The End Of Comity (2024 Jul)

by Barry A. Liebling

At least since the beginning of this century the United States has had two rival political factions. Each views the other as being fundamentally wrong. The more powerful sect is the leftist progressives. They control most of the key cultural institutions. Observe people who are local, state, or federal government officials and notice that most of them (especially those with authority) are loyal to the Democratic party. The entire educational establishment from pre-school to graduate school is dominated by leftists. Most of the largest business enterprises are controlled by citizens who are proud to proclaim themselves as woke. Similarly, the communications and entertainment media are overwhelmingly directed by committed leftist partisans.

The opposition to the progressive left cabal is heterogenous. Unfortunately, only a small number of people are inspired by the philosophy of liberty and free markets. A larger contingent describe themselves as conservatives. And probably most people who defy the progressive left are not particularly interested in political philosophy at all, but they are repelled by woke policies.

The two factions have been highly suspicious of one another for a long time. But they have usually been civil. They mostly agreed on what behaviors constitute crimes. And they mostly regarded the American justice system as being fair. There has always been corrupt police, judges, office holders, and government bureaucrats, but corruption was newsworthy. Everyone knew that dishonest and villainous actions occurred sometimes, but most people agreed that rotten behavior from the state was unusual – in contrast to what routinely occurs in other countries (not the United States).

The conviction of former president Trump for “paying hush money” and “fraudulent business records” changed the way people will look at the American justice system. Let us review the essential characteristics of the case from the perspective of someone who has no expertise in the law. Key New York State and New York City officials won elections with the explicit promise that they would prosecute Trump. Note that they did not specify in advance what crimes they would charge him with. Instead they would search far and wide for something that can be used against him.

The “hush money business records” trial was held in Manhattan – a location where most voters are Democrats and despise Trump. The judge in the case had a prior record of political actions against the former president and appeared to be proud of his bias throughout the trial. He instructed the jury that they did not all have to agree on exactly what (subtle, obscure) laws the former president violated – just that he is guilty of something. The jury quickly complied with the judge’s prompting.

Here is what should have happened afterwards. Top Democrats around the country should have strongly objected to the entire trial. They should have said, but did not say:

“We don’t like Trump, and we will never vote for him. We will criticize everything he does and explain why we object to his actions. If he ever commits a genuine crime he should be prosecuted. But the prosecution must be for something that a non-partial outside observer agrees is a terrible act, and the act must be something that people other than Trump are routinely punished for. We have to be sure that our aggressive actions are legitimate and appear to be legitimate.”

Instead, top Democrats and leftist partisans are cheering the conviction. They are shouting with glee that the former president is now a convicted felon. I strongly suspect that they would not regard the things that Trump was convicted of as serious crimes (or crimes at all) if an ordinary citizen (not designated as an enemy of the progressive left) had done them. If they were sincere they would surely be campaigning to go after anyone who pays hush money and has erroneous business records.

I see this as strong evidence that the woke ruling class has completely discarded the ideal that the justice system should be impartial. They are signaling that they will use the government to go after anyone they do not like, and they will use any methods they can (fair or foul) to devastate their opponents.

Before the Trump hush money conviction I was well aware that justice does no always prevail in the courts. In the real world there are always problems. But I assumed corruption was unusual, and fairness was the default. Now I am highly suspicious of any legal proceedings that occur where I live in New York City. Any trust I had in the system has evaporated.

Note that even if the Trump conviction is overturned, the fact that it occurred at all is highly significant. Prosecutors throughout the country now have a role model they can emulate it they want to punish American citizens they despise. Just make up a collection of crimes and go after your adversaries. It may or may not result in a conviction, but the tactic is now acceptable and encouraged by the cultural elite.

Of course Democratic party prosecutors do not have a monopoly on the weaponization of the law. I am confident that some Republicans throughout the country are already making plans to emulate the New York disgrace. If they can do it, we can do it.

Here is my advice to Republican zealots. By all means go after Democrat miscreants. There are a lot of genuine crimes that should be identified and bad people ought to be punished. However, do not make things up. Be certain that whatever you charge them with an outside, disinterested observer will agree that a genuine terrible act has occurred and the accused is likely to be guilty.

That being said, I anticipate some Republican zealots will act just like the Democrats. They will go after high profile Democrats and hound them with a mixture of real accusations and concocted fantastic crimes. They will justify their attacks as – you did it to us and we are paying you back in kind.

We are witnessing the end of comity.

*** See other entries at in “Monthly Columns.” ***

Comments are closed.