Romanticizing direct democracy leads to pandemic anarchy.
Prosecution as Persecution
The establishment Left’s war on Trump shows no signs of letting up.
Last week, international news reported that Germany is considering a ban on the right-wing political party Alternative for Deutschland, which has made considerable electoral gains in recent years, and which has polled recently as the country’s second most popular political party. Such a ban would effectively lock the party out of democratic government. It might be hard to imagine such a thing happening in America, but in many ways, we’re already there. As left-wing internationalists tighten their grip on state power, protecting “Our Sacred Democracy” increasingly seems to require the most draconian efforts on the part of elites to limit the choices that citizens have in elections.
It wasn’t always this way. Only ten years ago, leaders like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton felt so little threat from typical Americans that they mocked them as “deplorables” and people “bitterly clinging” to guns and religion. But after the clingers taught the Democrats a lesson in the 2016 election, the Left establishment resolved to crush them—for good.
Weeks after Biden “won” the 2020 election, Time magazine gleefully reported on the various covert operations that “fortified” the contest against Trump. Of course, by “fortification” they didn’t mean “protection against fraud and interference.” After all, the 2020 election saw fraud and interference on a scale that would have been unimaginable only five years ago. The “fortification,” then, aimed to protect the administrative state from the electoral judgment of the public.
Aside from the documented ballot manipulation, shady methods of vote tallying, Zuckerbucks, and suspension of state-level constitutional rules regarding who has the power to modify election law—all of which benefitted Biden—there were many other forms of malfeasance. We know now that Russiagate was a post hoc effort to undermine the result of the 2016 election. Those two phony impeachments can only be understood as interference in Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign. We may never know the extent to which the response to the COVID-19 pandemic (and its origins) was underwritten by a desire to influence the outcome of a U.S. election. And all this is to say nothing of the mounting evidence that the January 6 “insurrection” was instigated by federal law enforcement. If that is true, what could possibly explain that insanity except to create a justification for Stasi-like crackdown on private supporters of the president (and to end his political career once and for all)?
Now, nearly three years later, it’s clear that the Biden White House, the Democratic Party, and the administrative state are terrified that the American people might give them another “undemocratic” decision in 2024. Any reasonable person—that’s not hyperbole—any reasonable person can see that the indictments of Donald Trump for a panoply of crimes in multiple states are motivated by a desire to interfere with his prospects in the next election. I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know whether any of those charges can be made to stick. But many of them appear to prosecute instances of what is clearly First Amendment protected speech, not just on the part of Trump himself, but virtually every person who played any meaningful role in challenging the result of the 2020 election.
What I do know is that given the total absence of legal consequences for the well-documented felonious behavior of so many Democratic leaders and federal agents (Hillary Clinton, Jim Comey, James Clapper, Andrew McCabe, John Brennan, Peter Strzok, Hunter Biden, the Big Guy himself, and so many more), it’s clear that the law isn’t being applied impartially. And it’s not as though all those people have zero charges where Trump has one. On the contrary, they have zero charges combined, while Trump himself, after the new indictment in Georgia, faces nearly 100 charges in multiple states. This overkill—bringing every conceivable charge rather than simply the most grievous and provable ones—shows that “justice” isn’t the aim. No, punishment is the aim. Remember all the breathless warnings from Democrats and the media about how Trump was a threat to the precious norms of “our democracy”? Their haste in abandoning centuries-long norms regarding the legal immunities and treatment of former presidents shows them to be hypocrites on a maniacal quest for vengeance. But vengeance on whom? And for what?
When talking to supporters about his statist opposition, Trump has often said, “They’re not after me, they’re after you.” Of course, the “you” here refers not just to Trump’s supporters, but anyone who retains allegiance to the political norms of America from about ten years ago. To some, comments of this sort might seem overblown or exaggerated, but as the coordinated effort to crush Trump grows even more feverish and frenzied, it grows truer by the day.
“Resisters” of Trump in government and the media have demonstrated they understand that his 2016 win was owed to popular anger against the left-wing status quo (and the impotence of elected Republicans who accommodate it). That anger was enough that Americans were willing to launch a metaphorical grenade into Washington. Rather than taking the message and working to address their most egregious failings in hopes of assuaging the outrage, Democrats attacked the outcome as illegitimate. By talking themselves into believing the “collusion” fiction, they found the courage to make unprecedented interventions to keep a duly-elected president from effectively wielding the powers of the office. Predictably, this stoked the anger of the voters who sent him there. After all those abuses, the “fortification” efforts in 2020—which millions of Americans saw as fraud, illegality, collusion, and election interference far worse than anything Democrats whined about in 2016—brought their fury to the level of incandescence.
This is why, despite the indictments and Trump’s own weaknesses as a candidate and a president, polls show that he retains a commanding lead over his strongest rival for the 2024 Republican nomination.
Like it or not, Trump has become the projection of so many disaffected Americans. They rightly feel that the state’s monomaniacal attack on him is an attack on them. They still hold the antiquated idea that Americans should be able to elect whoever they want to the nation’s highest office: they still believe that the people are sovereign. Prosecuting Trump—especially for offenses for which no other politician has ever been indicted (much less formally investigated)—is the regime’s means of persecuting the demos. In effect, the government is saying not only that the people’s choice of who will lead the country will not be honored, they are telling Americans that they won’t even be allowed to make a choice. Every charge, then, is a reminder that the state sees itself as the sovereign and the people as subjects. Each new humiliation of Trump is meant to remind his supporters of their political impotence, and this in itself is a form of election interference, in that it creates a sense of futility among conservatives which might serve to deflate turnout for their nominee.
Even as they express absolute terror about the threat it may pose, the government and media continue to pretend that this popular discontent is totally unjustified. When they say that the 2020 election was our most “safe and secure” election ever—in spite of overwhelming, blatant evidence to the contrary—this is another slap in the public’s face, a reminder that as the sovereign, the government is free to spread lies with impunity. While laughing at the banners that insist “Trump Won,” they ignore a much more dangerous belief: that we don’t know who won in 2020. Given the litany of abuses to procedure and precedent over the last six years, that belief is entirely rational and justified.
In any nation that claims to be democratic, a lack of certainty about the outcome of elections is the most corrosive force—if only because it invites precisely the sort of conspiracy theories that the Left abhors as a “threat to democracy.” In fortifying 2020, the great powers of our society knowingly poured this acid all over the machinery of our politics. Deservedly, half of the country hates them for it. And the regime—which already hated the people—hates them all the more for no reason other than the fact that they noticed.
We find ourselves in a desperate bind. By prosecuting Trump for frivolities and thereby persecuting his supporters, the Left stokes the very populist rage they fear, making the situation even more volatile. But even in a scenario where they let Trump run in an “unfortified” race, they will never allow him to wield the powers of the office if he won. This, too, would further boost the outrage of Trump’s supporters and those at least sympathetic to his campaign.
There seems to be no off-ramp in this conflict. The only solution acceptable to the Left establishment, it seems, would be for the Right to give unequivocal surrender. This is an unreasonable expectation, and an undemocratic one. There is another way to diffuse the situation, but it would require at least some official recognition of the legitimacy of the popular anger that fuels Trump’s movement and a meaningful effort to address some of their key grievances. In doing so, the Left establishment might still be able to save us from catastrophe.
But how much, exactly, do they really love Our Sacred Democracy?
The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.
The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.