If you’re a fan of democracy and the rule of law—with some Wisconsin twists thrown in—keep the popcorn handy as you follow these trials.
Are you the kind of person who yells at the TV when a severe weather bulletin interrupts your favorite show? Well, first of all, stop that. If a tornado was barreling down your street, you’d want to know about it. Some things have to rank higher, even if they’re not very fun.
The same can be said for democracy versus soap operas.
When the Watergate hearings first began during the Nixon administration, folks howled about the intrusion. But then something happened: Americans paid attention to the details and came to appreciate the significance of why we shouldn’t shrug our shoulders when elected leaders break the law.
We know it can be mind numbing to consider that there are four—FOUR!—criminal indictments facing former President Donald Trump.
What do these indictments mean for you? How should we straddle the line between feeling overwhelmed or out of touch?
Let’s start with the second question because the answer is simple: Don’t be out of touch. Using trusted, fact-based sources of information, take in whatever background you need in order to appreciate the importance of these cases, even if you can’t recite the details of each one.
We’ve written this handy guide that breaks down the four cases. You’ll learn that two of them involve the 2020 election—one federal, one state (Georgia). There’s another federal case—the handling of nuclear secrets and other classified information. And there’s another state case, where New York is prosecuting Trump for falsifying business records to cover up hush money payments.
See? One paragraph and we can envision all four trials and their differences.
But what do these indictments mean to you?
The simple response begins by noting that democracy is truly fragile, and whatever our political stripes are, we should support efforts to uncover the truth when it comes to suspected wrongdoing by politicians. If their actions subvert the will of American voters and undermine our democracy, it shouldn’t matter if they have a (D) or an (R) next to their name. It shouldn’t matter if they’re from our state or not. It shouldn’t matter if the accused is someone we’d “like to have a beer with.” Attacking Americans’ right to vote is serious, and we shouldn’t give someone a pass if they tamper with the integrity of our elections.
Also bear in mind that charges are not convictions; Trump and his associates may be found not guilty. They deserve a fair chance to present evidence and tell their side of the story. But it would be wrong not to investigate potential crimes simply because we support or admire the person suspected of criminal activity. We should want all of the facts to be learned and deliberated because the truth will either exonerate the suspects or affirm that some of them did something bad and should face some level of accountability.
We cannot and must not “poll” our way out of caring about this crisis. Richard Nixon won in a 49-state landslide in 1972. He resigned in disgrace 21 months later, as Americans who supported him learned more about the side of him that supported and encouraged breaking the law.
Donald Trump is polling extremely well among Republicans right now. As evidence is presented by prosecutors and as Trump makes his own case, his supporters deserve to see the full measure of the man and make their votes based on all that they learn—not merely the claims and counterclaims that come before a trial even begins.
All these updates about all these indictments can seem as annoying as a bunch of thunderstorm updates, but we must not tune out the news if it turns out that the political equivalent of a tornado were coming for our right to vote and our right to expect election losers to accept defeat instead of plotting a crime or even a coup.
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