The United States of America is on the cusp of tyranny.

The New York “justice” system may or may not jail Donald Trump, but the impression Democrat partisans are giving is that the entire charade of a trial was meant primarily to produce the label, “convicted felon.”  This marketing ploy, as Roger Kimball notes, may not be working: “It’s my sense that the effort to weaponize the word ‘felon’ in the campaign against Donald Trump is failing miserably.”

On the conservative side, we do, I sometimes think, attribute too much conspiratorial competence to people we believe unable to manage even small municipalities or businesses.  One should expect error from those who deny reality.  Nonetheless, money and power can cover for managerial inability for a time, and civilizational destruction can be the result.  The Left has accumulated much of both money and power for itself, and I worry the attacks on Donald Trump represent the last stage before all-out tyranny.

An earlier step was to conquer the nation’s institutions — particularly those in which reality is of minimized immediate relevance — from education to media to legislatures to churches.  Thus far, however, the need for people to believe the institutions continue to function as intended has placed a restraint on their activities.  The Rhode Island General Assembly still has hearings, although they’ve been performative at least for the two decades I’ve been watching them, and public schools have still claimed (although not proven) that the basics of math, reading, and science are central to their mission.  Until recently, the news media still attempted to appear unbiased and willing to give a fair shot to all sides.

As corrupt as they’d become ten or twenty years ago, the need for continued popular faith in America’s institutions provided incentive for their conquerors to stay within bounds, because the power of the institutions derives from people’s willingness to engage with and work through them.  That balance is what keeps both tyranny and anarchy at bay.

With respect to lawfare, the boundary had previously been the unjust use of the justice system to force people through a painful process that is, itself, the punishment even when the target “wins.”  The institution was still working, ultimately, when the course had been run.  Turning Donald Trump’s status (for the time being) as a “convicted felon” into a marketing slogan rubs the public’s face in an abstraction that only exists within the institution; there is no physical status of “felonious” that could be tested outside of a manmade set of laws.  Thus, not only the process, but the outcome (the institution) has become “unjust.”

To be sure, the process is not fully complete, and the result for Donald Trump may be reversed on appeal, but the political use of the label, “convicted felon,” has exposed the rot within the institution and reduced trust in fairness.  Reversed on appeal, its politicized nature will be undeniable, and half the nation will no longer trust its courts.  We see a similar effect as the prescriptions that “health experts” offered during the COVID pandemic turn out to have been overstated, wrong, or even inverted, particularly as the same political party seeks to profit from their ripples, such as the upward swing of the economy from pandemic to just-about-normal.

If the population suspects public health officials are projecting unjustified confidence in society-altering mandates, individuals will heed them less.  If people no longer believe elections are legitimate, they’ll seek other means to control their communities.  If the justice system no longer gives prosecutions a sense of justice, then tyrants will dispense with the process’s delay and risk and go straight to conviction, while citizens will take matters into their own hands.

As such reactions become more common, our incompetent managers will use their money and power in ever-stronger ways to clamp down, because maintaining control has become an existential imperative for them.  Whether the worst of the showdown can be avoided at this late hour, I don’t know, but we can still have hope in Americans’ sense of right and wrong… if we can make clear what is happening.

 

Featured image by Justin Katz.

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