Donald Trump has been indicted, again. His supporters believe that Trump’s latest indictment by a grand jury on federal charges brought by U.S. Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith arising from Trump’s actions to remain in power are baseless attempts to block Trump from being elected President of the United States in 2024.
News reporters, legal commentators, and pundits are talking about the latest indictment, whether it will affect the 2024 presidential campaign, and Trump’s mounting legal problems.
Trump’s history of antisocial behavior (as shown by his personal and professional dishonesty, cruelty, bigotry, and lack of empathy) was chronicled, reported, and criticized long before he was elected U.S. president in 2016. Given all that has been reported about Trump’s maniacal effort to remain in power, sensible people should not be surprised that he faces criminal charges. His distinction comes from being the most impeached, criminally charged, and civilly adjudicated person to serve as U.S. president in the nation’s history.
Let’s be clear. Trump’s legal situation results from his personal decisions and actions. In Florida and Washington, D.C., federal prosecutors have brought criminal charges against him based on indictments voted by separate grand juries.
In New York, the state prosecutor in Manhattan has brought criminal charges against Trump. Trump may also be indicted and charged by the state prosecutor in Fulton County, Georgia, for his efforts to overturn the Georgia vote tally for the 2020 presidential election.
In each case, Trump is entitled to fair trials on the charges. Prosecutors will be required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt any charge they bring against him.
Trump’s attorneys will be able to cross-examine witnesses and present opposing evidence. On each charge, jurors will decide if Trump is guilty, meaning if prosecutors prove beyond a reasonable doubt that his conduct was a crime.
If Trump is found guilty, judges will decide what sentence is appropriate. If Trump is not found guilty, he will not face the prospect of punishment.
If he is found guilty, he will deserve to be punished. If he is found guilty, Trump can challenge his conviction(s) and sentence(s) in higher courts.
It is irrelevant that no other former U.S. president has been in this situation. No other former U.S. president has been accused of doing what Trump is alleged to have done.
Trump is not accused of breaking laws that apply only to Trump, or only to former presidents. He is accused of breaking laws that apply to any of us. The belief that Trump should be able to break the laws that apply to the rest of us because he is a former president is absurd, untrue, undemocratic, and dangerous.
However, the deeper problem – meaning the disease – is that a sizable part of the U.S. adult voting population in one of the major political parties believes that a wealthy white man should not face charges for allegedly criminal conduct. They believe Trump is superior to the rest of us.
The idea that Trump will be charged, tried, and could be found guilty of committing crimes is especially unsettling to some of them because the trials will occur and jurors will be selected in places populated by people Trump dislikes (as in places where unwealthy, non-white, and politically diverse people live).
Trump’s popularity, despite the well-documented history of his anti-social domestic, business, entertainment, and political conduct, is a symptom of a pervasive and dangerous disease that afflicts U.S. morality, thought, and politics. It shows that many in the Republican Party endorse wealth privilege, xenophobia, white supremacy, male authoritarianism, capitalist greed, militarism, techno-centrism, imperialism, and white supremacist, misogynist, religious, nationalist, and homophobic bigotry.
They are not a fringe group. A majority of them claim to love God, be followers of Jesus, and believe in “liberty and justice for all.”
These people do not want, and have never wanted, the United States to be a diverse, equitable, free-thinking, generous, and welcoming democracy. Instead, they want the nation to be a white male-dominated, fascist, and pseudo-religious kleptocracy.
They support Donald Trump and resent that he faces criminal charges because they, like Trump, want to live where people of color, women, immigrants, LGBTQ+ persons, and other marginalized people, do as they are told, and “stay in their place.”
Donald Trump’s popularity is a symptom of a pervasive disease that afflicts our lives, our diverse faith, and shared hopes for justice and peace. That disease – not Trump – is the deepest threat to democracy in the United States.
Pastor at New Millennium Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, a retired state court trial judge, a trustee of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, author of one book and three blogs, a consultant on cultural competency and inclusion, and a contributing correspondent at Good Faith Media.