Friday, May 31, 2024

The Verdict


The world waited (with varying degrees of interest, anticipation, and worry) as the jury of Trump's fellow New Yorkers deliberated for two days (actually 11 hours). The verdict is now in: Guilty on all 34 Counts. The trial of the century (or, at least, of this election cycle) is now over (although, of course, the verdict will almost certainly be appealed, both judicially and in the court of public opinion). To whatever extent the facts (as opposed to the law, about which there may be more debate) were ever really in dispute, the former President has now been formally convicted of unlawfully behaving in the 2016 campaign in regard to his "hush money" payments to Stormy Daniels and the accompanying "catch and kill" scheme. Whether the law is right in so regarding these offenses remains a somewhat open question, to be settled presumably by the Appellate Court.

Defendant Trump - now Convict Trump - called it "a rigged disgraceful trial" and said "the real verdict" will come on Election Day, November 5. In a formal, legal sense, of course that is nonsense. Unless set aside on appeal, the verdict of the jury is the verdict. the fact of the case have been established beyond reasonable doubt. Defendant Trump is indeed now Convict Trump. But, of course, in a political sense, he is right. The final verdict, the verdict that will matter most, will be the one which the voters hand down on Election Day.

The apocalypse has not happened. A single prosecution of one former President, who is also a current candidate, does not, ipso facto, make the U.S, a "banana republic," as some have feared and about which all of us should be worried. Meanwhile, the hysterical outbursts on the political right, while regrettable in a law-governed democratic polity, are utterly unsurprising in their disregard of any principle other than partisan victory. On the other hand, Progressives probably would be well advised to tamp down their "rule-of-law" triumphalism. In Wednesday's NY Times, in a column entitled "There’s a Reason Most People Aren’t Following the Trump Trial," Matthew Walter, editor of The Lamp, a Catholic literary journal, wrote:

"Pretending that Mr. Trump’s worthiness to serve a second term is a matter of criminal law rather than a political question is typical of our American insistence upon using certain tools (judicial originalism, democracy promotion, tax credits) for purposes to which they are fundamentally unsuited (outlawing abortion, defeating Islamic terrorism, increasing the birthrate). Most of the time we misuse these tools in the hope of addressing problems that do not admit of any easy or obvious solution." Mr. Walther continued: "The question of Mr. Trump’s fitness to serve as our commander in chief is one that voters are readily able to answer."

I don't know that I have ever read The Lamp, nor am I at all familiar with Matthew Walther's other work, so I can only infer his position on Trump's past presidency or current candidacy.  That said, the author's conclusion seems irrefutable. After all, nothing new has really been revealed about the shameless ex-president's personality or character. And, of course, in an earlier and better time, we would likely have never gotten to this point, because anyone who behaved as Trump has behaved would never have gotten near the White House. But that was then, and this is now. When all is said and done, Donald Trump's fitness for the presidency (and his party's fitness for governance) will ultimately only be finally resolved by the electoral, not the judicial, process. Until such time as convict Trump is decisively defeated, he remains a serious danger to our country.

The important point is not Trump's personal failings and bad behavior. The important point is that he is the leader of a Republican party personality cult masquerading as a political movement that represents a fundamental threat to democracy, the rule of law, and the American idea.

No comments:

Post a Comment