Politicians, religious leaders, athletes, celebrities, corporate America, and just about everyone with a social media account has weighed in on the Derek Chauvin guilty verdict. The consensus is clear: the ex-cop deserves to be jailed for the murder of George Floyd. Even conservative media, loath to side with criminal justice reform, has largely applauded the decision (sort of).
But one prominent voice has been uncharacteristically mum: ex-president Donald Trump. While Trump’s office routinely issues statements on both current events and perceived slights – they put out one yesterday pushing back on his sinking favorability rating – they’ve let the most talked about topic in the nation come and go without comment.
Chauvin’s victim, George Floyd, was killed while Trump was president. Shortly after the death, Trump told Sean Hannity, “it doesn’t get any more obvious or it doesn’t get any worse than that.” He added that the video was hard to watch.
Yet, Trump spent the summer trading in racist rhetoric about the protests inspired by Floyd’s murder. He glorified violence, tweeting “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” He and his surrogates – including his children – used exaggerations and hyperbole to paint a dystopian portrait of a country with a Democrat in the White House. This was always confusing – Trump pointed to violence on his own watch to suggest that Joe Biden’s election would trigger a wave of crime.
Of course, Trump’s thoroughly debunked Big Lie about election interference inflamed a fringe movement that eventually lead to a violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. But that’s probably not even his most deadly rhetoric. He’s long flirted with anti-science thinking in a way that has discouraged his supporters from getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Republicans are getting vaccinated at such a low-rate compared to their peers, that it endangers herd immunity.
Trump has encouraged Americans to get inoculated, but he’s noticeably low energy on the topic. He has not appeared in a pro-vaccine public service announcement – like other former presidents – and he has not shared photos or videos of his vaccination, like, say, everyone else.
You may argue that it’s best to ignore a former politician who’s been stripped of his power and even banished from his favorite communication platform. But Trump is still a kingmaker in GOP circles and he clearly has intentions of running for president in 2024. What he says matters. So does what he doesn’t say.
That’s particularly true for the MAGA base he’s amassed. It’s no exaggeration to say they are influenced by his every word, even when those words are literal nonsense.
And in the absence of Trump weighing in on the Chauvin verdict – even if it’s just repeating the condemnation he shared with Sean Hannity last summer – other provocative and irresponsible voices are filling the void. Tucker Carlson, who rarely encounters a situation he won’t exploit to create outrage, suggested last night that jurors were intimidated into convicting Chauvin.
I’ve got a 9 minute and 29 second video that lays Carlson’s ridiculous claim to waste. But perhaps someone is intimidated. Perhaps Donald Trump is so afraid of upsetting a racist contingent in his base, that he’s unwilling to tell them the truth about a moment in American history where police violence and excessive force was on trial in a Minneapolis court room and where justice prevailed.