Remember the classic Bill Watterson comic strip Clavin and Hobbes and the immortal game of Calvinball? This joyous anarchic contest had only one rule: there were no rules. You made up laws as you went along, and the only limit was what you could imagine. So, what this have to do with current politics? Simple: the Democrats are playing legal Calvinball.

              The latest round of Trump/GOP indictments are out. The Fulton County Georgia Grand Jury, prodded by County District Attorney Fani Wills, came out with a sweeping recommendation that 39 people be prosecuted. Among them Senator Lindsay Graham, and former Senators Kelley Loefler and David Perdue—all Republicans. Also included are lawyers who simply asked for recounts and investigations into alleged election fraud.

              Over in Colorado, a Washington-based advocacy group “Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, has filed suit to keep former President Trump off the ballot, using the US Constitution’s 14th Amendment. This states no person shall hold public office who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” The Amendment was passed in 1868, and was referring to folks who were leaders and fighters for the Confederacy. We’re not talking about a riot at the Capitol, but the Battle of Gettysburg. Think outright secession and the American Civil War. There’s a lot of talk about following suit here in Michigan.

              These are creative legal theories, to say the least. They can pop up in any state or any hack Democrat prosecutor’s jurisdiction. Trump is charged for mishandling secret documents, but Hillary Clinton’s felonious home-server and Joe Biden’s boxes in the garage are shrugged off. It seems every time new revelations about Hunter Biden and influence peddling/bribery come up, another Democrat DA somewhere indicts Donald Trump for something, under increasingly twinkly-unicorn legal arguments.

              The reasons are simple: Trump is coming back, and the Democrats are scared. Their Biden-Harris replacement hasn’t panned out. Biden is corrupt and increasingly aged-out, Harris is laughably out of her depth. The Dem Party Powers want them both off the stage, but Biden won’t be forced out and Harris can’t be dumped without alienating African Americans. The Dems are stuck with a loser ticket, national buyer’s remorse, and a Trump waxing stronger every week.

              So, the Dems are doing the time-honored tactic: dirty him up. They’re tossing mud on him, and turning to point “you can’t vote for him: he’s muddy!” This is failing, because the half of the country who voted for Trump see this as a transparently crooked misuse of the legal system. Every new speculative legal stretch is greeted by a corresponding belief that the Rule of Law Emperor is progressively taking off his clothes in front of everyone, and is already indecently exposed as it is.

​              This is very, very dangerous stuff. When forces of law and justice start playing Calvinball with the legal system to eliminate their opponents, you’re in deep waters. First off, the target of the dirty DAs and crooked cops are victims of injustice. But second, and even worse, the very system of justice and law is discredited. When people see blatant double standards of arrest and prosecution, when people see obviously wacky legal theories twisted into pretzels to take out the other political party, they dump their faith in the system of law and justice.

              The bedrock basis of our nation is the belief of the citizens in the fundamental legitimacy of our institutions. Legitimacy means the belief that the police are generally honest, that the courts are generally trustworthy, and that you can get an even break from the law. It’s public belief in that legitimacy that accepts these institutions, making the functioning of laws and courts possible.

              I had a law professor who once asked “what does the Constitution fundamentally rest on?” His answer was “the 101st Airborne.” In other word, government force: the power of the gun. I disagree. The basis of our government is the people’s belief and acceptance of its legitimacy. If the people withdraw their belief in legitimacy, all the government guns in America won’t be able to prop up the state.

              The difference between stable nations and unstable ones is the existence of institutions that people trust. Say what you want about Donald Trump, but on January 20th, 2021 he walked out of the White House and handed the keys to Joe Biden. That’s because the institutions of government were stronger than individuals and political factions. Without these institutions, our governance depends on the loyalties of the 101st Airborne, or the Praetorian Guard, or the Argentine Colonels, or the Niger military. As the Chinese would put it, the Mandate of Heaven is withdrawn and all you have is the gun.

              What if those institutions slowly betray that trust? What if they become obviously turned into tools of one faction or another? Well, you can see it: does anyone who isn’t politically allied trust the press/media to report objective facts anymore? Does anyone see colleges and professors as trustworthy sources for neutral truth? The decay of these institutions into openly discredited ideological and Party hackery has weakened America. But we’re surviving it, and building alternatives.

              But what about the law? Can we survive the loss of legitimacy of the cops and the courts? We joke about Dirty Chicago, but what if the whole nation is Dirty Chicago, or Philly, or Baltimore? Will you submit willingly to a legal system where you’re playing by strict rules and the other guys are playing Calvinball?

              The scorched-earth tactics by a party terrified of losing in 2024 is burning down our common house. Donald Trump will come and go, but the damage done to the legitimacy of the FBI, the Department of Justice, the US legal system, and the very bedrock institutions of law and public order will haunt the very nation itself.

              When many African-Americans don’t believe in the legitimacy of the legal system and police, they take to the streets with violence. What happens if everybody does it? Then you may see what a genuine, real “insurrection” looks like. Calvinball turns into The Purge quicker than you think.

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