FROM THE LEFT: Trump trial: Seeking accountability, or waging ‘lawfare’

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By Lance Simmens

We truly are in the midst of a historical time in which the pillars of democracy are being tested on a seemingly regular basis. In choosing topics for discussion for the biweekly publication of “From the Left/From the Right” we try to identify timely events that reflect what is occurring on a regular basis in the world of politics and public policy. There are always a number of unfolding events that allow for different ideological interpretations, particularly in light of the fact that we are in the maelstrom of a presidential election that is shaping up as a definitive struggle between authoritarianism and democracy. And strangely enough, two events currently facing both the speaker of the House and the former president may have the effect of forcing leadership and accountability. This would be a welcome change from the nasty vitriol that has infected our political and governmental systems for the last several years. 

What is powering the ideological differences currently operative in our democratic system is a partisan deadlock that has left forward movement floundering at a time when concerted action is sorely needed. Hence, there are some relatively hopeful and helpful signs of a resurgence of constructive bipartisanship, a notion that has governed our democratic society for nearly two and a half centuries. Let me offer why I am optimistic.

After many months of stagnation that has left movement on key funding in the House of Representatives in limbo, a final breakthrough has been reached the old fashion way: namely, through give and take, negotiation, and a degree of sturdy posturing that encourages recognition that the stakes for movement outweigh stalemate. Congress has passed legislation that will provide $95 billion in aid for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, and the Indo-Pacific and it is on a fast track for approval in the Senate. 

It remains to be seen if the cost of bipartisan leadership may be leveled upon current House Speaker Mike Johnson as uneasiness within the GOP over the support for its passage may be used as rationale for his removal. Time will tell whether or not he may pay such a price. For now, leadership will prevail. 

What seems to be missing from calls for his resignation is any acknowledgement of the need for compromise. Quite simply, democratic governance is not necessarily that difficult a concept to embrace: Namely, you have to reach consensus with diverse parties to the point where a majority can live with the pros and cons of the agreement. I will not pretend to praise the speaker for his ideological predispositions, however I will give him credit for negotiating and crafting the necessary majority needed to move this critical legislative package forward.  His “Let the chips fall where they may” attitude may reflect frustration more than satisfaction; however, it comes with the job and he does deserve kudos for shepherding it through the legislative gauntlet.

That was last week; this is now. For the first time in history a former president of the United States is facing criminal charges in Manhattan Criminal Court. Unfortunately, he has shown his utter disdain for the court, the judge, the attorney general, and the jurors, and as of this writing has violated the judge’s gag order 10 times. Needless to say, if one of us normal people thought it might be a good strategy to intimidate jurors, judge, and prosecutors as a way of avoiding conviction, unless your name is Donald Trump, I would not advise it.

Regardless of what position you take with respect to his potential innocence of guilt, our judicial system is replete with protections afforded those accused of crimes, chief among them being the fact that it only requires one juror out of 12 to avert conviction. The mere length of time it has taken to get this far into the judicial weeds, and the laborious delays and appeals that have accompanied Trump’s journey, almost certainly give benefit to those who can afford to question seemingly every move. Face it, the protections that Trump has been afforded would bankrupt all but those who populate the highest income brackets. 

Mere fines certainly inflict little or no barriers to those who can employ “delay, delay, delay” tactics and then mystify media outlets with a constant flow of mis- and disinformation. But that is the nature of our system of justice. 

What is critically important here is that our system of democratic governance is capable of and leans toward fairness, and while not always fair and certainly not infallible, more often than not common sense and seriousness with respect to accountability prevails. Let us hope that faith in and to a system of justice outweighs blind obedience to an individual or cult of personality. Authoritarianism places value upon fear, democracy places value on the better angels in all of us. As long as accountability and leadership are guiding and governing principles we may well be on the road to redeeming faith and support for democratic institutions designed to substantiate one overarching judicial principle: namely, NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW!