New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who’s also Donald Trump’s transition director, was not a defendant in the Bridgegate trial, in which two of Christie’s allies were just convicted on all counts. Still, argues New York’s Jonathan Chait, the verdicts “would shake up an ordinary presidential election,” since Trump himself has said that Christie “totally knew about” Bridgegate, and since the Donald has made “ethical and legal propriety…the most prominent theme of [his] campaign.” But Chait acknowledges that in the “surreal” electoral atmosphere of 2016, there’ll be no such shakeup of the race.
Chait explained in a Friday post that the Bridgegate verdicts won’t hurt Trump because “the news media has figured out that Trump’s supporters’ beliefs about his ethics, and the criminality of his opponent, are not subject to amendment on the basis of evidence.” In response, journalists, “while they do try to hold Trump accountable, [are] not going to play up the Bridgegate indictments because they correctly realize it won’t change Trump’s support. Because it won’t have any impact on Republicans, it’s not a campaign-changing event, and ergo merely a second-rank news story.”
Chait then made plain his belief that the key factors here are the GOP base’s ignorance and Trump’s ability to exploit it (bolding added):
Somewhere around the time he attracted a massive conservative following by promoting the birther hoax, Trump figured out that the Republican electorate was the biggest pool of suckers in America. It’s a cohort that resides within a hermetically sealed counterfactual universe. Within the world, the corruption and illegality of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or any Democratic official is a metaphysical reality. The emails, the birth certificate, the Constitution, and any other totem of this belief are merely symbolic gestures affirming this larger truth, not indictments that rest upon verifiable evidence.
It follows that if you are the champion of the Republican side, provided you have demonstrated your team loyalty, you can do or say anything whatsoever. You can be facing trial for massive fraud, you can have a crook promising a crooked governing scheme, and still be the candidate of good government. Good government, by definition, is Trump.