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“Nothing really matters, anyone can see, nothing really matters to me.” Guaranteed this resonant Queen song is playing on the radio right now in a major American market, listeners sing out the lyrics loudly, but little will be done to heed the lyrics. Simply put, the song remains the same, and there’s always a station to change. 

In the case of the US right now, the general consensus on the May 30 Trump verdict amongst the young cohort of the populace is an overwhelming “okay”. It is another chapter of a rolled-out elitist drama, a ping pong of talking points between those who haven’t really ever given a damn, but atavistically think that they have. Younger voters have slowly become aware of such facts in recent years, recent grocery bills, recent foreign policy disasters, recent talking points, recent immigration reforms, recent MAGA threats, recent complicity in war crimes. 

Does the Trump verdict, in actual policy sense, truly matter? Of course. It is unprecedented, and in the context of East African leaders getting away with a multitude of scandals for decades and being fêted for them, it can be quite a shock to the system. Sometimes one has to let that American-style pretentiousness wash over you, but just make sure you let such notions of “justice” punch themselves out and then reevaluate their actual impact.

One aspect of our projection of self-righteousness has long been our fallback onto “norms” and “protecting democracy” and “American values”. These are claimed tenets that we project outwards onto the world, often plastered in the form of the word “FREEDOM” on a decal sticker placed onto the end of a missile that gets mistargeted into a primary school. Above all things, the United States holds a candle to no other nation in a single aspect: marketing. Our propaganda and self-importance are second to none. Don’t believe me? Ask yourself, what’s the last movie you watched in a theatre? 

This can also take the form of our projection that our justice system is somewhere inherently fair to all citizens (and foreigners trying to become citizens). The disproportionate rates of black people incarcerated, not to mention the current astronomical numbers of inmates imprisoned for failing to post bail while those who crashed the global housing market in 2008 have kept their corner offices or been promoted, doesn’t factor in. 

In the context of the latest Trump trial, we hold it up as an illuminating light, one that serves as a backdrop to photo ops for Ruto at the Biden White House and a means to balance the scales and keep even the most powerful in line.

We Americans like to act like we’re better than you; it’s placed within our national ethos, and upon smug the faces on cable news networks. The truth is a bit uglier: in all likelihood nothing truly consequential will come of the 34 guilty counts against Donald J. Trump, and perhaps more darkly, no one actually cares at this point in the good ol’ US of A. 

On the self-aggrandising shows of the talking heads, the verdict is a strike against the dark creeping forces of fascism, a shot across the bow of all that would destabilise the world and bring about chaos unto the huddled masses, who are now rejoicing in the streets with ululations to the skies about the sanctity of the American court system.

This, of course, is far from the reality. Since the verdict came down, there has been often breathless coverage about the possibilities of Trump going to prison for his crimes of paying off porn star Stormy Daniels with “hush money”, while ignoring the precedent of the entire Trump judicial track record. 

Why? Well, the man of the long ties isn’t called the Teflon Don for no reason. He was long famous for being the studious suck-up apprentice to the infamous New York mafia lawyer, Roy Cohn. He learned all the tricks of tying up the courts in paperwork from the tactics’ originator, and then used said tactics to deftly slip all the legal punches thrown at him for more than 50 years. He’s been found guilty, yes, but the sentencing has yet to be handed down (the date is set to be scheduled for July 11th) and any possible appeals are yet to be filed. In addition, just because a sentence is on its way is no guarantee that Trump will be put behind bars.

Is it possible Trump serves jail time? Yes. Is it, in all objective likelihood, the probable outcome? No, it isn’t. There’s a myriad of possible consequences that could be coming down the pike, with Trump ending up with a sentence of hard time only being one of a whole smorgasbord of possibilities. Wary of constitutional crises, the smart money would be on a hefty fine, lengthy probation or both for the former (and possibly future) President of the United States. 

The more brutal question is this: will it matter? Does the outcome of that sentencing have any impact on what seems to be inevitable? If Trump is able to win again (as most polls indicate to be very likely approximately five months ahead of voters heading to the polls on Tuesday, November 5th), will it make any true difference if he is still president while in jail for a few weeks or months of his term?

In all actuality, the answer is no. The man would still have codes to nuclear arms, will probably start some sort of dark apocalyptic White House addresses while sporting an orange tie to match his prison-issue jumpsuit and his supporters will only fold in all the more intensely to their cause célèbre.

What the “good and righteous” swath of “traditional values” voters (i.e. Democrats over the age of 55 and centrist Republicans who like to pay less taxes but find Trumpian times to be gauche and ridiculous) can’t wrap their heads around, is the same truth that they’ve played into for their entire voting lives; that the system of politics helps to uphold the powerful, and the rest is just window dressing. Older Americans inherently can’t grasp this, still holding onto ideals they were promised in the early 1970s, but that have slowly been crushed through nearly fifty straight years of neoliberal policies and deregulation. The very system they voted in helped create Trump, a self-fulfilling prophecy of Reaganomics dating back to 1981. 

The younger generations within the US have long since sensed this, but apathy quickly becomes malignant, and they have long since taken on a defeatist attitude of nonchalance. This new generational nihilism is something that has also taken hold within the politics of East Africa. 

If nothing will truly change and the outcome is a constant back and forth between elites anyway, then why truly bother about the grotty little details of criminality, even if they reach the levels of parliament, State House or the White House? 

If Trump gets to be the most powerful man in the world despite a criminal conviction, and has been there already, and has always gotten away with it, and is still rich, and still Teflon, what does the conviction truly matter? The dark possibilities of him simply pardoning himself, or temporarily ceding power to whatever cloying troglodyte he chooses for the vice presidential position so that they can in turn pardon him and hand power back, have barely been examined by the powers that be.

The issues of importance seem to remain, tithe over some of your earnings, keep the evil orange man from getting back into the seat of power, accept that a guilty verdict is manna from liberal heaven and ignore the Biden policies of bans on migrant asylum seekers, signing off on constant flows of arms to Ukraine without seeming to seek lasting peace, turning a blind eye to a genocide being livestreamed on TikTok in Gaza and all the while, prices of commodities rising steadily, pricing out everyday people who can’t take time out of their day to pay attention to Trump’s latest outrage as they have a fourth job to get to in order to cover expenses for their daughter’s life-saving drugs.

Trump, in all of his decadent hatefulness, deserves whatever comes his way. He deserved to be jailed decades ago for the multitude of real estate violations, incitement, racially discriminatory housing policies, tax evasion, sexual assaults and mob connections.

Realism, however, must assess that there are levels to privilege, and the Donald is not playing in the same league as normal people. At the moment, it seems to be a massive political miscalculation for the entirety of the Democratic establishment of America to focus solely on this ongoing legal saga, while seemingly bringing nothing to the table politically. 

The mantra of “Don’t worry about the policies, just look at what Trump did this time” wound up delivering Trump startled and blinking to the White House eight years ago in a shock victory over Hillary Clinton – in a similar trajectory to Ruto’s 2022 victory in the face of the old guard of Kenyan politics.

Now, facing down a myriad of global issues while Americans taken out second mortgages on their homes to fund the grocery bill, all that’s coming out of the Biden administration and its acolytes is a strange game of whataboutism, of comparisons to Trump, forgetting one simple fact: when the bar is on the floor, you don’t get a medal just for clearing it. 

Nothing really matters, anyone can see. In the eyes of Americans right now, when looking at the Trump verdict, the actual electoral landscape reflects the follow-up line: “Nothing really matters to me.” For his supporters who have stated repeatedly that they would vote for him even if he murdered someone in the middle of the street, what’s a little hush money between strange bedfellows?