In the aftermath of various indictments against former President Donald Trump, there has been a fervent outcry from Trump and his allies claiming that these cases are an unfair attempt to criminalize ordinary political actions. However, Quinta Jurecic argues that this argument lacks credibility. Jurecic explains that the recent indictments are not criminalizing politics, but rather focusing on potential criminal activities that extend beyond typical political maneuvering.
Jurecic emphasizes that there is a clear distinction between acceptable political practices and actions that cross the line into criminal behavior. The notion that attempting to overturn an election and maintain power against the will of voters is a normal part of politics is baseless and unsupported. Prosecutors contend that Trump’s actions have indeed violated legal boundaries.
While it is true that the Trump presidency defied many norms of American politics, Jurecic points out that norms do not necessarily equate to legal obligations. Many of the so-called normative actions were simply unwritten agreements that helped uphold democracy. Trump’s disregard for these norms raised doubts about the legality of his actions, with many responses firmly stating that they were indeed unlawful.
The presidency holds immense power, and Trump skillfully exploited areas with weak checks and balances. However, these vulnerabilities also underscored the significance of norms. Trump’s behavior led to concerns about whether he could be held accountable for actions that may have crossed legal boundaries but lacked established repercussions.
Jurecic underscores one crucial norm at the core of American democracy: accepting free and fair election outcomes. While discontent or disagreement with election results may not be illegal, actively plotting to undermine the integrity of an election is a different matter entirely. The indictment against Trump alleges that he went beyond expressing his opinions and actively sought unlawful means to discredit valid votes.
The author acknowledges that Trump’s indictments do not guarantee conviction and that accountability for his actions extends beyond criminal law. However, these indictments serve as evidence that the foundations of American democracy rely not only on norms but also on laws that prevent actions that venture into criminal territory. In essence, these prosecutions are not criminalizing politics; they are addressing alleged criminal activities.