Elections are the heart of democracy. Without them and without public confidence in their integrity, there is no democracy. In his relentless efforts to overturn our election, it would appear that Donald Trump is attempting to stage a coup, one that could destroy our democracy. It also appears that he has the support of a large cadre of Republicans and several extremist groups whose “Right to Bear Arms” they have both vigorously supported.
Witness the fact that Trump, with the support of many Republicans, has deliberately attempted to destroy our confidence in the greatest of all our institutions – our elections – almost from the day of his inauguration.
Witness how the Trump administration disparaged and sabotaged the Postal Service in order to suppress voting by mail in the midst of the worst pandemic on a hundred years.
Witness the court challenges to the election results by Republicans even after certification by Republican and Democratic governors alike.
Witness Trump’s efforts to coerce Republican legislators in key states to overturn their own elections and appoint their own faithful Republican electors to the Electoral College.
Witness the current effort, even after electors cast their votes in the Electoral College, to overturn the Electoral College in Congress by challenging the votes of electors in key states.
Witness the fact that Trump and his followers are even considering declaring martial law and having a new election conducted by the military.
Witness how Trump condones violence from his base and calls out to rally armed extremist groups around the Capitol on the day Congress counts the electoral votes.
In law, sedition and insurrection are crimes that are covered by 18 USC 2833, 2834 and 2835 which provide penalties consisting of fines and imprisonment up to 20 years.
Should Donald Trump not be prosecuted for these crimes and possibly others3? Several people argue that he should not be prosecuted for any crimes because it would further divide the nation at a time when healing is needed. It is true that the nation is severely divided and prosecuting Trump would likely exacerbate the division, but by how much? Enough to incite civil war4? On the other hand, what are the consequences of pardoning Trump? Would not pardoning Trump establish a precedent5 amounting to a general acceptance of his behavior? Would that then not become the baseline for any new wannabe dictator from which to launch his own coup6?
Trump has come uncomfortably close to winning a coup by sabotaging our elections, and the threat still exists even as I am writing. That threat won’t go away until January 20 when he is actually removed from the White House. Even then, the threat will persist in future years7.
For the preservation of our democracy we must restore confidence in our elections. To do that, we must demonstrate conclusively that our laws are enforceable and will be enforced, that no one is above them, and that our elections are sacred; and any attempt to overturn them is treasonous and will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
1 Sedition: conduct consisting of speaking, writing, or acting against an established government or seeking to overthrow it by unlawful means : resistance to lawful authority : conduct tending to treason but without overt act. – Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Inc., Springfield, MA , 2002
2 an act or instance of revolting against civil or political authority or against an established government. – Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Inc., Springfield, MA , 2002
3 Time for a little truth in advertising. I have no idea how many actual crimes have been committed by Trump during his presidency and/or during his career, but I cannot help but believe them to be numerous. It is not just his behavior that makes me suspicious (although that’s more than enough to raise anyone’s suspicion) but the byzantine labyrinth of his financial empire consisting of over 500 companies, most of which are shell companies, makes me wonder what lurks underneath and transpires between them.
4 I think not.
5 A principle or rule established in a previous legal case that is either binding on or persuasive without going to courts for a court or other tribunal when deciding subsequent cases with similar issues or facts. Wikipedia
6 It has been argued by many that Gerald Ford’s pardoning of Richard Nixon is what has led many to accept the general notion that the President is above the law while in office and, except for treason, anything he does while in office, is not a crime.
7 Bear in mind, Trump doesn’t give up easily. He plans to run for President again in 2024, and he could make a second effort to stage a coup. Pardoning him this time will only embolden him in the future.