Of a former president and our times
A thunderclap hits the headlines.
How long does it take for the full impact to sink in? Can we even comprehend all that it implies?
While we knew another indictment for Donald Trump was likely, it is impossible to be fully prepared. There will be much to parse and analyze in the days to come.
But one central fact we already knew. Because we saw it happen. In real time.
Our nation was wronged by a man who had sworn to uphold our Constitution. It was a betrayal of our noblest democratic ideals. In the months and years that have followed, we have learned further details of the treachery. This indictment suggests there might be much more to discover.
The latest charges add to a litany of grave malfeasance already alleged in previous charges. Prosecutors have shown some of their hand. The evidence seems strong, even as we recognize the defendant carries a legal presumption of innocence. (Individuals and large swaths of the population can come to their own personal conclusions, of course. But by law, every defendant is presumed innocent until proven otherwise.)
Almost immediately comes a cacophony of resonant emotions. They are uncontainable. We have much to consider:
There is no yardstick in our national story by which to measure this moment — a former and potentially future president stands accused of abusing his office and undermining the safety and security of our republic. We have written some form of this sentence countless times before. But the cumulative repetition does not lessen its impact as we consider the depths to which Trump allegedly sank.
Yet to focus only on the man is to miss the full contours of this perilous story. Today’s indictment is a legal document. But it is also part of a more sweeping historic and political indictment of our times. For Trump couldn’t have done this alone. Today represents an indictment of all who validated his vile indulgences, whitewashed his wantonness, disguised his depravity, legitimized his lawlessness, and acquiesced to his autocracy.
Meanwhile, Trump is not the only one facing trial. We all are. What kind of country will we have? How much are we willing to fight for our ideals? Our future?
Today marks a reckoning, but it’s far from a resolution. The danger Trump and his legions of MAGA supporters pose remains very present, very real, and very dire. The polls indicate this con man, divisive charlatan, and wrecking ball to the rule of law is running away with the Republican nomination for the presidency. And he looks, at this point, despite everything, to be competitive with President Biden. He could be reelected.
The more scrutiny he receives, the more evidence of his unfitness for office is laid out publicly, the more his stalwarts rally behind him. Trump has no coherent or persuasive rejoinders to the numerous charges he faces. He instinctively relies on his overused playbook of lies, divisiveness, and dystopian rhetoric. It’s all he’s got. Nevertheless, his crowds roar their delight without hesitation.
A campaign rally, however, is not a court of law. And Special Counsel Jack Smith seems to have a meticulousness that matches Trump’s recklessness. The former president’s antics may drive the Republican faithful to euphoria. Will that work in court or at the ballot box next November?
Some of us will be pondering that question deep into the night and beyond.
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