By J. Hogan
Back when Barack Obama was president, Democrats frustrated with the process to get Senate ratification of judicial appointments decided to do away with the filibuster to get more judges appointed in a shorter amount of time.
At the time, critics warned the move might come back to haunt them. This was dismissed. It would only bite if the Republicans could muster a win in 2016, and everyone knew that Obama’s popularity and his designated heir to the oval office, Hillary Clinton, couldn’t possibly lose in 2016.
It didn’t work out quite as planned. Mitch McConnell refused to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat during the election year, Hillary did lose, and President Donald Trump was able to use the filibuster-less process to name Scalia’s replacement and eventually change the ideological leaning of the Supreme Court using the same process to appoint a total of three justices.
The overturning of Roe V. Wade was one direct result of this.
Now the Biden Department of Justice has indicted former president Trump multiple times, along with two local DAs in New York and Georgia – both of whom ran for office promising a prosecution of Trump – creating a plethora of legal troubles for the former president.
If you recall, during the 2016 election season, Trump called for arresting and prosecuting Hillary Clinton for destroying 33,000 subpoenaed emails, and stadiums full of supporters chanted “Lock her up!” around the country.
The hyperbole of election season notwithstanding, when Trump was sworn in as president, he famously let Clinton off the hook. “We don’t want to be the type of country that throws our political rivals in prison,” he explained in calling off the DOJ.
Except that now we are that country.
And much like the court approval filibuster, it’s very likely to come back to haunt those wielding the power now.
If Trump, leading in polls today, is elected, it’s nearly certain that many of his political enemies will be charged with crimes.
In fact, if any of the Republicans win, it’s likely to happen.
States won’t likely wait that long. If Georgia can file fraud charges for arguing a disputed election, Oklahoma can likely charge 51 “former intelligence advisors” with fraud for signing a 2020 letter claiming Hunter Biden’s now verified laptop was not really his, but Russian disinformation – although the FBI had verified the laptop was Biden’s a year before the letter was written.
Is there a statute of limitations on these novel legal approaches? Now that contesting an election is a chargeable offense, will Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama be perp walked into court for a mugshot? How about Al Gore?
You get the point. Regardless of your feelings about Donald Trump, the principles at play here matter more. As this plays out, we’re looking at the future of American politics, and it looks a lot like 1970s Soviet politics or modern Saudi and North Korean operating procedures.
Is that really what we want to have? One might think so as it pertains to the dislikeable Trump… but it won’t end with Trump. Once this becomes how we do politics, it will never stop.
The candidate you like this year, who came so close to winning, might be doing hard time next election cycle for the crime of having the winner’s Department of Justice in charge.
This would ensure that neither party can ever build up a slate of future candidates, and that many of the best and most capable will never throw their hat into the ring for public service because the risk of being imprisoned if they lose is much less appetizing than staying in the private sector reaping the perks of success there.
This slope is slippery enough for our nation to slide off the cliff.
Rev. James Hogan is a native of Stowe Township and serves as pastor of Faithbridge Community Church in McKees Rocks.