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I’ve urged democratic voters to use a single criterion in deciding who to vote for in the primary: Who can beat Donald Trump. Now that Super Tuesday has come and gone, that admonition is more important than ever.
Regardless of whether one supports Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders, please don’t get suckered into viewing this contest as a team sport and stay home in November if your candidate does not get the nomination. Donald Trump is an existential threat to our democracy. He must be defeated in November.
If you’re suffering from Trump fatigue, which is what he wants, there is still one seminal reason to put aside ideological differences and not stay home in November: Trump’s attack on the rule of law. If Trump gets another four years, the rule of law, which holds our country together, will crumble. If that happens, it will be hard to put it back together again.
Trump’s presidency is lawless. He simply has no regard for, or understanding of, the importance of law to a civil society. All legal scholars, dating back eons, agree that the function of law in society is to ensure justice, and that justice is the glue that holds society together. Under our Constitution this means an independent judiciary as a coequal branch of government, which impartially interprets statutes and written case law. Collectively, we understand this as fairness. Without it, we are facing anarchy and the rule of the powerful.
While there have been occasional lapses, the American legal system has until now been insulated from a direct attack by the President of the United States and his administration. With Donald Trump, his Attorney General, William Barr, and Congressional Republicans, this has changed. Lady Justice in her blindfold is clearly under attack.
This tearing at the fabric of our justice system began in earnest in June 2019 when the Attorney General mischaracterized and lied about the Mueller Report concluding, three weeks before he released the Mueller Report that it exonerated the president.
This allowed Trump to crow that he was fully exonerated. Congressional Republicans remained silent, and so began an unprecedented attack on the rule of law in America.
On February 16, more than 2,000 former Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyers began calling for Attorney General William Barr to resign over Trump and Barr’s interference in the sentencing of Trump’s ally Roger Stone. Stone was convicted by a duly empanelled jury of seven crimes including obstructing of justice, lying to Congress, and witness tampering. The DOJ prosecutors, using the Trump administration’s guidelines, recommended a sentence of 7-9 years. Trump decried this recommendation for his friend and confidant who lied on his behalf as: “horrible … very unfair … the real crimes were on the other side.” Later that day, against all protocol, the Justice Department overruled its career prosecutors and, at the AG’s direction, withdrew the recommendation as being too harsh. All four prosecutors resigned from the case in protest, with one resigning from the DOJ. Trump tweeted congratulations to Barr “for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have been brought.”
Trump will pardon Stone (and, for that matter, Manafort and Flynn), all criminals and his associates. Should he be reelected, he will further his assault on the rule of law.
Whether you are a Biden or Sanders supporter, or for that matter a Republican or independent frightened by Trump, remember the warning given by the former DOJ prosecutors who served both Republican and Democratic administrations: “Governments that use the enormous power of law enforcement to punish their enemies and reward their allies are not constitutional republics; they are autocracies.”