Inmate #P01135809 is already monetizing his mugshot
"Shamelessness can be a superpower: Donald Trump (or inmate #P01135809, as he is described in his booking record) has proved that time and time and again. He’s shattered norms, flouted rules, shrugged off scandals and generally got away with doing whatever the hell he feels like. Never has anyone tested the idea that there’s no such thing as bad publicity quite as much as the former president.
Now he’s back at it again, attempting to turn his mugshot – which you’ve no doubt had the misfortune of seeing a million times by now – into a marketing opportunity. While any normal person would find it mortifying to have become the first former president to face 91 charges in four criminal cases and have a booking photo taken, Trump is busy slapping his mugshot on merchandise and inserting it into fundraising efforts. Trump is seizing control of the narrative as much as he possibly can, and attempting to turn his mugshot into a badge of honour rather than disgrace.
This was only to be expected, of course. Trump’s team have clearly been preparing for this moment for a long time – they even had a practice run back in April, when they sold T-shirts with a fake mugshot on them. Everything about Trump’s surrender at Fulton county jail on Thursday night was designed to maximize media coverage. The time of his surrender, for example, was deliberately picked to coincide with primetime news coverage. Trump also returned to X, formerly known as Twitter, for the first time since 2021 just to share the mugshot. And then there was the pose itself, which was obviously diligently practiced. You can imagine him standing in front of some gaudy gold mirror for hours on end trying out different expressions, can’t you? He was clearly going for heroic defiance but ended up looking a little bit like an angry owl.
There’s no doubt that Trump’s mugshot is going to go down in the history books. The big question, however, is what sort of narrative will accompany it – whether the picture will be used to illustrate Trump’s demise or his political resurrection.
As it is, the mugshot is something of a political Rorschach test. Liberals see it as a sign of how far Trump has fallen. Trump’s acolytes, on the other hand, see it is a middle finger to the establishment; a symbol of Trump’s fight against the liberal elite. “Not all heroes wear capes,” the far-right congresswoman Lauren Boebert tweeted. The extremist congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene similarly tweeted: “This is the photo that will win the 2024 Presidential election.”
Could this mugshot help Trump win the election? He’d certainly like you to think so. The former president has regularly advanced the idea that his legal troubles have helped him politically. “Any time they file an indictment, we go way up in the polls,” he said at a dinner in Alabama earlier this month. “We need one more indictment to close out this election … Nobody has even a chance.”
Despite Trump’s bombast, the truth of the matter is that – as common sense would dictate – getting arrested generally isn’t good for your reputation. Trump may still have his cult-like followers but polls show that voters who classify themselves as independents are steadily turning against him. A new Politico magazine/Ipsos poll, for example, has found that most Americans feel Trump should stand trial for the federal 2020 election subversion case before the Republican primaries or before the general election in November 2024. Sixty-three per cent of independents think Trump should stand trial before the 2024 presidential election – that’s up from 48% in June.
Similarly, a new poll from Navigator Research has found that the public is now evenly split on whether they believe Trump will be convicted of the crimes he’s been accused of (42% think he will, 41% think he won’t). That’s seven points higher than two weeks ago, before he was indicted in Georgia. An increasing number of voters who classify themselves as independent believe Trump is going to be convicted.
Still, despite Trump’s mounting legal troubles, I wouldn’t write him off too soon. He is, after all, still the Republican frontrunner. It may seem utterly implausible that he could ever be president again but if there’s one thing we should have learned from 2016 it’s that we should never say never. Trump may be a liberal laughingstock at the moment but there’s still the possibility he’ll make mugs of us all."