After his guilty verdict, Trump is no longer running against Biden but the rule of law itself

It’s no longer just about choosing a candidate, but about choosing a system of government altogether.


Former President Donald Trump’s guilty verdict raised the stakes of the 2024 election once again. It’s no longer just about choosing a candidate, but about choosing a system of government altogether.

After a 12-person New York jury found Trump guilty on all 34 felony counts he was indicted on, Trump has predictably doubled down on his argument that the entire process that held him accountable is corrupt and should be eliminated. Alarmingly, virtually the entire Republican Party has agreed with Trump’s spin, and both GOP-aligned politicians and media networks are dutifully downplaying the historic first of an American ex-president getting convicted of nearly three dozen felony crimes. 

As a convicted felon, Donald Trump can now no longer own firearms (the NYPD recently announced they would revoke Trump’s permit to carry his three handguns). He can’t ever serve on a jury, travel internationally, or carry a commercial driver’s license. If he were applying for any government job that wasn’t the presidency, his felony conviction would mean he couldn’t obtain a security clearance without a special waiver. Trump’s felonies also means he can’t serve in the military (even though he’s running to be commander in chief) and depending on the state, he may not even be able to get food stamps or other government benefits. His three golf courses in New Jersey may now no longer be able to serve alcohol, since the Garden State prohibits convicted felons from having liquor licenses. As a felon, Trump is prohibited from running for office in the states of Louisiana, New Mexico, Nebraska, Utah, and West Virginia, though he can still appear on the ballot in federal races.

In the United States’ 248 year-long history, no former president has ever been charged with a crime, let alone been convicted. Even former President Richard Nixon chose to resign the presidency rather than risk the embarrassment of being impeached and convicted by the Senate and potentially prosecuted by the Department of Justice. Still, Republicans by and large remain unfazed. New Hampshire Republican Governor Chris Sununu — widely considered to be more of a moderate conservative than a MAGA diehard — dismissed Trump’s convictions as “reality TV.”

“It’s basically a wash,” Sununu told Fox News when asked about the verdict. “This will be an interesting, trivial moment, but not one that defines the campaign in any way.”

Of course, Trump is entitled to appeal the verdict, just as any guilty defendant is. But his continued attacks on the judge, the jury, the witnesses, and the process itself suggests that his campaign is about to take a dark turn. Trump has characterized all efforts to bind him to the rule of law as politically motivated and therefore “rigged” against him. But his vow to seek revenge on his political enemies as president using the power of the government, which he recently told Phil McGraw (also known as “Dr. Phil”) he planned to do, suggests that Trump doesn’t view all former presidents as above the law, but just himself. He’s made it clear that any laws that get in the way of what he wants to do will be bulldozed out of the way, and that no civil servants who may feel conflicted between following the law and the ruler will work in his administration.

The November election isn’t whether Americans want Joe Biden or Donald Trump. Rather, voters will choose whether we want to live in a constitutional Republic like the framers established, or if Americans prefer to go back to a monarchy where a ruler governs by fiat and is immune from all accountability.

The real reason Republicans are going all-in on Trump’s fascism

With the exception of Maryland U.S. Senate candidate Larry Hogan (formerly a two-term GOP governor of a traditionally blue state), Republicans holding or running for federal office have all dug in their heels in supporting the former president in spite of him now being a convicted felon. Hogan’s sin? He called on voters to “respect the verdict and the legal process,” discouraged “toxic partisanship,” and asked Americans to “reaffirm what has made this nation great: the rule of law.” This anodyne statement resulted in an angry tweet from Trump senior campaign adviser Chris LaCivita, who ominously wrote “you just ended your campaign.” 

In response to the verdict, eight Republican senators — Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Roger Marshall (R-Kansas), Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Eric Schmitt (R-Missouri), Rick Scott (R-Florida), Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama), and J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) — penned a letter to their Democratic colleagues vowing to effectively grind the Senate to a halt in protest of the rule of law being applied to Trump. The circumstances here are extraordinary on their own: A not-insignificant number of senators — whose constituencies are entire states rather than hyper-partisan gerrymandered districts — are literally refusing to do the governing that millions of people elected them to do simply because the law is being applied equally to their leader.

