no bearing on the 2024 election, many would-be voters who were convicted of felonies continue to be denied ballot access due to GOP machinations. Efforts like the 2018 Florida Amendment 4 campaign brought the issue of felony disenfranchisement into the national conversation. However, Florida Republicans, led by Gov. Ron DeSantis, swiftly moved to pass legislation to tamper down the impact of the rights restoration effort.

The critique of Trump and calls for accountability for his efforts to undermine and disrupt the 2020 election—and his conviction related to activity during his 2016 campaign—should not fuel calls for felony disenfranchisement.

As legal commentator Olayemi Olurin recently explained in Teen Vogue, Trump’s conviction should not be used to champion felony disenfranchisement.

“It’s gratifying to see the man who has evaded accountability at every turn receive even the tiniest fraction of what he’s doled out,” Olurin wrote. “People are entitled to rejoice but don’t rejoice so much that you unwittingly become advocates of felony disenfranchisement and the expansion of the prison industrial complex.”

 

Demanding accountability for someone who has worked overtime to undermine democracy is different from gleefully cheering for people with felonies to lose their rights. It’s a slippery slope.

Black voter engagement should remain focused on the facts and issues that matter

Groups like BlackPAC have continued to engage Black voters about the issues and stakes in the 2024 election. BlackPAC released two new ads, “Retribution” and “Receipts,” drawing a sharp contrast between the two major presidential candidates. The ad “Retribution” reflects the former president’s bombastic language and false narratives.

 

Pro-democracy advocates like Chris Love of Arizona are focused on the upcoming election and ensuring their communities have a say in the issues impacting their lives. A spokesperson for the Arizona for Abortion Access campaign—a citizen-led ballot initiative aiming for the 2024 ballot—Love said that Trump’s post-verdict rhetoric is a part of the former president’s pattern and practice of distorting outcomes.

“The former president has a habit of saying that things were rigged or fixed before the results happen to cover his bases,” Love said. “In a state like Arizona, where we are still litigating the 2020 election, we should be prepared for another incident where the election results may be delayed.”

People are tired of elites like Trump brazenly flaunting, circumventing, and exploiting legal and financial loopholes.

U.S. Senate candidate Kari Lakes and other Trump supporters have wasted government time and resources relitigating the outcomes of the 2020 and 2022 elections. But Love said Black and other liberal-leaning voters are concerned with real issues ranging from health care and jobs to the war in Palestine and other issues that directly impact our communities.

“Something like our ballot initiative to enshrine the fundamental right to abortion in our state constitution will turn out a lot of voters who recognize that the Dobbs case was a wrong decision,” Love said. “And Arizonans are really into their freedom. They want to have the freedom to make their personal health care decisions, especially about abortion.”

SEE ALSO:

Trump, Now A Felon, Earns His Stripes As The Grand Dragon Of Political Racism

NAACP Calls For ‘Unfit’ Trump To Drop Out Of Presidential Race After Felony Conviction

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