Trump Will Still be a Free Man on Election Day. Will we answer the calling of history?
Donald Trump will be a free man on election day. The question presented to the nation that day will forever define us.
Today the former President was charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to deny Americans their right to their own vote, and other crimes. The matter rests within our criminal justice system.
That system, however, replete with due process protections, burdens of proof, and sentencing standards and calendars, will inevitably allow for Donald Trump’s candidacy for the Presidency to continue right up until election day 2024. For instance, Donald Trump may succeed on procedural and administrative matters to delay his trial past the presidential election, though his challenge in doing so is a daunting one. He may face trial and be acquitted. He may be convicted and remain free pending an appeal. Or he may be convicted and sentenced, but in such a case with the surrender of his personal freedom inevitably coming after election day.
Which means Donald Trump’s personal freedom will very likely be on the ballot next November. Under our constitution, Donald Trump’s personal jeopardy should not be a political question. It must be a legal one. But that same constitution affords Donald Trump the right to stand for election on whatever message he chooses, including his absolution.
Trump has made clear he intends to be elected President to seek retribution for the charges against him. He likewise fully expects other Republican candidates for the nomination to embrace his pardon or reprieve from his alleged crimes.
Which ultimately leaves the nation in November 2024 with a question we’ve never faced — whether to expunge and protect fundamentally anti-democratic behavior through the democratic process. Our collective answer to that question could forever cripple our republic or could alternatively prove to be a moment of historic national resilience.
The fear, the worry, is that we miss the moment; that Republicans approach their primary contest with an unflinching lack of national stewardship, or that general election voters see next November as a mere contest of personalities and overlook the existential moment our young nation faces.
The calling of history is clear: allow the criminal justice system to dispose of the charges against the defendant by conviction or acquittal, according to the law and without fear or favor. The calling of our national conscience should be equally clear on November 5, 2024.