“The White House has made a mockery of the rule of law and fundamentally altered our politics in un-American ways,” read the letter, which falsely asserted that Biden was somehow involved in New York’s prosecution of the ex-president. “As a Senate Republican conference, we are unwilling to aid and abet this White House in its project to tear this country apart.”

But when looking just below the surface, it’s easy to see why Trump’s Republican lemmings have no choice but to jump off the cliff right alongside him. In the run-up to the 2020 election, Trump framed himself and the GOP as the party of “law and order.” The Black Lives Matter uprising gripped the country in the wake of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor being killed by police officers, and Republican voters were clamoring for a party that would allow law enforcement to clamp down on what they characterized as “lawlessness” in American streets. As explored in 2023, “law and order” has been a common mantra from Republicans since the era of Richard Nixon, who himself ran on a pro-law enforcement platform while heading a corrupt and criminal administration. 

But now that Trump is a convicted felon, the party that went all-in on “law and order” just four years ago now has to save face by railing against the very same justice system it promised to protect and uphold. If Republicans were to do as Larry Hogan suggested and respect the verdict, it would mean acknowledging that the man they allowed to assume total control over their party is a criminal, and that he fooled all of them for the better part of a decade. It would be a tremendous blow to the GOP’s credibility from which it may never recover. Republicans’ only hope now is to get Trump elected to a second term, allow him to scuttle the remaining cases against him, and effectively coronate him as a monarch who is entirely above the rule of law.

In this way, the 2024 election is the biggest gamble the GOP has ever made: Either it ensures total victory for their side in perpetuity by steamrolling all obstacles in the way of its vision of a far-right, Christofascist authoritarian regime as laid out in Project 2025, or it suffers a humiliating and crushing defeat that could ultimately do to the Republican Party what the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 did to the Whig Party.

What Hunter Biden’s verdict revealed about both parties

The summer of 2024 may prove to be a case study in examining how institutionalists and fascists respond when the law is applied to them. While Trump has crowed nonstop on Truth Social (the social media platform he owns) about the verdict handed down by a 12-person jury approved by both prosecutors and his own attorneys, President Biden has stayed entirely out of the fray. 

Even after his own son was found guilty on all three felony counts in Department of Justice special counsel David Weiss’ indictment, Biden stood by the process and said he will “accept the outcome of this case.” While he has the power as the current president to pardon anyone convicted of federal crimes, and while his son is facing a maximum sentence of 25 years in federal prison, he has nonetheless vowed to not use his power to pardon his own son (and not even a commutation).

“Jill and I will always be there for Hunter and the rest of our family with our love and support. Nothing will ever change that,” Biden said after the verdict was announced.

This is an eye-popping contrast to how Trump and the MAGA movement responded to the former president’s 34 felony convictions. Trump has ceaselessly attacked Judge Juan Merchan and the entire legal process, calling it everything from “rigged” to a “sham” to “election interference.”

Even after Merchan imposed a gag order preventing Trump from attacking jurors, witnesses, court staff, and their families (the former president attacked Merchan’s own daughter on several occasions for her work as a Democratic political consultant), Trump still violated that gag order on 10 different occasions. His attorneys have since asked Merchan to lift the gag order, suggesting that Trump is chomping at the bit to continue denigrating and threatening everyone even tangentially tied to the trial to his millions of devoted followers.

It isn’t just the former president who’s attempting to degrade the entire justice system, but also other Republican elected officials and Trump’s legion of supporters. During the trial, numerous high-profile Republicans, including House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana), North Dakota Republican Governor Doug Burgum, and other GOP members of the House and Senate all made the pilgrimage to Manhattan to take turns attacking Judge Merchan, the prosecution, and even the groups included in Merchan’s gag order. During an interview on far-right network Newsmax, Sen. Tuberville openly said that helping Trump circumvent the gag order was “one of the reasons we went.”

