Last week I gave my opinion that Trump will probably not be indicted for any crimes because the Justice Department and the Democratic Party would judge such an action to be too dangerous, as it would without a doubt unleash an even greater surge of violence from his most zealous supporters. I hope I am wrong, because that it not the outcome I hope for, just the one I realistically expect.
I hope I am wrong because it is never a good idea to knuckle under to bullies. When there are no consequences for bullies, they are emboldened to be even worse. Trying to keep them mollified to keep the peace is a recipe for disaster. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
And make no mistake, with the mountain of evidence we have, failure to act would be a sacrifice of liberty. No one individual is above the law. As Thomas Paine put it, in England, the king is law, but, in America, the law will be king. Donald Trump is the very essence of the tyrant the framers of the Constitution wanted to avoid. As Alexander Hamilton wrote to George Washington, in 1792:
“When a man unprincipled in private life desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits — despotic in his ordinary demeanour — known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty — when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity — to join in the cry of danger to liberty — to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion — to flatter and fall in with all the nonsense of the zealots of the day — It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may ‘ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.’ … No popular government was ever without its Catilines and its Caesars. These are its true enemies.”
When Franklin was asked by a woman in the crowd as he left the Constitutional Convention what kind of government had been decided on, he told her a republic- IF WE CAN KEEP IT.
There’s a reason I keep quoting that generation. They knew that democracy was not guaranteed and that it could fall.
If we allow a lifelong crook and con artist, in the capacity of president, to corrupt justice repeatedly, try to undermine the will of the people expressed in a legitimate election, abuse his power, collude with racist terrorists to incite an insurrection to overthrow that election, attack the halls of the Capitol and literally try to get his vice-president killed for not playing along 100 percent... and, further, leave it open for him to run again and to do it all over, probably with more success… if we allow all that and make no effort to bring him to justice, we are betraying everything our forefathers held dear and the hopes and safety of our descendants. We are gravely endangering the future of our democracy and our republic.
The framers did not account for political parties and never dreamed that one day there would be a party willing to kowtow to a demagogue and throw away democracy just so they could stay in power. It is heartening to see that most of the people who have testified against Trump have been Republicans who drew a line - but they should have drawn it a lot sooner, and so should have we all. At the very least, we all need to draw it now.
Liz Cheney said, “Republicans cannot be both loyal to Donald Trump and loyal to the Constitution.” None of us can put loyalty to our own desired policy outcomes, or to one person, above our loyalty to everything this nation was founded on.
--Troy D. Smith, a White County native, is a novelist and a history professor at Tennessee Tech. His words do not necessarily represent TTU.
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