Robert Reich: The Great Comeuppance? – OpEd


Suddenly, it seems, people once considered invincible — beyond the law, untouchable, immune — are being held accountable for their actions. 

Last Thursday, Donald Trump became the first former president in American history to be indicted on criminal charges. Today he will be arraigned in a Manhattan criminal court —fingerprinted, photographed, perhaps even handcuffed. 

Last Friday, a Delaware Superior Court judge concluded that Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and other Fox hosts, along with their paymaster, Rupert Murdoch, had repeatedly made false claims about rigged voting machines in the 2020 election, and that Dominion Voting Systems’s $1.6 billion defamation suit should go to trial. Fox could now face the consequences of its vastly profitable lie machine.  

Three weeks ago, on March 17, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes, accusing him of personal responsibility for the abductions of children from Ukraine. It was the first time the global court has issued a warrant against a leader of one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

It’s far too early to declare the age of impunity over, but this moment does feel different. Is it possible that power-crazed hubris, abject greed, and wild narcissism have finally reached their limit? 

That limit comes in other forms as well. 

Twitter is now worth just half the $44 billion Elon Musk paid for it. 

Election deniers got trampled last November.

The charges against FTX’s Samuel Bankman-Fried keep mounting. 

Theranos fraudster Elizabeth Holmes is heading to prison. 

For a while, it seemed as if all the guardrails were gone — that anyone rich and powerful enough and with sufficient disdain for the common good could get away with doing just about anything.

It’s still largely that way. But at least some of the most conspicuously unconstrained scoundrels are for now being contained.

This may be nothing more than a temporary lull in the giant 21st century storm of self-aggrandizement. The charges against Trump may well be dropped, feeding more outrage. Fox News and its dreadful hosts could prevail over Dominion. Putin will continue to pummel Ukraine, regardless. Elon Musk, wealthy fraudsters, billionaire bullies, and Republican election deniers may ultimately be successful. 

But I prefer to believe that the zeitgeist is beginning to shift. The wheels of justice are starting to turn. The silent majority (as Spiro Agnew called them, in a totally different context) is finally demanding and getting some accountability. Trump and the Trump wannabes — every rich and famous personage who has said “the public be damned” — is about to get a comeuppance. 

(Isn’t that a lovely old-fashioned word — comeuppance? It means a fate that is deserved. The word first appeared in Harpers Magazine in 1859. It derives from the phrasal verb “come up” as in a case for judgment at a trial, or in the court of public opinion.)

Is this the start of a long-overdue comeuppance? What do you think?

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and writes at Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

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