The ‘law and order’ party is packed full of criminals

The Republican Party has been packed full of criminals for decades, and the past several election cycles show that the rot has only gotten worse.


he Republican Party has always tried to claim the “law and order” mantle, while simultaneously casting Democrats as enablers of crime. Contemporary examples include former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) baseless suggestion that former President Barack Obama was encouraging “lawlessness” by being supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement, and Republican lawmakers like House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-California) and former Congressman John Katko (R-New York), who both accused Democrats of having a lackadaisical attitude toward crime. But in fact, Republicans have historically been the party of crime and corruption, and their posturing about “law and order” is both dishonest and dangerous when looking at both their past leaders and their current makeup.

Former President Donald Trump’s dozens of criminal indictments at both the state and federal level are making Republicans nervous. Even though Trump still leads the pack of GOP presidential candidates by a significant margin, a new poll shows his support is flagging in the wake of his latest 37-count indictment for allegedly mishandling classified documents—31 of those are for alleged violations of the Espionage Act, and six are for alleged attempts to cover up and obstruct. CNN found that Republicans’ support of Trump dropped slightly from 53% to 46% in a June poll conducted after the former president was recently indicted in federal court. And of course, Trump could still be indicted in two additional investigations into alleged meddling in the counting of votes in Georgia, and a separate federal investigation into his role in the deadly January 6, 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol.

However, as glaring as Trump’s legal issues appear to be, it’s par for the course when looking at past Republican presidents. The only thing that differentiates Trump from his predecessors is that he may actually live to see accountability for his actions.

The Republican Party’s long history of criminal presidents

The GOP’s embrace of lawlessness dates back to Richard Nixon’s administration. In the particularly turbulent spring of 1968, when riots broke out across the country after the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Republicans were pinning the national unrest on King as much as they could. Rep. Dan Kuykendall (R-Tennessee) accused MLK of “agitating destruction, violence, and hatred.” Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-South Carolina) said the late civil rights leader was “an outside agitator, bent on stirring people up, making everyone dissatisfied.” 

Nixon—whose top strategist, Lee Atwater, came up with the “Southern Strategy” of using coded language to appeal to racism in order to win Southern votes—capitalized on this by centering his campaign around “law and order.” He also invoked “law and order” in his acceptance speech at the 1968 Republican National Convention that summer:

Time is running out for the merchants of crime and corruption in American society.

The wave of crime is not going to be the wave of the future in the United States of America.

We shall re-establish freedom from fear in America so that America can take the lead in re-establishing freedom from fear in the world.

And to those who say that law and order is the code word for racism, there and here is a reply:

Our goal is justice for every American.

If we are to have respect for law in America, we must have laws that deserve respect.

Just as we cannot have progress without order, we cannot have order without progress, and so, as we commit to order tonight, let us commit to progress.

As history shows, Nixon’s rhetoric about “respect for law” ultimately went unheeded by his own administration, which was defined by the Watergate scandal. The 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters and the resulting cover-up led to criminal indictments for seven conspirators—all of whom were eventually found guilty either by plea or by conviction. For his part, Nixon became the first president to ever resign from office.

GOP darling Ronald Reagan’s administration was also deeply criminal. Declassified documents show Reagan worked behind the scenes in the fall of 1980 to thwart the Carter administration’s attempts to get American hostages released from Iran before Election Day—arguably an act of treason. Reagan was also implicated in the Iran-Contra affair, in which his administration illegally sold $30 million of missiles to Iran in violation of a trade embargo, then secretly funneled $18 million of that sale to far-right militias (the Contras) in Nicaragua. Reagan himself escaped accountability, though 14 others, including members of his National Security Council, were charged (and eventually pardoned by President George H.W. Bush).

Later, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Gary Webb of the San Jose Mercury News, in his “Dark Alliance” series, ultimately uncovered evidence that during the Reagan administration, CIA-connected drug lords were profiting from the crack-cocaine epidemic in a predominantly Black neighborhood of Los Angeles. Webb was ostracized and blacklisted by both the intelligence and media establishments, and ultimately died by suicide. That scandal has since been dramatized in the 2014 film Kill The Messenger, and retold in the 2021 Netflix documentary Crack: Cocaine, Corruption and Conspiracy.

