I don’t care what you think about Donald Trump. I don’t even care what I think. We cannot have a republic if the ruling party tries to destroy its opposition under the disguise of legal necessity and no one “being above the law.”
All four presidential impeachments — Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump (twice) — were such attempts to destroy. The fourth was especially egregious because it took place when Trump was within a few days of leaving office. Such prosecutions are unauthorized by anything but the dictatorial practices of old England. They amount to bills of attainder, specifically forbidden by our Constitution.
Now we have one indictment of Trump after another, in as many venues as possible, in the way in which a pack of dogs tries to bring down a boar. The new one is patently an act of political persecution, unheard of in high-level American politics, at least since Thomas Jefferson’s well warranted but self-damaging persecution of his former vice president, Aaron Burr. But Trump is no Burr, and his legal opponents are no Jeffersons. Supposing that they are sincere, their case against Trump reveals nothing but ignorance.
(I said I wasn’t concerned with my, or your, opinion about Trump, so I won’t go into detail about his own ignorance of American history, possibly exceeded only by that of 100,000 other important people in American politics.)
We have one indictment of Trump after another, in as many venues as possible, in the way in which a pack of dogs tries to bring down a boar.
Trump is accused, basically, of telling lies about crooked voting in order to block the selection of his opponent by the Electoral College. Let’s see — when has something like that happened before?
It happened in 2017, when Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans tried to get Trump electoral votes thrown out and convince Trump electors to vote for someone else.
It happened in 2000, when Democrats and Republicans resorted to all legal means to prevent Florida’s crucial electoral votes from going to their opponents.
Skipping over a few dozen other episodes of things like this, on both the state and national levels, let’s consider the disputed election of 1876, in which four states returned rival sets of electoral votes, corruption was charged by everyone, and a special commission had to be set up by Congress to determine which votes were valid. The account of those events makes fun reading. But in none of these cases was anyone, much less the presidential candidate of a leading party, charged with the purported crime of objecting to or trying to change the electoral count.
To say that the Trump prosecution is unprecedented is putting it mildly indeed.
But if you’re thinking that this is the kind of thing that affects only the surface scum of politics, think again. Trump is being accused of objecting to the results of an election (heaven forfend!) and of lying. If even he can be prosecuted, and perhaps destroyed, for objecting to electoral procedures, and (imagine!) trying to get other people to vote his way about it, then you can be prosecuted, and perhaps destroyed, for doing the same thing about some local school board or city council election, or some local bond issue. Disrupt our democracy, will you? We’ll teach you what happens to people who pass out misinformation!
Because that’s the other half of it. The charge of lying is one of the most pernicious that could be leveled. Of course, Trump always believes everything that Trump says, so there’s no plausible ground for charging him, of all people, with this offense. But suppose he did lie? If he’s going to be prosecuted for political lies, then so can anyone’s political opponents, because virtually all politicians lie all the time, specifically in order to win — in the current parody of legal language, to disenfranchise the voters of the other party. What a joke!
Disrupt our democracy, will you? We’ll teach you what happens to people who pass out “misinformation”!
Now think about it — don’t you lie? Yes, you do; we all do. Sometimes it’s necessary. Sometimes it’s just plain wrong. But there’s no law against lying, unless you’re lying under oath or trying to cheat somebody out of money. If such a “law” is gradually created — by the indictment of Trump, and by the government’s zealous and continuing campaign of censoring “misinformation” — you may well be a victim, just like Trump. Tyranny always becomes an arbitrary selection of victims.
In old England, the kings and then the political parties were always making up new legalities, and they were always using them to persecute their opponents, drive them from office, impoverish them, and, ideally, kill them. This is a good reason why we have a republic. But we aren’t doing much to keep it.