I am weary of watching videos of an outraged Donald Trump complaining about election interference. Trump argues that the civil and criminal cases brought against him are politically motivated. Trump tells us that the cases would not have been brought if he were not running for president. Really? Most of us are not buying that argument. But is Trump, right? Would anyone else who committed the same business fraud of inflating property values to get more favorable loan rates have been prosecuted?
Last weekend, I reflected on “election interference” and concluded that the Trump legal proceedings meet the definition. They are distracting voters from critical issues that should be the focus of a presidential election–things like the economy, healthcare, education, civil rights, crime, and border security. But I also concluded that it was Trump, not the prosecutors and justice system that is attempting to hold him accountable, that is to blame.
Jack Smith, Fani Willis, Letitia James, and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg likely thought about who they were investigating or indicting when they made their prosecutorial decisions to pursue Trump. They may have been thinking, “Somebody had to do something to stop Trump from returning to power.” But, most likely, they were also thinking, “Given what Trump did, he must be prosecuted.”
In his first 15 months as New York DA, Bragg and his team filed 166 felony counts for falsifying business records against 34 people or companies. Under his predecessor, former DA Cyrus Vance, in contrast, it took three years to charge about the same amount of business felonies.
“Equal Justice Under Law” is engraved into the marble above the main entrance to the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. The meaning of the phrase is obvious, but it also means that justice is not equal if accountability can be evaded by running for president.
The Constitution of the United States is deficient in not eliminating eligibility to run for president for anyone who faces a pending indictment for a felony under federal law. Such a provision would have nipped Trump’s scary attempt to return to office in the bud. If the Constitution restricts eligibility to run for president to people above age 35 who are naturally born citizens and have lived in the United States for 14 years, the Founding Fathers could have gone one step further and blocked people accused of serious crimes from running for president.
Naysayers, most of them supporters of the ex-president, will point out that such a modification to the Constitution would create the possibility of political opponents conjuring up phony charges and indicting candidates to block their elections. Such a scenario can be imagined, especially under a future Trump administration, but is unlikely in normal times. The party that engaged in such a stunt would be condemned by voters.
Imagine, for a moment, that Donald Trump was a patriot who loved the Constitution and democracy. That Trump would reflect on the 2024 campaign and realize that the biggest elephant in the room (the age of the two leading candidates being the second biggest) is preempting a discussion of issues and would drop out.
We are not hearing enough about the issues voters want to discuss, which is one reason many voters are checking out. Unless you are a political junkie, Trump’s efforts to have Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis removed from the Trump case in Georgia is boring. Equally boring are the asset valuation issues at the heart of Trump’s business fraud case in New York—the one where Judge Erdogan found Trump liable for more than $453 million dollars. Many voters shrug their shoulders and say, “Don’t all businesspeople cheat?” or “That has nothing to do with me!”
After months of watching Trump’s 2024 campaign, voters are waking up to the fact that Trump is portraying himself as a victim of an unjust legal system in his campaign. Few voters read the detailed and often bizarre policy proposals that the Trump campaign has put forward. If Trump is not talking much about them, why should voters read them?
Give Trump a stage, and you will hear the words witch hunt, deranged, sick, Trump hater, corrupt, and, of course, election interference repeatedly. If you are unfortunate enough to get a campaign solicitation from Trump, it will be more about his legal problems than about anything else. The main references to President Biden will be about his corruption and age. If policies are discussed, you will read about the Southern border being overrun, wokeness, crime, and very few other things. (If you were Trump, you would not want to talk about the economy, except for inflation, either.)
Imagine, for a moment, a 2024 election season where Trump was not running. Such a campaign would be different. President Biden’s age would still be an issue, but discussions of policy would be unavoidable. America would be on track for a better, more substantive election.
Trump’s legal problems, if you think about it, are the elephant in the 2024 room. They are the election interference, and one person is responsible for it—Donald Trump. Any decent human being facing the mountain of legal problems Trump faces would realize that discussion of the problems would preempt discussion of significant issues. Trump is not a decent human being. He could give a damn about something other than himself. He does not.
Trump could make the election interference referenced in his victimization campaign go away by dropping out. He will not.
If we are going to keep Trump out of the White House, we, the voters, must take matters into our own hands. We need to use the right to vote and execute our responsibility as citizens to speak out against a candidate who should not be running for president.
J.E. Dean is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant writing on politics, government and other subjects.