That’s an important framing. We’ve watched Donald Trump and the Republican Party violate the rule of law with impunity. They act as if the rule of law didn’t exist anymore. We have acted the same way — like the rule of law had ceased “to be”.
That’s not true. It’s a matter of perspective. We’re still inside an active crime scene.
Think of it this way: we’re not talking about our government being hijacked. We’re talking, say, about a car. A bloated orange car thief has just stolen our car at gunpoint. And, as we get back to our feet and watch the car thief drive off with our car, it absolutely feels as if the thief is getting away with the crime — as if the rule of law stopped “being”.
But there were cameras all around, seeing and recording what happened. We have tons of evidence. It’s not a question whether or not a crime was committed.
Let’s say, to keep the metaphor going, that we call the police and report the crime. But the police are shockingly unhelpful. The top cop is worst of all. And while a few of the others in power are going along with him, the majority of cops aren’t. We get it: there’s corruption in the police department.
The rule of law STILL is in effect. We’ve simply uncovered the fact that even more people are violating it — and violating it by not prosecuting it. All duly noted.
The majority of us understand exactly what’s happening. We never agreed to stop prosecuting the rule of law. We’ve come to see however what happens when you don’t follow the rule of law to the letter. If you don’t apply it equally to everyone? It will break down eventually. Not because the rule of law is flawed but because we haven’t followed it. If we had followed it, we wouldn’t have had a problem in the first place.
I think we’ve learned our lesson. Correction — those who’ve suffered from our unequal application of the rule of law — they’ve learned. And, as they take political power, they will insist not that we start the rule of law again, but that we start APPLYING IT again.
See the difference? It means that we’re still obligated by the rule of law to apply it during the times when we’d stopped applying it. The rule of law was still in effect. We also have to ask now WHY we stopped applying it equally — and who was responsible for that. The rule of law will insist.
That’s the thing about the rule of law. It takes the decision-making (whether to apply it or not) out of our hands. The answer’s always “Yes — we apply the rule of law”.
The Moment We START re-enforcing the rule of law again, every single Republicans will have a serious problem. Conspiracy works this way: see something, say something; see something, say nothing? We need to know WHY. Why did you say nothing when you saw something (potentially) unlawful going on? The rule of law says you cannot remain silent. Even if you only suspect someone is violating the rule of law, you are obligated by it to act. If you don’t? You are violating it. And the rule of law demands we act against you.
Back during the 2016 Republican convention, current GOP leader Kevin McCarthy famously entered a meeting of GOP muckety-mucks and said “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump”. Then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan just as famously told everyone there to “keep the conversation private, saying: ‘No leaks. . . . This is how we know we’re a real family here’.”
They all agreed to keep a secret rather than call the FBI. They knew what would happen to them all if the rule of law was applied to them. They knew they were violating it.
That’s the thing that will surprise us when it happens — as it should happen. As it must: the rule of law will make it explicitly clear that Donald Trump, in legal fact, was never President of the United States. Not in any legal way. He couldn’t have been because he violated the rule of law in order to become president and the rule of law says explicitly that you cannot do that. Cheating to win means YOU DID NOT LEGALLY WIN.
That, too, is an important distinction to the rule of law and how we apply it. An election is not an abstraction. Its results — from the rule of law’s point of view — belong to the people. The rule of law is all about securing equality before the law for everyone. An election’s results — if they reflect how the electorate actually voted — should be the winning candidate’s marching orders. We elected you to do these things for us, now go do them!
What the Republicans did — with their Russian pals helping significantly — is alter the election’s outcome. Did they flip votes in machines — directly stealing the outcome (the icing on the cake)? We don’t know. No one’s ever done an official forensic investigation. The evidence is mounting that they should. But if that’s the only metric we’ll use for “stealing an election”? We’ll lose every election going forward.
We’ve been living through a new kind of asymetrical warfare using information, data and social media as weapons. Bombs and bullets are completely unnecessary to bring another country to its knees. If the Russians (or Chinese or Saudis or Iranians or North Koreans or some 400 pound guy in his basement) cut off our power grid tomorrow, we’d sue for peace, white flags raised high.
That’s not hypothetical war, it’s real war that we are really losing. But that’s only because we stopped using our most important asset: the rule of law.
It will take longer than it should for all the uncorrupted people at the police department to isolate the “bad apples” among them and hunt down the bloated orange scumbag who jacked our ride. We will get our car back.
And we will prosecute everyone — EVERYONE — who participated in the carjacking in any way, shape or form. It won’t be up to us whether we do that or not. We’ll have to.
Because the rule of law says so.