To fully understand the Trumpist threat to the rule of law, it’s necessary to discuss what the rule of law means. A nation truly governed by the rule of law isn’t going to have a perfect legal system — no human system can be perfect — but it will have a double check against injustice. The rule of law depends on both substance and process, just laws and just processes, and respect for the rule of law depends on peacefully complying with the legal process even when you’re utterly convinced the underlying legal charge is wrong.
Indeed, in the absence of that understanding, social peace is impossible. We simply cannot and do not delegate to defendants and their supporters the decision as to whether to comply with legal processes. AR-15s are not a component of American jurisprudence.
All of this sounds painfully obvious. There are reasons the rote response of criminal defense lawyers to indictments is typically something like, “My client looks forward to vindicating himself in court” rather than, “My client is pleased the public is arming itself.” But Trump and his movement have placed even the most hallowed and fundamental American legal processes under immense strain.
After the 2020 election, for example, he attempted to force both unjust substance and unjust process on the American public. His legal arguments for overturning the election were frivolous and rightly dismissed by every court that heard them. Frustrated by the courts, Trump’s mob then opted out of legal processes entirely and stormed the Capitol. They refused, until cleared out by force, to respect the substance or the process of American law. [Continue reading…]