Why the next Republican president can become dictator if Trump isn’t prosecuted for his crimes
Trump broke several past presidential precedents and established brand new ones that, unless punished and banned, provide a model for the next Republican president who wants to turn America into an oligarchy of strongmen like the Hungary or Turkey.
And given the rhetoric from GOP leaders for 2024, we should be seriously concerned about this as a future near certainty.
Precedents are critical things, and when set, they quickly become standards unless they are stopped short:
- No President of the United States has ever attempted to overthrow our government.
- No president has ever escaped open, overt, and public violations of campaign finance laws and the Hatch Act by using the White House for political events, rallies, and to sell products.
- No president has ever conspired with armed militias to maim and kill police officers.
- No president has ever attempted to nullify an election by having the DOJ, DHS, and DOD seize voting machines and/or ballots.
- No president has ever sent anonymous federal police into American cities to kidnap and detain citizens in broad daylight, like Trump did here in Portland.
- No president has ever asked the FBI to establish 10 credible, prosecutable charges of obstruction of criminal justice against him, as Mueller’s investigation did against Trump.
- No president has ever attempted to have his own vice president assassinated.
- No president has ever publicly asked a hostile foreign power to help him get elected.
- No president has ever publicly praised a hostile foreign intelligence service while disparaging his own intelligence and police services.
- No president has ever lied to the American people about injured American soldiers in an attack by Iran, a pandemic, or just made up stuff in press conferences and speeches, including over 30,000 more documented lies, destroying Americans’ faith in the political process.
- No president has ever told the American people that our electoral systems are corrupt and not to be trusted.
Instead, every US president except Trump has looked to former presidents for precedents on how to behave in office, and in almost every case has followed those precedents, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.
The first and most famous precedent was set by George Washington who, after two terms, voluntarily resigned the office rather than bow to the then-popular sentiment that he should remain in office until his death.
Every president then followed that precedent and voluntarily left office after two terms, until Franklin D. Roosevelt dealt with the twin crises of the Great Republican Depression and World War II and chose to ignore precedent. of President Washington.
When FDR ran for that third term in 1940, Republicans howled how he had “broken precedent”; it was an outrage and an outrage, they said, totally “un-American,” but he defied precedent and was elected anyway.
When FDR ran for a fourth term in 1944, the GOP acted as if it thought the republic was coming to an end. I still remember my Republican father solemnly telling me as a child in the 1950s how FDR had “tried to establish a one-man dictatorship in America.” It was an article of faith in the GOP, and still is in many circles.
So when Republicans took control of Congress in the 1946 election, the 1947 Congress proposed the 22nd Amendment to prevent any future president from breaking the “George Washington Precedent”. It became law after 3/4 of the states ratified it in 1951.
Lying to America in a war was a precedent which, as Abraham Lincoln angrily pointed out, was set by President Polk with the war against Mexico in 1846. President McKinley continued the tradition of lying to us in the Spanish-American War in 1898 with a little help. by William Randolph Hearst.
President Lyndon Johnson lied to us in a war in Vietnam, and Richard Nixon followed precedent by lying about his “secret plan” to end the war in Vietnam.
George W. Bush and Dick Cheney doubled down, feeling safe that they could get away with it now that the precedent was so well set, dragging us into a war in Iraq.
On the other hand, when Bill Clinton tried to set the precedent of a president lying to a grand jury and getting away with it, the criminal and political systems of this country called him to account. He had his lawyer’s license suspended for five years, paid a $25,000 fine and was impeached.
This precedent did not hold, which could come to haunt Trump.
The precedent is, to use bidenism, a BFD. Once a president has broken precedent, he has set an entirely new standard for presidential behavior, and the country can either accept that as the “new normal” or, as Republicans did in 1998 and 1947, push back and punish the president or cement the earlier precedent in law.
Donald Trump has spent six years now breaking American political and legal precedents, from destroying captured veterans to inciting racial and political violence to inciting autocrats while metaphorically pissing on our allies.
No president has ever done such things, at least not in broad daylight. And when former presidents broke precedent in secret, there were serious and destructive consequences for our democracy.
