‘A Republic, If You Can Keep It’

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Photo by visuals on UnsplashRemember the day. Remember the time.

Thursday, March 30th. 5:03pm.

At least that was the date and time for me. I had just come out of the quarterly board meeting of the New York Press Association. Ironically, during that meeting, we had no idea of any breaking news. It’s likely the news didn’t break until we adjourned.

Perhaps, given the participants, the timing of the release was out of respect.

Not likely.

If you haven’t guessed by now, the event I’m referring to is the first time there was ever an indictment of a presidential candidate leading impressively in the polls for his party’s nomination.

That’s perhaps more significant than Trump simply being a former president. He’s also the odds-on favorite challenger of the sitting president.

That’s the stuff of third world banana republics, not a world leader with the stature of the United States. You cannot understate the significance of this legal action.

Nor can you slough this off as mere “politics as usual.” No, this is a Rubicon that has been crossed. We can only hope that no die has been cast.

Certainly, there are die-hard anti-Trumpers who took glee with the New York District Attorney’s action. “Yippee!” said an attendee of the NYPA’s conference at dinner following the announcement.

Yet she was wise enough to temper her glee with the admission that these were “Bull____” charges. “But the next ones will be more serious,” she added without explaining why.

Indeed, the Manhattan indictment makes it easier for the Georgia grand jury and the Justice Department investigation to indict. The New York DA’s indictments, however, sully the efforts of these other two jurisdictions. Future indictments, no matter if their charges appear more serious, will only confirm what more than half of America already believes: partisan politics has corrupted the legal process.

Face it. We are a nation divided. Like it does you, this saddens me. But the abuse of the legal system of political purposes does more than merely sadden me. It worries me. And it maddens me.

But there is hope. And it’s coming from surprising places.

Just as you can count on the most partisan Democrats to enjoy this moment, so too can you rely on ardent never-Trumper Republicans to take undo satisfaction from the indictment of their chief competitor.

Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi implied Trump will get the opportunity to “prove his innocence,” exposing her ignorance of the constitution she swore to uphold. Will there be repercussions for this faux pas? Certainly, there will be those on the other side to demand the current Speaker of the House look into censuring her.

Similarly, Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (Sarah Huckabee Sanders replaced him in January) announced on Sunday that he has decided to run for the Republican nomination. Never a fan of Trump, he took the opportunity to say Trump should step aside, once again missing the whole point of “innocent until proven guilty.”

More interesting, though, is what those who definitely aren’t on Trump’s side are saying. Andrew Cuomo, who most assuredly is not a fan of Trump, said of the potential indictment, “It feeds a cynicism and that’s the cancer in our body politic right now.”

Just because Cuomo is a “disgraced” (as MSN and the New York Post say) politician doesn’t eliminate the fact that he is a politician. Maybe he’s reading the tea leaves as a couple of recent polls suggest.

Rasmussen came out with a poll where nearly half (46%) of the Democrats surveyed said the Manhattan District Attorney’s charges represent an “outrageous abuse of power.” Still, eight out of ten Democrats at least somewhat agree with the charges. Sounds like not only Cuomo, but that dinner commenter from the NYPA both have their fingers on the pulse of Democrats.

If you’re interested, the Rasmussen polls showed 77% of Republicans and 55% of independents also believe pursuing charges would be an abuse of power. That’s not to say you won’t find Republicans who agree with the Manhattan District Attorney, but that number is only 20%.

The polling (as usual) is all over the place according to published reports, but one thing is clear, the indictment has boosted Trump. Before the indictment, a Yahoo News/YouGov Survey had Trump leading his nearest rival Rick DeSantis 45% to 41%. After the news of the indictment, that same poll had Trump ahead 57% to 31%.

Now, don’t read too much into this. Yes, there’s a growing concern about the impropriety of using—or abusing—the legal system to thwart political opposition. Still, there remains an ardent segment who places ridding their world of Trump as the highest priority, no matter what the consequences.

And it is those consequences that madden me.

Yes, and in “gets me angry,” but also as in “drives me crazy.” I fear that for every action, there will be an equal and opposite reaction. This won’t help. In fact, we should heed the words of disgraced politician Al Franken who said of the 2016 Republican convention that chanted “Lock her up,” that had “just been startingly ugly” and “very banana republic.”

Indeed, later during the campaign, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign manager Robby Mook said, “I would say it’s chilling that Donald Trump thinks that the presidency is like some banana republic dictatorship where you can lock up your political opponents.”

Hmm, you would think Franken and Mook agree with the 46% of the Democrats who say “outrageous abuse of power.” Who knows? They haven’t said anything about “banana republic” lately.

Given the opportunity as President, Trump never did place Hillary Clinton in prison. He never so much as investigated her. Perhaps our nation would benefit by learning from and following this Solomon-like wisdom.

Rather than imprison people, it’s far better to punish those who abuse power. Clearly, politics has tarnished our legal system. Let’s focus on those specific individuals who have allowed power to corrupt them. We already have a precedent for this.

The process found Mike Nifong, District Attorney for Durham County, North Carolina, guilty of withholding exculpatory evidence that could have acquitted Duke lacrosse players. Instead, he falsely accused them. Because of his abuse, Nifong saw himself removed, disbarred, and jailed.

This is the proper remedy for the Manhattan District Attorney should it become clear that his actions led to a false arrest.

The trouble is, it’ll probably require that Trump becomes president for the nation to know the full truth.

Will that be allowed to happen?

It’s more likely emboldened prosecutors in Georgia and Washington DC will add more indictments, especially if the Manhattan DA suffers no broad public rebuke. So far, this seems to be the case, but we’ll know for sure in the immediate aftermath of the actual indictment (which is occurring as this is going to press).

Nearly seven years ago to the day, I wrote of an event in Chicago that marked the end of the Republican Party (see “The Night the Grand Old Party Died,” Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, April 16, 2016). Could this be the watershed event that signals the end of our republic?

When Philadelphia socialite and wife of the mayor Elizabeth Willing Powel asked Ben Franklin, following the conclusion of the Constitutional Congress, “Well, Doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?” Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Would that she gave him the option “a republic or a banana republic?”


  1. […] that will satisfy only our enemies. What should happen? Read this week’s Carosa Commentary “‘A Republic, If You Can Keep It’” to see why it’s OK to get mad, but not OK to go […]

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