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A Dramatic Week That Gave Both Sides What They Want Most

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Former U.S. President Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower the day after FBI agents raided his Mar-a-Lago Palm Beach home, in New York City, U.S., August 9, 2022. REUTERS/David 'Dee' Delgado

The dramatic search of Mar-a-Lago to recover classified papers from former President Trump may be remembered as the most controversial and disastrous decision in the storied history of the FBI. But in the short term, at least, it may also have given both political parties exactly what they want and, in a strange sense, managed to bring Americans together.

Most obviously and immediately, “the raid” (as it’s frequently called) has made Mr. Trump the blazing center of national attention and controversy for the first time since he left the White House nearly nineteen months ago. He has received far more media coverage, and inspired vastly more intense debate, than the guy who beat him in November of last year. Biden seems almost irrelevant, strangely detached, from each of the hot issues that electrified the country this week while Trump has been at the center of nearly all of them. For a former president to decisively upstage the all-powerful figure who actually occupies the Oval Office would have seemed preposterous, almost inconceivable, before this week, but the fascination with all things Trump has emerged with renewed intensity and fervor.

Anyone who thinks that the MAGA Man doesn’t relish the situation is someone who’s never followed his career or come to terms with his personality. Centerstage is where he has always longed to be, and he’s now achieved his goal as no other ex-president could ever have imagined.

As for the Democrats, for their own strategic reasons they also celebrate and encourage the current obsession with a political figure they actually loathe and despise. Facing a difficult struggle to maintain control of Congress in the upcoming midterm elections, they know there’s something much worse for them than the American public feeling renewed fascination with the losing candidate in the last election: to some extent, all the discussion and analysis about Trump prevents an intense focus on Biden, which could actually undermine Democratic hopes. Given the feeble performance of the current incumbent as a decision-maker and a communicator, the party he leads understands that they will have an easier time smearing Trump than cheering Biden. With all of the complicated charges against the Republican leader – in Georgia, New York, DC and other locales – Democrats feel confident that fear of Trump can be a far more powerful motivator for their troops than love or admiration of Biden.

One of the oddest features of the recent primary campaigns involved the Democrats’ decision to invest literally tens of millions of dollars promoting Trumpist candidates for Senate, House and governor and to help make sure that these American Firsters won nominations in swing states across the country. They didn’t spend this money because they share any ideological commitments with the GOP contenders they favored, but because of their confident assumption that such candidates would be easier to beat. If that logic held true for Trump-endorsed acolytes, the Democrats may embrace it with even more enthusiasm when it comes to the big guy himself.

In other words, the GOP and its most determined opponents can now celebrate a rare point of agreement: it’s more comfortable, and certainly more entertaining, to talk about Trump and the various charges and counterattacks that he’s inspired than it is to try to generate some excitement over any of the dull, conventional politicos who stand against him. Yes, all the arguments over his ideas and character may be polarizing and even painful, but as the week just passed so clearly demonstrates, at least they’ll never qualify as predictable or boring.

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