For example, Nixon made what LBJ and Senator Everett Dirksen called a “treacherous” deal with the South Vietnamese to blow up the 1968 peace accord that LBJ had made, because Nixon that year was running against LBJ Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and the peace accord was to be the cornerstone of Humphrey’s campaign.
America didn’t learn of Nixon’s betrayal until the LBJ Library released its recordings of Johnson, Dirksen and Nixon’s phone conversations in 2008, but apparently the Reagan campaign knew about it.
In 1980, according to the then Iranian president, the Reagan campaign pulled the same trick, promising the Iranians military spares and missiles if they simply ignored President Carter’s efforts to negotiate a hostage return until after the elections. The Iranians took the military hardware and freed the hostages on January 20, 1981 as Reagan got his hands on the bible to be sworn in as president…within the minute.
Trump continued this precedent of Republican presidents coordinating with foreign governments to win elections when he publicly invited Russia to hack the servers of the DNC and Hillary Clinton.
The precedent is a big deal. It matters. Unless punished or made illegal, criminal precedent in the White House is reshaping American politics and the very nature of our country.
Imagine if Nixon’s crime had come to light and he had been branded a traitor before 1980; Reagan’s campaign manager (and CIA director) Bill Casey certainly wouldn’t have even considered the Iran/Contra deal. Carter would have collected the hostages, guaranteeing his own re-election.
At the very least, America wouldn’t have turned right, we’d still have millions of unionized jobs and 60,000 factories now gone to China/Mexico, taxes on billionaires would have remained at 74%, and neither Scalia nor O’ Connor would have been to the Supreme Court to hand the 2000 election to George W. Bush, even though he lost by more than half a million votes and Florida was far from certain.
There is a strong urge among Democrats in Washington to avoid open conflict with Republicans, a dangerous tendency that has apparently infected the Justice Department as well.
Maybe it’s because we’ve watched for four years Trump get away with not only breaking the law, but giving his co-conspirators and cronies a break (unless they cooperate with the authorities). ).
- Not only was Trump impeached twice for breaking precedent (and the law) by trying to bribe a foreign leader and then trying to overthrow our government, but Congressional Republicans told him and the world that everything was fine with them.
- Michael Cohen was incarcerated in federal prison for giving Stormy Daniels an illegal secret check that was authorized and signed by Trump. No one is even talking about suing Trump for this.
- Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort made his living working with several murderous oligarchs and was arrested for trying to hide the blood money they spilled on him. Trump forgave him.
- His national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was arrested and convicted for taking money and working for a foreign government while guiding our intelligence services from the White House. Trump forgave him.
- Trump is now promising forgiveness to all of the Jan. 6 co-conspirators who are similarly silent.
- This is the tiny tip of a corrupt precedent-breaking iceberg that will almost certainly be normalized and followed by the next Republican president, unless Trump is punished like Clinton was, and a legislation is passed to implement old precedents, as Congress did in 1947.
After all, they all now know how far they can go before they suffer backlash or consequences. Trump’s precedents have been established and, unless challenged, are part of history and the foundation of our political future.
Just look at the numbers to see how having two bribed felons in the White House (Nixon/Agnew) set an entirely new standard for Republican presidential behavior even before Trump took office:
The Nixon administration saw 55 criminal indictments and 15 prison sentences. Reagan had 26 indictments and 8 prison sentences. George W. Bush’s administration had 16 indictments and 9 prison sentences. (Carter had 1 indictment and 0 jail time; Clinton 1 and 2; Obama 0 and 0).
If you notice a pattern of presidential crime in either of our two political parties, that’s the point.
Since the Nixon precedents were set, criminality and a blatant disregard for Democratic standards have flowed like an underground river through the GOP, and have also flowed from federal Republican politicians to the states.
As you read these words, Republicans are gearing up to openly steal elections in more than a dozen states and fifty corrupt Republicans in the US Senate have just aided them in their efforts.
We learn, through the efforts of the January 6 Committee, that a small handful of people, perhaps a few dozen, succeeded in stopping Donald Trump from ending democracy in America.
The next Republican president determined to become America’s first strong autocrat will have learned the lesson and brought with him enough willing toads to get the job done this time around.
We must stop this madness before it goes any further. The Justice Department and Congress must act.