With the indictment of the president’s son, the U.S. presidential election is threatening to be completely suffocated by legal battles. The development is extremely combustible for democracy.
Just a little over a year remains before the next presidential election in the United States. Given the global advance of democracy’s enemies, the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, and the economic concerns of many citizens, there is no shortage of issues. But it is becoming clearer by the day that the race for the White House will be overshadowed by two sets of criminal proceedings — one against the presumed Republican candidate, Donald Trump, and one against the son of the Democratic incumbent.
The newly initiated case against Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, does not come as a surprise. It is the consequence of a failed attempt in June to have a charge related to drug addiction dismissed extrajudicially. Specifically, investigators allege the 53-year-old falsely stated that he was not using drugs when he purchased a gun in October 2018, and then illegally possessed the weapon for 11 days afterward until his girlfriend at the time found the gun and threw it in the trash.
Compared to Trump’s unprecedented, cold-blooded attempt to overturn the results of a democratic election and use violence, if necessary, the charges against Hunter Biden sound almost trivial. But it would be a fatal error to underestimate the public effect of the case against Hunter Biden in the heat of the election campaign. Not only could the U.S. attorney general initiate further proceedings against the president’s son, for instance, because of unpaid taxes and questionable dealings with foreign donors, but Republicans and the far-right media especially will do everything in their power to connect Joe Biden with his son’s misdeeds and thus fuel the narrative of the “criminal Biden clan.”
Impeachment proceedings against the president initiated by the ultra-conservative wing of the Republican Party are the first step. The reason is Hunter Biden’s dubious business in Ukraine and China while his father was vice president and whose name his son apparently used to make money. But there is no evidence at all that Joe Biden was involved in the dealings. The impeachment investigation, which was opened with great fanfare, is purely a “fishing expedition,” the casting of a broad net to see what can be dredged up.
It is very likely that something will take, at least with respect to public attention, given the shocking images of Hunter Biden snorting cocaine with prostitutes, the continued taunts about a criminal family syndicate, and Joe Biden’s emotional inability to distance himself from his foundering offspring. The 53-year-old son has long been a burden to his father. Now, his headline-grabbing legal situation is threatening to overshadow the president’s political success and to normalize the criminal scheming of his Republican challenger. Somehow, it seems like all politicians are corrupt — or, at least, this is the impression that many in the U.S. have. This narrative is unfair and false. For America’s beleaguered democracy, it is extremely combustible.