What does it take to impede overt agents of disorder—starting another civil war?
Justice delayed isn’t just justice denied—but justice kaput. Why must we wait months and months for indictments of official misconduct and criminality, spanning tax evasion, illegal abuses against voters and GA state certifiers and, above all, malicious conspiracies that pushed violent riots before, during and afterwards? What officials have even been disqualified for high crimes against the state? Impeachment without penalty monumentally failed to deter more waves of wrongdoing and contempt for voters—likely spurred the opposite.
However phony, calculated, or ignorant, Trumpism exposed the many Americans who are fed up with democracy and majority rule, the legitimacy of elections, medical/scientific expertise, even whether current institutions are worth saving. Like spoiled children, Trumpers react to rules they decide (falsely) are out to get them by or bad for MAGA with empty bluster—and then are ever more emboldened when no downsides surface. If not stopped by state, Congressional and federal powers, what impedes the next atrocity?
Like an endless conspiracy theory, no thresholds impede extremists dying to go viral. If mere unjustified chaos isn’t enough – and not without success against elections, governance, Congressional will, and essential reforms—brace for more lawlessness. This is the politics of disarray and dissembling—and the right-wing minority holds just enough power to thwart majority will and undermine all faith in good government. How many of us, disheartened, simply throw up our arms and abandon politics for something less disturbing? I understand my friends who stopped reading anything that even smacks of Trump and Trumpism as beneath contempt.
“Creative” disruption demands solutions
But justice exists to restrain system-busting schemers (called lawbreakers) before they destroy far more than they fantasize they can fix. The utter void even of Trump proposals to repair anything speaks to this revealing truth. Justice (read: indictments and meaningful penalties) must intervene to stop what is becoming a contagion of system-smashing, in the main gratuitously for its own sake. Without a justice vaccine, today’s outbreak can turn into a political pandemic that threatens political life as we know it.
Two truisms: first, republican nation-states can survive abusing its citizens longer than it can tolerate systemic devastation when criminal leaders escape infamy. Politicians who feast on disruption but stave off any restraints, let alone punishment, pose greater dangers to national security than all the foreign terrorists put together. Apparently, our country can muddle through slavery, racism, discrimination, xenophobia, misogyny, and/or religious/cultural intolerance but are vulnerable to “inside threats,” whether billionaire cash, unbridled disruptive or grossly inadequate judicial responses.
Wrongdoers who escape punishment naturally up the ante, taking apparent escape as permission to do worse. Thus emboldened, they confirm their entitled status, for themselves and followers: would the Creator (or whatever) ever permit such disorder without special dispensation? Thus, not getting punished for law-breaking (even, shockingly, Trump still being favored for re-nomination) is the worse scenario: the failure to exact justice poses an equal menace to the crimes themselves. No foreign force will impose fascism but, echoing this apocryphal line, today’s Christian, white supremacist, gun-toting version comes “wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”
High crimes not always strictly illegal
A crime need not be illegal to be devastating to a country’s stability. When ruthless Mitch McConnell blocks a legitimate Supreme Court judgment for a year, he utterly violates the spirit of the Constitution. If we had a decent justice system, that corrosive contempt for procedure would have been declared null and void (where was Obama for a year?). When a leader denies a global pandemic and tens of thousands die, who lets that go without penalty? When any yahoo (and now many more) concoct fake news about a “stolen” election solely to manipulate public opinion, then incite a murderous insurrectionist, what self-respecting country doesn’t face such creepiness with outrage? Any Congress member who supported either the action or the idea of an insurrection against the will of the majority should face censure and recall. The list goes on, but here’s the unanswerable the question: why have no apt penalties for sedition or treason yet been applied to insurrection-inciters or enabling officials? Either elections are sovereign, mandated to end with certification and confirm power transfer, or our notions of justice are defunct.There is no middle ground, morally or politically.
Thus, when elected “law-makers” become overt “law-breakers,” they must face enormous pressure (certainly beyond what skittish Democrats have done). If there’s no justice for explicit wrongdoing, then there’s no justice—especially for those crimes not yet visible or public. Do we just muddle on, willy nilly, without checks or balances? Trump is the perfect (but not only) emblem of a career mania to try getting away with whatever he damn well pleases—and tragically for America so far with impunity. However astonishing, a majority of Republicans still think that second-term Emperor Trump is a dandy idea. Thus do phony defenders of freedom become enablers in the serial destruction that will maim but repair nothing.
What electoral system survives scores of “law-makers” who violate oaths of office to sustain law and government? And what about the thuggish, self-serving “creepy billionaires” (in Senator Whitehouse’s language) pumping dark money into right-wing coffers to 1) commandeer the judiciary, 2) undermine climate change responses, 3) repress mass voting, and 4) instigate enough chaos that lets the status quo reign supreme? Will these backroom enablers get off scot-free, too? That drives the defiance of Biden’s modest attempts to encourage greater equality and opportunity – and he lacks the leverage or commitment so far to mount a formidable defense against a wall of uncaring, nitwit No’s.
Every human organization—from imperial powers to democratic nations, from corporations, nearly all religions, and social clubs to sports teams, even utopian experiments, must have inviolate rules and thresholds they are willing to defend. We accept restraints when we join all organizations, to obey laws when driving, to take orders in the military—or simply embrace safe vaccines for the good and life of all. No “system” can ignore any critical mass that runs roughshod over defining, bottom-line boundaries.
Justice is establishing, then enforcing these very boundaries, the essential checks and balances on human proclivities to excess, to brutality, and to violate the rights or freedoms openly granted to all and accepted by all who so benefit and agree to live by rules. Even the Confederacy only sought secession, the right to form another country, and never talked about conquering or lording over the majority who lived elsewhere. Trumpism has no such circumspection but wants to rule the entire country, in its own terms, thus its fascist commitment to insurrection that the majority ignores at its peril.