As far as Republicans go, George W. Bush may be the most heavily scrutinized by international legal observers. Bush’s post-9/11 “War on Terror” policies, including the operation of the Guantanamo Bay detention center, human rights violations at the Abu Ghraib prison, various CIA “black sites” around the world, and his CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” techniques are arguably in violation of multiple international treaties and agreements. Retired political science professor Michael Haas outlined 269 separate war crimes the Bush administration could have committed, according to language from the Geneva and Hague conventions as well as US laws like the War Crimes Act and the Anti-Torture Act. 

Stanford University, which published Haas’ book, summarized it as an exhaustive overview of potential crimes that Bush, his cabinet, and senior military officials could hypothetically be charged with, broken down into four classes, along with “the real-world practicability of bringing cases” against those individuals:

The author divides the 269 war crimes of the Bush administration into four classes: 6 war crimes committed in launching a war of aggression; 36 war crimes committed in the conduct of war; 175 war crimes committed in the treatment of prisoners; and 52 war crimes committed in postwar occupations. For each of the 269 war crimes of the Bush administration, Professor Haas gives chapter and verse in precise but non-technical language, including the specific acts deemed to be war crimes, the names of the officials deemed to be war criminals, and the exact language of the international or U.S. laws violated by those officials. The author proceeds to consider the various U.S., international, and foreign tribunals in which the war crimes of Bush administration defendants may be tried under applicable bodies of law.

In the face of so many potential violations of international law, the one thing likely saving Bush and his cabinet from accountability is the U.S.’ veto power on the United Nations’ Security Council, which would be responsible for any criminal referrals to the International Criminal Court. While Donald Trump’s indictments are certainly unprecedented, his alleged crimes are relatively vanilla in comparison to his Republican predecessor.

The “law and order” party isn’t abiding by the most fundamental laws

Republicans’ steadfast, unwavering loyalty to Donald Trump makes little sense given their “law and order” posturing. Businessmen Vivek Ramaswamy and Perry Johnson, who are both running for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, have both promised to pardon Trump if elected. Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley has also suggested she would pardon her former boss if she wins the election.

One central premise of American society is equal justice under the law, which is a concept so sacred that the phrase “Equal Justice Under Law” is engraved on the front entrance of the US Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. Ever since the Magna Carta was written in the 13th century, the divine right of kings has been usurped by the rule of law. In this context, pardoning Trump wouldn’t just be anti-American—it would be pro-monarchy. 

With this in mind, it isn’t a stretch to refer to the 147 Republicans who voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election out of fealty to Donald Trump as treasonous. Section 3 of the 14th Amendment—which was ratified shortly after the Civil War—explicitly states that anyone who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the United States, “or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof,” is ineligible to hold federal office. 

Some, like Rep. Clay Higgins (R-Louisiana) have doubled down on their pro-insurrection rhetoric. Before Trump was scheduled to appear in federal court, Higgins tweeted that the indictment was “a perimeter probe from the oppressors,” that “rPOTUS has this,” and that supporters should “know your bridges.” During a June 16 appearance on WNYC’s On the Media, militia expert Jeff Sharlet said Higgins’ tweet included coded language, with “rPOTUS” signifying that Trump was the “real” president (implying Biden is an “impostor” president) and the “know your bridges” remark was a suggestion that militias disrupt infrastructure if necessary.

“This isn’t slow civil war. This is a congressman calling for the real thing,” Sharlet tweeted.

The only thing preventing lawless Republicans cheering on insurrection from being kicked out of Congress is Republicans themselves. Article 1, Section 5, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote for any member of Congress to be expelled from the body. This means the 212 Democrats in the House of Representatives would need 78 Republicans to vote for the expulsion of Republicans who voted against certifying a lawful presidential election, arguably giving aid and/or comfort to insurrectionists in violation of the 14th Amendment. To put that number in perspective, only 10 House Republicans voted to impeach Trump after the January 6 insurrection, and only three of those Republicans still hold office.

The Republican Party has been packed full of criminals for decades, and the past several election cycles show that the rot has only gotten worse. Voters who profess to care about law and order should vote out every single Republican office-holder, given the party’s tendency to attract, promote, and protect criminals.


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