By J. Peder Zane for RealClearPolitics
The indictment of Donald Trump exposes the bottomless cynicism of progressive politics.
The goal is not to put Orange Man in an orange jumpsuit but to ensure he’s the Republican nominee in 2024. Democrats consider Trump the easiest candidate to defeat and by turning him into a martyr they hope GOP voters will rally around him. They are willing to roll the dice on a potential second term for a man they compare to Hitler, because they think it will improve their chances of victory.
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The brazen cynicism is amplified by the naked politics of the case. New York City District Attorney Alvin Bragg – and, most assuredly, the party leaders advising him – have decided to make Trump the first former U.S. president ever indicted because of hush money to a porn actress. Crucial to the thumb-in-the-eye message being sent are two facts: that the payments occurred years ago, in 2016, and that both federal prosecutors and the Federal Election Commission declined to pursue them. Of course, we are targeting our political rival on nonsense, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
To compound the insult, Democrats and their Newspeak henchmen on cable TV proclaim that this political dirty trick reenforces the principle that no person is above the law. Is anyone surprised? Of course not. We expect progressives and deep state bureaucrats to use the levers of government to attack their enemies and protect themselves.
The examples are legion. Compare the aggressive pursuit of the Russiagate conspiracy hoax to the lack of interest in President Biden’s connection to his family’s influence peddling; the kid glove treatment of violent BLM protestors during the summer of 2020 riots versus the dogged pursuit of anyone near the Capitol on Jan. 6; the SWAT-team like arrest of an abortion clinic protestor (who was quickly acquitted of all charges); and the refusal to arrest, let alone prosecute, anyone still illegally protesting outside the home of Supreme Court justices before the ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.
The double standard is obvious, and that is the point. Justice is a tool of the left. If you don’t like it, watch out.
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A cynic might note that politicians have always done whatever they could to gain power. But their conduct has long been constrained by the American people, who have long believed in American institutions and American values.
Rank-and-file Democrats no longer provide such guardrails for their leaders. Instead of saying enough, most are cheering their party’s serial subversions of the system. Part of this response reflects the fear-and-loathing influence of those who tell them what to think: Terrified by cancel culture and desperate to appear virtuous and smart, Democrat voters have swallowed the propaganda of progressive activists in politics, media, entertainment, and academia who cast Republicans as fascistic Neanderthals. No decent person could support the GOP, so what choice do I have?
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That Manichean mindset, however, is relatively benign compared to more profound corruption of thought that the progressive elite have wrought among their followers through the normalization of cynicism.
The woke revolution they are leading is a force of destruction. It offers no vision of a promised land. Its main impulse is to expose, delegitimize, and dismantle American institutions and American values. Instead of a shining city on a hill, they present America’s past and present as a parade of horribles fueled by systemic racism, sexism, and homophobia. In their telling, slavery, rather than freedom, is our nation’s defining feature. Everyone except straight white men is part of an oppressed group trapped in a Sisyphean struggle to avoid being crushed by a system designed to keep them down. This ideological cynicism about the American project fuels destructive policies:
Is it any wonder that a recent Gallup Poll found a record-low number of respondents say they are extremely proud to be Americans?
The tragic fallout from this effort is obvious. Crime is rising, schools are failing, productivity has cratered, and loneliness abounds. The irony is that leftwing policies appear to do special harm to those who support them – as liberal men and women suffer the highest rates of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. As much as they hate Republicans, they loathe themselves and the world around them.
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The historic indictment of Trump on weak, politically motivated charges underscores how far Democrats have knocked our country off the rails. Their incessant attack on the pillars of our society is creating a nation of cynics who no longer believe in anything. When the rule of law is dead, everything is permitted.
J. Peder Zane is a RealClearInvestigations editor and columnist. He previously worked as a book review editor and book columnist for the News & Observer (Raleigh), where his writing won several national honors. Zane has also worked at the New York Times and taught writing at Duke University and Saint Augustine’s University.
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