If you’ve been following the political developments in the United States since 2016 – or even longer before that – then the latest tugs of war between Donald Trump and the Biden Administration should be keeping you riveted.
The ongoing battle in the courts nowadays surround the effort by the US Congress, particularly the House of Representatives – to investigate the January 6, 2021 mob attack on the US Capitol that was meant to prevent the proclamation of Joseph Biden as the duly elected 46th President of the United States.
The mob, it appears to me at least, “took inspiration” from the words of then US President Donald Trump. Trump, still in the White House at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, was encouraging his loyalists to “fight” what he claims was the cheating done in the November 2020 elections that denied him a second term in office. Trump was even on many occasions exhorting his vice president, Mike Pence, to “do the right thing” – which in Trump’s eyes was NOT to participate in the canvassing and proclamation of Biden, exhortations which fell on deaf ears. And this is why some of the menfolk who stormed the Capitol that day were calling for the hanging of the vice president – a federal offense. But they were bold enough to do so because they were being told by the sitting President that he had their backs and who wouldn’t feel emboldened that way?
Trump, by the way, isn’t the only world leader elected in 2016 who has encouraged his believers to do things that many would consider criminal, giving them assurances that they will be protected. Am sure you can name at least one more.
Thankfully for the United States, its political system may be going crazy but other parts of its democracy remain steadfast. And here the United States Supreme Court stands out. Today, the SCOTUS has six conservative justices and three liberals, and of the six conservatives, three are Donald Trump appointees. Now in other legal jurisdictions , especially where “utang na loob” matters a lot, the fact that Trump named three of the six is significant: it almost always results in a sympathetic view if not a favorable vote.
But justices of the SCOTUS have proven over the years that they are more loyal to the Constitution than to the appointing power.
It is with great envy, therefore, that I was reading yesterday’s news that the SCOTUS denied a Trump request to shield his White House papers from the House inquiry on the January 6 assault. For the SCOTUS or was easy to deal with Trump’s claim of executive privilege over his papers – he was no longer the President and only the incumbent can make such a claim. Biden didn’t – because he said the January 6 assault was an assault on the system of democracy that had been established since the 1780s and has to be continuously defended against all threats – which the mob assault was.
For the SCOTUS, preserving and protecting democracy, its institutions and its processes clearly matters above all, even above ideological divides and definitely way above partisan bickering.
This is how you defend democracy.
The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.