And after the verdict was handed down, NBC reported that Trump supporters on various online forums attempted to gather as much information as they could about the jurors themselves, threatening to post revealing information about them and their personal lives online (also known as “doxxing”). Some even made direct violent threats.

“We need to identify each juror. Then make them miserable. Maybe even suicidal,” one Trump supporter said on a MAGA-affiliated forum. 

“1,000,000 men (armed) need to go to [W]ashington and hang everyone. That’s the only solution,” another user wrote.

“I hope every juror is doxxed and they pay for what they have done,” a Trump supporter posted on Truth Social. “May God strike them dead.”

Democrats, on the other hand, have been far more tolerant of the legal system than Trump and his movement. Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Florida) tweeted that “unlike [Marjorie Taylor Greene] and MAGA no Democrat will call for Civil War.” Former pollster Adam Carlson wrote that “no one” in the Democrats’ orbit will scream “WITCH HUNT” or “RIGGED TRIAL” with regard to Hunter Biden, or call him a “political prisoner” or clamor for Biden to pardon his son, “because Democrats, for all of our faults, are the party of grownups.”

Republicans already have a plan to fast-track monarchy

When America was founded, the framers wanted to establish a government that was directly accountable to the people, which was a totally new concept compared to the authoritarian British monarchy they rebelled against. The preamble to the Constitution specifically mentions that the founders sought to “establish justice” in their effort to “form a more perfect union.” It is not hyperbole to say that one of America’s two major political parties now wants to eschew that system to elect a president to become a modern version of King George III — derisively referred to as “the Royal Brute of Britain” in Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense.”

“Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America THE LAW IS KING,” Paine wrote. “For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be King; and there ought to be no other.”

The clearest example of Republicans wanting to scrap the Constitution and have a fascist president usher in a return to monarchy can be found in the philosophy of Russ Vought, who would likely be White House chief of staff in a second Trump administration. In a recent Washington Post profile, Vought — who is an avowed Christian nationalist — described America as being in a “post-Constitutional time.” This governing style requires taking enormous liberties with interpreting the Constitution in the service of greatly expanding executive power to crush Democratic opposition and accomplish far-right political goals. 

Vought illustrated his “post-Constitutional” views by labeling the influx of undocumented immigrants (which has slowed down drastically in 2024) as an “invasion.” He then aims to use that term to justify using wartime powers to round up, detain, and deport millions of immigrants.

“We showed that millions of illegal aliens coming across, and Mexican cartels holding operational control of the border, constitute an invasion,” Vought wrote in a 2022 essay. “This is where we need to be radical in discarding or rethinking the legal paradigms that have confined our ability to return to the original Constitution.”

As president of the far-right Center for Renewing America, Vought is one of the major players in the authoritarian Project 2025 initiative. Representatives of the roughly 100 conservative groups who are a part of Project 2025 contributed to a 920-page playbook — dubbed Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Promise — outlining how they plan to drastically restructure the US government to be a right-wing authoritarian dictatorship. Vought wrote the section on “the executive office of the President of the United States.”

One key plank of Project 2025 is the Schedule F executive order that Trump signed in 2020, which is a brainchild of Vought. Trump left office before it could be fully implemented, and Biden rescinded it shortly after taking office. As previously reported, Schedule F would eliminate virtually every major employment guardrail for the federal civil service, and would sharply increase the number of government employees appointed directly by a president from approximately 5,000 to more than 54,000. 

Project 2025 has already pre-vetted tens of thousands of potential federal employees, mostly by evaluating their loyalty to Trump and the MAGA movement. If Trump or any other Republican is elected to the presidency, these 54,000+ Trump acolytes would all be strategically placed in decision-making roles throughout every federal agency with the explicit goal of advancing the right wing’s political pet projects above all else.

America has less than five months to make a decision: Do we want to continue the government the founders created, or do we want to go back to being subjects of a tyrant unbound by laws and the Constitution? 

Will we remain citizens of a nation guided by laws rather than men, or will we let an all-powerful monarch strip us of our agency? 

Will we be governed, or will we be ruled?


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