Law is inherently conservative.
By conservative, I mean two non-exclusive things:
- It prefers the status quo.
- It favors the elites, as in the well-known quote from the French novelist Anatole France:
“The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”
I was once helping my father with a minor legal issue in his business. I told him he had to do such and such. He told me J.P. Morgan expected his lawyers to fix things, not tell him he had to follow the law. I told him he wasn’t J.P. Morgan.
I am quite sure that J.P. Morgan got away with all kinds of things and that his lawyers helped him do it. He was incredibly rich and powerful.
But even though law favors the powerful, even as we can all cite numerous examples of wealthy people doing terrible things and getting away with it, there are limits to how far lawyers can go even on behalf of such people.
As I watch all the lawyers caught up in the many criminal cases against our former grifter-in-chief, I find myself shocked that so many people who once had sterling, establishment careers were willing to throw those over to support a con man. I mean, these are supposedly conservatives. Right-wing extremists, to be sure, people who advocate authoritarian government, but still, conservatives.
I did not expect to find such people throwing away their careers in an effort to block an election and destroy our democracy.
John Eastman had a cushy job at the Claremont Institute. He had a reputation among those who think the Federalist Society makes sense. All he had to do was share his outrageous positions in the form of, say, law review articles and op-eds, rather than positioning them as legal advice and trying to convince other people — notably Mike Pence — to do illegal things to try to block the will of the people.
And Rudy Giuliani was the former mayor of NYC and a former U.S. attorney. He’s an asshole, sure, but all he had to do was stay out of all this and many people would still think he was a hero because of September 11.
I have no idea what they thought was in it for them. It’s not like Trump has ever been loyal to people who sacrifice themselves for him.
Is white supremacist fascism so important to these people — these people who are mostly insulated from having to deal with people of color or feminists or activists — that they are willing to destroy their lives for it?
I come back to the inherent conservatism of the law and I find it impossible to figure out why these people were so willing to destroy themselves.
Of course, I suppose if Trump gets back in office, they will be redeemed — if he needs them for something.
But I think Trump is going down this time. He’s never faced criminal charges before and now he’s facing massive numbers of them. And even members of the Federalist Society — sane ones, who know how to express their opinions and even do their politicking without putting themselves at risk — think he cannot run for President because of the 14th Amendment.
I think that latter argument is going to be tested, because I think some state Secretaries of State and election officials are going to refuse to put him on the ballot out of principle. He’ll have to find more lawyers to challenge those. I have no idea how the Supreme Court will rule on that one. They could try to find a way to rule for him; they could also decide they’d done more than enough on his behalf.
Regardless of that, I think he’s going to be convicted in one or more of the cases against him.
This is not optimism. I do know how the system works. But I got into a discussion on Mastodon with someone who thinks the law will never hold the likes of Trump to account and spent some time thinking about it.
There’s just too much. If he’d stopped short of advocating insurrection, had simply brought all those losing lawsuits over the election, hadn’t done all that nonsense in Georgia, I don’t think either the New York case or perhaps even the stealing of top security documents would bring him down. But he didn’t. No one’s ever called him to account for anything and he didn’t think he had to stop.
The thing is, Trump is no J.P. Morgan. He’s not that rich or that powerful. There was a point where he had to stop, and he didn’t. (There might have been a place where even J.P. Morgan would have had to stop, but he never reached that point.)
And I hope this legal morass is enough to not just bring down Trump and those lawyers who dove into the deep end for him; I hope it brings down what the Republican Party has become.
I’d love to see the Republicans become irrelevant and the Democrats split into, say, a center-right party and a liberal-labor party, both of them believing in democracy and the rule of law.
I mean, personally, I’d like to end up much further to the left than that. I’m ready to move on from late-stage capitalism to a more fundamentally fair economic system that addresses long-standing racist and other inequities and is capable of dealing with our real problems.
But I’d definitely settle for something less as long as it was sane enough to make some effort to address the very real problems we face in our society: climate change, vast inequity, the need for universal health care, and so on.
And I’d really like for major lawyers to go back to being essentially conservative. It’d be even better if they decided to stop representing fossil fuel companies and vulture capitalists, but after the last few years, I’ll settle for just ordinary corporate lawyers who at least make a show of playing by the rules.
I mean, there really are rules.