When body-armored paramilitary agents with automatic weapons showed up to raid the house of Donald Trump, former president and rival of sitting U.S. President Joe Biden, many conservatives likened it to the beginning of a banana-republic rule in our country. Conservative columnist George Will is more measured in calling it one more colossal blunder on the part of the Biden administration. Blunder or political move, the weaponization of the legal system for political motives has caused civil wars and destroyed at least one law-based republic in history.
Rome’s republic collapsed when its politicians started using the law to eliminate opponents, a custom that began with the Marius–Sulla civil war. The guy in power used the judiciary authority of the Roman Senate to eliminate his adversaries. The intended victim would raise legions and fleets in self-defense; this took money. The contender who could raise the most troops or who was the better tactician got to be in charge. Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon because he knew that his opponents in the Senate had decided to have him executed if he returned to Rome without the protection of his legions. He had violated several Roman Republic laws during his invasion of Gaul, but there would be no fair public trial. The concept of Roman justice was dead. From that point on, might made right.
By creating a separation of powers, our American Founding Fathers attempted to prevent a recurrence of the Roman tragedy. For nearly two and a half centuries, it has worked, but the raid on Mar-a-Lago last week signifies a very dangerous potential precedent. Trump may have mishandled government documents, but the reaction of the administration’s goons was clearly disproportionately strong. For the first time in the nation’s history, one political party is trying to use the law to prevent a potential presidential candidate from another party from running again. This is a very slippery slope. Biden is certainly no Caesar and Trump is no Pompey, but we are definitely headed in the wrong direction.
The Jan. 6 hearings, the New York State civil investigations into Trump’s business affairs, and the search for misappropriated White House documents are all clear attempts to convict Trump of some manner of felony in order to eliminate him as a political threat in the 2024 elections. The Democrats have already impeached the former president twice and failed to convict him. Now they have invaded his private residence with a horde of heavily armed paramilitary agents under the pretext of searching for official documents. Roughly half of the American population views this for what it is: politically motivated gangsterism.
It is instructive that even though former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s misuse of private servers to conduct potentially classified government business was not seriously pursued by the Obama–Biden administration, mishandling of government documents has now become a political weapon against Trump. None of this justifies the attacks on government agents that some on the far right are calling for, but it is convincing many conservatives that the Democrats are practicing the politics of targeted political terror and using the instruments of governmental agencies to carry them out. Despite this, the editorial board of the Washington Post and several of its liberal house columnists defend this selective treatment of mishandling classified information because they loathe Trump personally. Democracy may or may not die in darkness; but, as in Germany in 1933, it definitely dies in government-sanctioned elimination of political rivals.
I personally think Trump is a creep. I voted for him twice because I like most of his policy positions better than either of his opponents in the last two elections, and I will vote for him again in 2024 if he is running against any of the leftist loons that the Democrats will likely nominate. I hope I have better choices, but things do not look promising. However, one thing that would be good for the republic’s political health would be for the 2024 debate moderators to elicit a promise from all candidates not to prosecute their defeated opponents during the time that they are in office. The repetition of the “lock her up” chants was one of the more distasteful elements of the 2016 campaign. Yet, despite the rhetoric, Trump — to his credit — did not make a serious effort to prosecute Clinton. That has not been the case with the present administration and its party. Biden has accused Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin of using police-state tactics against his opponents. Somewhere in the Kremlin, Putin is probably giggling hysterically.
I sincerely hope that the civil war rhetoric cools down, but the current situation leaves many conservatives wondering this: “If they come after Trump, can they come after me?” Thinking Democrats should be asking the same question because what goes around has a tendency to come around.
Gary Anderson lectures on Alternative Analysis at the graduate level.