By Robert Reich
Not once has Donald Trump veered from his core campaign theme.
Recall the first rally of his 2024 election campaign on March 25 in Waco, Texas — exactly 30 years after a deadly siege between law enforcement and the Branch Davidians resulted in the deaths of more than 80 members of that religious cult and four federal agents.
It opened with a choir of men imprisoned for their role in the January 6 insurrection singing “Justice for All,” intercut with the national anthem and with Trump reciting the Pledge of Allegiance with his hand on his heart. Behind, on big screens, was footage from the Capitol riot.
Trump then repeated his bogus claim that the 2020 presidential election was “rigged.” He praised the rioters of January 6.
He raged against the prosecutors overseeing multiple investigations into his conduct as “absolute human scum.” He told the crowd that “the thugs and criminals who are corrupting our justice system will be defeated, discredited and totally disgraced.”
He then declared:
“Our enemies are desperate to stop us and our opponents have done everything they can to crush our spirit and to break our will. But they failed. They’ve only made us stronger. And 2024 is the final battle, it’s going to be the big one. You put me back in the White House, their reign will be over and America will be a free nation once again.”
Since then, as indictments have piled up against him and his poll numbers among Republicans have risen, Trump’s “final battle” comes into ever sharper focus: It is a battle against the rule of law and democracy.
The mega indictment we have all been waiting for — the indictment against Trump for his attempted coup against the United States — will be announced very soon.
Trump is prepared to use it in his final battle.
Tuesday, on an Iowa radio show, he warned it would be “very dangerous” if Special Counsel Jack Smith put him in jail, since his supporters have “much more passion than they had in 2020.”
Unfortunately for the nation, the Republican Party is uniting behind Trump’s side of this battle line.
If not defending the January 6 rioters outright, GOP lawmakers are attacking Special Counsel Jack Smith, the Justice Department, the Manhattan district attorney, and other current and prospective prosecutors seeking to hold Trump accountable.
A Trump indictment for attempting the overthrow of the constitutional order and the verdict of the electorate will guarantee that, like the 2020 election, 2024 will be more of a referendum on Trump than a referendum on Biden.
It will make it harder for Republican candidates across the nation to focus on their fake nemeses — “woke” teachers and corporations, trans youth, LGBTQ+ people, immigrants, and “socialism” — and force them instead to defend Trump’s side in the final battle.
Trump and the GOP will lose this battle. Even if they win Republican primaries, they will lose the general election.
Recall that last November, virtually every 2020-election-denying Republican who sought office in a truly contested election went down to defeat.
Those who care about democracy and the rule of law should welcome the battle, and not just because it will help Biden and the Democrats.
It will also help clarify what’s at stake for the nation in 2024 and beyond.
It will show how eager Trump and the Republican Party are to abandon democracy and the rule of law in order to gain power. It will show that the vast majority of Americans reject their position.
Americans hold different views about many things, but most of us oppose authoritarianism. We reject fascism.
We value the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. We are committed to democracy, even with its many flaws. We support the rule of law.
We want to live in a nation where no one is above the law. We want to be able to sleep at night without worrying that a president might unleash armed lackeys to drag us out of our homes because he considers us to be his enemy.
The pustule of Trump has been growing since 2016, and the authoritarian impulses underlying this infection have been allowed to fester for decades.
Folks, it is finally time to lance this boil. It is time to decisively rescue democracy and the rule of law. It is time to defeat Trump and his enablers, who are determined to defy the core values of America.
Let the battle begin.