Wrong Turn*

*Editor’s note: On March 4, Russia enacted a law that criminalizes public opposition to, or independent news reporting about, the war in Ukraine. The law makes it a crime to call the war a “war” rather than a “special military operation” on social media or in a news article or broadcast. The law is understood to penalize any language that “discredits” Russia’s use of its military in Ukraine, calls for sanctions or protests Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It punishes anyone found to spread “false information” about the invasion with up to 15 years in prison.

Political analyst Alexander Vedrussov – on the possible consequences for the U.S. political system of a criminal prosecution of Donald Trump.

Being the president of the U.S. is risky in itself. In a country where a bullet ends the career of every 10th president, a head of state — an incumbent or a former leader — is always in someone’s sights. The price of a political mistake can be exceptionally high.

In this context, the FBI’s shenanigans at the home of the former (and, perhaps, the next) U.S. president, Donald Trump, are both unprecedented and quite predictable at the same time. Just the thought of Trump returning to the White House shocks and frightens the American “deep state” to the point it is taking preventive action.

It’s clear to everyone that Joe Biden, with his catastrophically low ratings, can’t possibly get reelected. Other possible Democratic candidates inspire horror instead of confidence in voters. Trump, who plans to announce his candidacy for 2024 this fall, may land well beyond the electoral reach of his opponents from both parties. And if that is truly the case, his rivals can’t afford to allow this troublemaker of the American establishment to even enter the presidential race.

“If I were Donald Trump’s lawyer right now … I would be advising my client to tell my family – I’m looking at jail time, and we should make plans accordingly,” a legal analyst for the pro-Democratic MSNBC news channel, speculated with ill-hidden glee.

The possible criminal prosecution of the former president of the U.S. potentially removes the main problem facing the 2024 presidential election from the Democratic agenda — or at least renders the return of the Republicans to the White House unacceptable. The recent escapades of former Vice President Dick Cheney, the de facto president during George W. Bush’s term, make it clear that not only the Democrats but the Republicans, too, would be happy to get rid of the “upstart” Trump once and for all.

The problem is that 74.2 million Americans,who supported the 45th president of the U.S. during the 2020 elections are not likely to tolerate a public prosecution of Trump by “Washington’s swamp.” More than half of all Republicans believe that the country is moving toward engaging in a new civil war soon. And what binds Americans of different political views together right now is the conviction that the U.S. is not on the right path. In such a polarized and electrified atmosphere, the “cleansing” of the electoral field through the criminal prosecution of a prospective favorite in the presidential race poses unpredictable and destructive consequences.

“We’re at war. We’re at a political and ideological war,” said Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist and senior adviser, who publicly compares the FBI to the Gestapo. Trump supporters are rightfully outraged by the double standards and selectivity of American justice. As the Biden and Clinton political clans get away with literally every misstep and even with crime, the entire state enforcement apparatus is diligently at the throats of Trump and his entourage.

To an impartial observer, it’s easy to spot the signs of corruption and particularly certain procedural irregularities in a president’s actions. But in a healthy political environment, all document management questions that could have provided cause s to search Trump’s residence would be resolved and settled amicably. However, the American political environment strays increasingly farther away from normalcy with every day, while its implacability grows. For example, approximately every fifth American is ready to even cheer on physical violence against a politician they don’t like. Such sentiments create an unhealthy atmosphere in society and give way to a political system that tears down the institutions of democracy on the pretext of protecting it.

The funny thing is, ideally Americans don’t want to see either Biden or Trump as president in 2024. But, at the same time, they’re unable to identify someone who would be a more appropriate head of state. For now, the political landscape looks like this: The Democrats will clench their teeth but vote for Biden — just so Trump won’t win; the Republicans will shut their eyes but primarily support Trump — just so Biden won’t get reelected. No matter who wins, half of all Americans will think they have lost and behave accordingly to the extent that the Capitol “attack” on Jan. 6, 2021 will seem like child’s play.

We shouldn’t underestimate the resilience of the American institutions that in one way or another have ensured the transition of power for several centuries. However, they only show how relatively efficient they are when the country is in its ascendancy. Now, as the U.S. empire is declining, the system is becoming unstable, and the Biden administration’s prosecution of an election rival certainly doesn’t help that.

After Trump took office in 2016, he made it clear that his promise to put his opponent Hillary Clinton behind bars (recall the famous “Lock her up!” slogan) was nothing more than just a campaign slogan. But Biden, it seems, is much more serious about it. He has already said, “this MAGA crowd is really the most extreme political organization that’s existed in American history, in recent American history.”

So, the highest level of power is providing grounds to prosecute the Make America Great Again crowd. What is it if not the beginning of a cold civil war, which might become a real civil war at the most unexpected and inopportune moment.

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About Artem Belov 77 Articles
Artem Belov is a TESOL-certified English teacher and a freelance translator (Russian>English and English>Russian), currently residing in Russia. He is working on a number of projects, including game localization. You can reach him at belov.g.artem@gmail.com

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