By J. Peder Zane for RealClearPolitics
While the world focused on Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine last week, little attention was paid to the ineffably consequential decision by Democrats to go all-out in their assault on American democracy.
Just as Julius Caesar invited civil war by crossing the Rubicon, the partisan House committee investigating the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol let it be known that it will recommend bringing two sets of criminal charges against former President Donald Trump regarding the 2020 election.
One allegation is that that he tried to obstruct the lawful counting of votes. The other is that he engaged in a conspiracy to defraud the United States through his false claims of a stolen election.
Given how divided our country is, and the wide support Trump still enjoys, his indictment would be an incalculably reckless act. It would be tantamount to the first round of live fire across the bow. Even if the left honestly believes its claims that conservatives are itching to take up arms against the Republic – that Jan. 6 was just a dress rehearsal for a second civil war – why would they consider striking this match?
If Democrats had a slam dunk case against Trump, one could argue that they might have some justification for putting the nation at such risk. They do not. The New York Times tersely noted that it is “far easier for the committee to claim that Mr. Trump had committed a crime … than it would be for prosecutors to win a criminal conviction over the same facts.”
It underscored this point by noting, “In publicly sharing its work, the committee has only escalated expectations that Mr. Trump will be prosecuted, regardless of whether its evidence meets the standard that a federal prosecutor must clear to secure a unanimous guilty verdict.”
To prove the conspiracy charge, for example, prosecutors would have to show that Trump knew he had lost the election but recklessly argued otherwise. The existing evidence so far suggests that Trump truly believes the delusion that he won more votes. The committee, which is a finely tuned machine designed to leak cherry-picked damaging information about the former president, has provided no evidence to support that claim. Nor has it shown that he directed the mob to attack the Capitol to obstruct the vote count.
So far, their argument – which echoes the larger left-wing push to punish and erase all narratives that do not support their preferred version of reality – appears to be that there is a single truth, their truth, and that Trump’s unwillingness to embrace it is a crime.
It is impossible to overstate the danger of this mindset, which is a profound assault on free speech and a dramatic escalation of the effort to criminalize political differences. It is, as Democrats like to say, a page torn straight from Putin’s playbook.
Politics in free nations is necessarily rough and tumble. It is a contest of ideas that often lack scientific precision. It makes room for debatable claims that may contain falsity as well as kernels of truth. The best evidence shows that Trump did not win as many votes as Biden in 2020, but also that it was a highly unusual contest filled with troubling irregularities. Prohibiting people from making that case is un-American.
If Trump can be charged with a crime, what about Joe Biden, who repeatedly claimed that Trump was not legitimately elected in 2016? What about Rep. Jamie Raskin, a leading member of the Jan. 6 committee who objected to the certification of Florida’s electors by making the bogus argument that they were not qualified to serve under state law?
Once a precedent is set, it becomes the norm. Do we really want to go down this road of indicting – rather than just challenging and debunking – those whose only crime is holding problematic opinions?
Why would Democrats place our republic in such peril? The answer is that they want this conflict. As polls show their effort to transform America meeting ever wider resistance, they seem eager for a final battle that will allow them to vanquish the right once and for all. Unable to achieve their ends through democratic channels, they are intent on blowing up the system.
I know that sounds crazy. It’s impossible to imagine how this battle would unfold and how victory could even be achieved. But Democrats are convinced that only they possess the truth and that those who disagree with them are beneath contempt. They see their venomous tactics as virtuous.
If you have ever confronted hard-core Democrats about these issues, you know there is no talking to them. All they have is their certainty.
Truth be told, Democrats have paid little price so far for their war on American norms. Unwilling to accept Trump’s victory in 2016, they advanced the sulfurous claim that the president was an agent of Russia. We now know that false narrative was concocted by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and embraced without evidence by the Obama White House, much of the media, the FBI, and other aspects of the Deep State.
In its size and scope Russiagate is the worst scandal in American history. And yet Hillary Clinton and President Obama remain party heroes who are never pressed on the issue. Former Clinton staffers who spread the scurrilous Trump/Russia rumors, including Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, have only been rewarded for their perfidy. The New York Times, Washington Post and other news outlets who won prizes for pushing the conspiracy theory refuse to correct many clear errors in their coverage.
The incendiary path Democrats are heading down is unimaginably destructive, not just to the United States but to the world. As Putin continues his war in Ukraine and intensifies, united American leadership is indispensable. Instead of bringing us together, criminal charges against Trump would burn down our house.
Syndicated with permission from Real Clear Wire.
J. Peder Zane is an editor for RealClearInvestigations and a columnist for RealClearPolitics.