Stormy Story: Do Voters Care?

Terry Schwadron
4 min readMay 9, 2024

Terry H. Schwadron

May 9, 2024

Amid all the breathless hoopla about salacious testimony by Stormy Daniels at Donald Trump’s New York hush money trial, there is single basic unanswered question: Does any voter care?

The media is pursuing over-the-top rush and crush to review every question and answer, whether for possible legal gravity or in search of insatiable curiosity about the sexual foreplay of a former and would-be American president, even while weighing possible appeals of this trial over testimony as possibly too graphic and prejudicial to Trump.

What we’re hearing is the substance of what Trump, his fixer Michael Cohen and others named in the trial were trying to keep silenced just before the 2016 election. All the allegations of falsified business documents to protect an election campaign, seemingly provable by the dry testimony of others about paperwork, came to life with the storytelling about the central incidents that they apparently wanted to shut down.

Now the steamy details are out — entered into the permanent record as formal testimony under oath.

Regardless of any effect on a verdict for Trump, the question for the rest of us is whether any voter is changing a ballot choice as a result. Was it worth risking a criminal trial? Does a prurient America that seeks to replace many secular laws with morally based regulations to roll back rights for abortion, same sex marriages, transgender lifestyles, availability of contraception, and more care about what they are hearing in this trial?

If a finding of Trump as womanizer and someone with little respect for treatment of women could matter in the 2016 election, shouldn’t the framing of the same issues matter now?

Whining on All Sides

For sure, Trump’s lawyers have tried futilely to stop the most salacious details from emerging, and Judge Juan Merchan even has berated the defense team for not raising more objections to questions. The Trump team even tried and failed to call for a mistrial following the testimony.

But whatever evidence we have from polls, scattered news reports, and various public statements from Trump loyalists all suggest that those who have aligned with Trump are sticking with him through foot-stamping about his indictments, through Trump violations of gag orders to protect witnesses and jurors, through the Stormy Daniel testimony.

On Fox News, hosts were quick to jump on the testimony as unnecessary, unfair, and
“pornographic,” as if their opinions matter more than those of, say, the trial judge, about what was acceptable as evidence in the case. On MSNBC, one legal analyst noted that the trial had turned a business documents fraud case into a “quasi-sexual assault case.”

The judge was more concerned, it seemed, with Trump’s audible curses, head shakes and “contemptuous” behavior than with the details of the Stormy Daniels testimony.

The Trump campaign continues to use the trial as fodder for fund-raising and imagery that presents Trump as a victim of government persecution.

Repeated polling suggests that testimony painting Trump as someone who tests legal limits is not affecting a presidential race that remains tight by all accounts. Surprise or not, the projected support for Trump does not change even when asked about a criminal conviction or jail sentence.

Increasingly, it seems that what will determine this election is who turns out to vote.

Presidential Character?

Whatever the legal considerations about whether the prosecution will prove its case to 12 jurors beyond a reasonable doubt, Trump himself and all of us are watching how the country responds politically to putting presidential character on trial.

Is there even such a thing as presidential character anymore? Does it matter whether presidents uphold truth over propaganda, depend on fact-gathering and analysis as a basis for what they do? Does apparent endless ego of a politician to turn all public, government work into self-promotion matter? Does the record that we hear from Stormy Daniel about how Trump treats women make a difference?

Is there any attempt to connect a moral pass for what comes across as bullying, unprotected sex on demand with an adult film star with the policymaker who would allow states to prosecute women for seeking an abortion without exception?

Trump may complain about the cluster of criminal and civil cases that are arriving during the election season — mostly as the result of delays that he and his lawyers have created — but the wider takeaway is that much of America already has its mind made up about who Trump is and will not be swayed either by testimony or outcome of this trial. In any event, we will be assured of appeals that will postpone any practical results for years. As it is, this trial seems to be the only one of the four criminal cases he faces in federal and state courts to proceed.

What the hyperattention on Stormy Daniels may show is that all the effort to conceal Trump’s wayward sexual appetites has no lasting effect on voters, then or now.