Power & Market

The United States vs. Donald J. Trump

It’s official. It is now The United States of America v. Donald J. Trump.

That is the name of the latest criminal indictment from Special Counsel Jack Smith, charging the US government’s leading political opponent with crimes against democracy. For peak rhetorical flair, the indictment evoked Section 241 of Title 18 of the US Code, more commonly known as the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act. This marks the greatest fulfillment of a personal fantasy New York Times subscribers have enjoyed ever since Barack Obama sent a thrill up their legs.

The aforementioned “newspaper of record” summarized the indictment as such:

[A]s the indictment methodically documented, Mr. Trump was told over and over again by his own advisers, allies and administration officials that the allegations he was making were not true, yet he publicly continued to make them, sometimes just hours later.

He was told they were not true by not one but two attorneys general, multiple other Justice Department officials and the government’s election security chief — all his appointees. He was told by his own vice president, campaign officials and the investigators they hired. He was told by Republican governors and secretaries of state and legislators. As one senior campaign adviser put it at the time, it was “all just conspiracy” garbage “beamed down from the mothership.”

Ultimately the charges against Trump come down to an unwillingness to share the public opinion of advisers and various government officials. A refusal to respect the sanctity of the American political process. To share, or perhaps fuel, the rage of the majority of his base.

This particular indictment of Trump embodies the irreconcilable divide within America today. 

On one side, Smith can be fairly viewed as a defender of longheld political norms, a champion for the belief that even presidents can be held liable for their actions, and a rare man of action in a time where most political rhetoric only serves as a means to grift off the passions of outraged voters. Trump weaponized his cult of personality against the hallowed grounds of the US capitol and sought to maintain a hold over political power after the people soundly rejected him in the ballot box.

On the other, you have an America that views Smith as a mere agent of an evil regime, trying to destroy a man for the crime of awakening millions to an illusionary political reality that has captured American life. Any claims to “enforcing the rule of law” are made all the more absurd by the extensive immunities offered to the degenerate son of the sitting president who was responsible for being a key source of “the big guy’s” non-official income. While it is true that Sidney Powell found no Kraken, the powers at be did boast publicly about their “fortification” campaign to ensure Donald Trump’s electoral defeat in a once-important national publication.

In the eyes of Washington, including many whose paychecks rely upon the approval of Trump voters, taking any of this seriously makes you an insurrectionist deserving of being crushed.

The ever-growing list of legal indictments against the former president poses great risks to Donald Trump, the man; the continual legal escalation from Biden’s prosecutors and their state-level allies, however, has greater significance for the political realities of modern America.

Given Trump’s lingering unpopularity with a large swath of the voting public, it is not unreasonable to view each new criminal charge as an in-kind donation to the former president’s current presidential campaign. Polling trends show indicate that nothing did more to stall the national aspirations of his leading rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, than the willingness of the feds to act against their boss’s predecessor. It is quite possible that the only candidate that could lose to Joe Biden is Donald Trump. While no doubt the same Democrat consultants that embraced the “pied piper” strategy in 2016  — and more successfully in 2022 — view this prospect as an additional win, the regime’s reaction should be viewed as sincere rather than cynical. 

As Rothbard illustrated in Anatomy of the State, any powerful state requires the perception of legitimacy by its populace. Ludwig von Mises defended the mechanism of democracy as a means to promote political stability by allowing for a clash of political visions to be heard via the electoral process. Trump’s attack on the integrity of the entire process, which resonates to this day with tens of millions of Americans, is a unique danger to the domestic power of the regime.

LISTEN: Radio Rothbard Live from Mises U: Anatomy of the State

This does not mean Washington is more impotent now in imposing its will on civilians than it was before Biden, however. An insecure regime is a dangerous one, which explains both the increasingly militant optics and radical language from the beltway, as well as the escalation in terms of domestic surveillance, censorship, financial warfare, and other measures by the feds and their corporate proxies. But the gradual erosion of legitimacy has resulted in declining rates of military enlistment, increased promotion of state’s rights from Republican governors, decreased confidence in federal authorities, and broadening recognition that America’s elites are capable of truly horrific evils.

America is just over a year away from its next presidential election. Already, the political season has devolved into the sort of unserious political theater that has become normalized in national democracy. The noise and stupidity that will capture screen time of the declining corporate press and social media are likely to serve the dull the senses and create widespread political exhaustion for those who are serious about the real issues plaguing the nation.

Politics in America, however, is no longer simply about electoral kayfabe. One side is really at war with the other. Only time will tell as to whether those opposed to the current regime are capable of doing anything meaningful about that fact.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
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