Prosecuting Trump shows America faces a crisis of confidence, with no way out
Published: Aug 12, 2023 11:06 AM
Photo: CFP

Photo: CFP

That only 40 percent of Americans approve of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) at a time when their country faces an unprecedented legal challenge - prosecuting a former president who is running for re-election - bodes ill for US politics.

The alarm bells truly start going off when the latest Gallup survey is broken down by party, showing that only 17 percent of the Democrats approve of the highest court in the land. Or that the Republican approval is down to 62 percent, even though the court has recently ruled in favor of their causes - abortion, affirmative action, and free speech. 

Federal and state prosecutors are now going after former president Donald Trump for a variety of "crimes," including the January 6, 2021 riot at the US Capitol and his insistence that the 2020 election was irregular. Trump is the leading contender for the 2024 Republican nomination, and believes his persecution is politically motivated. Many Republicans also believe that the federal judiciary has been weaponized against the participants in the January 6 riot, and that they unfairly received draconian punishments to deter any dissent against Democrats.

Trump is facing trial before the same Washington, DC judge that has thrown the book at January 6 defendants. If the Republicans are right and the courts have been politicized, he will be convicted. He is then likely to appeal to the Supreme Court, where three of the justices are his appointees. The SCOTUS will then face a difficult choice: rule in Trump's favor and risk total Democrat disapproval, or rule against him and lose the Republicans. Or they could wash their hands of the entire situation, as they did with the 2020 election, and watch as the last vestiges of the American republic are swept away.

If that sounds hyperbolic, consider this. The SCOTUS is not the only US institution facing a confidence crisis. Approvals for Congress remain at historic lows, while the presidency always shows a major partisan gap: Democrats hated Trump and love Biden, Republicans hate Biden and loved Trump. 

The very same Gallup poll showed confidence in the US military at just 60 percent. The last time it was so low was in 1997. The military is also facing the worst recruiting crisis in history.

"No one in the world is likely to see, respect, fear, or depend on us in the same way again," lamented the Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haas in the aftermath the January 6 "insurrection" at the Capitol. Yet my feeling at the time was that the riot was merely a symptom of a deeper problem, revealed by the four-year campaign to oust Trump from the White House at any and all cost. Everything was seen as an opportunity to "get Trump," from a phone call to Ukraine to the coronavirus and the "racial justice" riots. 

The process exposed the existence of the "Deep State" - an alliance of the intelligence and security agencies, the permanent Washington bureaucracy, and the media. Files obtained from Twitter and a lawsuit against other social media giants later demonstrated the existence of a "censorship-industrial complex" as well.

Just weeks after January 6, Time magazine practically boasted about a conspiracy by leading Democrats and some anti-Trump Republicans to "fortify" the 2020 election so that Trump would lose.

All of this adds up to a major crisis of confidence in American institutions. It's precisely what the country's founders feared when they wrote that a government derives its power from "the consent of the governed." 

The author is a Serbian-American journalist. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn