Donald Trump is the new Che Guevara

By: Rachel Marsden

For decades, Ernesto “Che” Guevara has been the face of counterculture resistance, emblazoned across college kids’ T-shirts. But now they have Donald Trump’s mugshots on T-shirts, available through his candidate fundraising website.

Trump’s message? “Never surrender.” To whom? To the establishment, of course. The left, which once represented the biggest opposition to the establishment, now browbeats those who don’t follow its diktat. The populist right has now taken up that mantle of resistance — and Trump is its political incarnation.

The Argentinian Marxist guerrilla revolutionary, once served as former Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s minister of industries in the wake of the Cuban Revolution that overthrew the US-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in Havana, and later led anti-Western revolutions around the world. By some accounts of Che’s eventual capture and execution in Bolivia at the hands of CIA-trained Cuban paramilitaries and Bolivian forces, Guevara told his executioners, “I know you’ve come to kill me. Shoot, you are only going to kill a man."

In other words, Che knew that his death was only going to turn him into a martyr for a greater ideological cause.

Similarly, the US establishment risks martyring Trump as it racks up one supposed career-killing indictment after the other against the former president. There are dozens of charges at this point, at both the state and federal levels, for everything from falsifying business records and mishandling classified documents, to alleged election subversion.

The federal charge of “conspiracy to defraud the United States” would stick a fork in any other candidate’s political ambitions. But Trump could end up being the exception. Some establishment fixtures seem truly puzzled by the phenomenon. Trump’s own former national security adviser, John Bolton — once described by Trump as “a total and unhinged warmonger” whom he suggested he used as a bad cop figure in foreign affairs dealings — recently lamented in a CNN interview that the numerous indictments “if anything, are not undercutting his support — they’re building it up.”

And why do you think that is, genius? Do any of these long-standing establishment fixtures, on either the Republican or Democrat side, ever ask themselves why white-collar criminal charges haven’t totally decimated Trump’s popularity? Sounds like the people don’t trust the institutions anymore — or at least dislike them even more than they do Trump whom they view as fighting dirt with dirt and fire with fire.

What does it say about the state of American political life when, despite all the indictments, half of Americans of all political stripes combined, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll, maintain that none of it even makes a dent in their opinion of him? Again, it suggests that in a matchup between Trump and US state institutions, they consider Trump the lesser problem.

And apparently no one’s too thrilled about the ideological alternatives to the former president. Combined polls place Trump light years ahead of his competitors in the GOP primary race, with Trump above 50 percent in all instances, and ahead of the next candidate, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who’s stuck polling in the teens.

So why isn’t anyone else standing out as fit to carry Trump’s agenda, minus the drama?

To start, Trump is a known entity, unlike these other GOP candidates who have yet to prove themselves in standing up to their own party’s establishment on thorny issues. DeSantis, who seemed to be the most promising of the lot based on his refusal to back down against wokism in his own state, seems to have a problem conveying authenticity, and has adjusted some of his rhetoric to better align with the GOP establishment status quo, particularly on foreign affairs. Not a good look for someone who needs to be trusted to challenge it.

One also gets the sense, listening to Trump’s opponents, that they’re barking for donor dollars at this point, and aren’t immune to special interests. By contrast, Trump’s indictments effectively serve to all but ensure that big donors will be scared off. That’s a hugely attractive selling point for Americans who are fed up with a lack of transparency. And that’s not an insignificant group of voters.

It’s not exactly a surprise that in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion, Trump is the only presidential target. Unlike any of the others, he pushed back hard on the unelected bureaucracies that run Washington.

Trump is a one-man anti-establishment crusader. And, as they did with Che, the US risks turning Trump into an ideological and political martyr. There’s a sense that the flood of indictments is designed to deliberately take Trump off the chessboard for the 2024 election. And with a latest Quinnipiac University poll from this month predicting a dead heat between President Joe Biden and Trump, if the election was held today, that risks leaving a lot of totally disenfranchised voters without their candidate.

Biden constantly laments a crisis of democracy in America, but it’s the optics of the Trump indictment frenzy amid an election cycle that risks doing immeasurable damage.