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Justice in America is dead. We used to talk about damage to it. We used to remark with each setback how difficult it would be to promote justice around the world. We were deluding ourselves. Justice has been near death for decades.Trump, Barr & McConnell, have however, killed it.
Black Americans have, of course, long known this. Even though black incarceration have fallen, blacks make up a third of our prison populations, almost three times their proportion of the overall population. Hispanics are also over-represented in prisons. Whites--much under-repr
That's a travesty of justice--that compounds the injustices that result from grotesque income inequalities in America, educational inequalities, and the healthcare inequalities that we have seen manifested again during this COVID crisis.
But, we have also seen the breakdown of our justice system in many other ways. Since the founding of this country, there has always been two systems of justice--one for the rich and one for the rest of us. Those who are well-connected and can afford lawyers do much better.
They can spend years litigating. Wall Street firms see fines in the millions of dollars as a mere cost of doing business. Trump in private life as in public life has used the legal system like a cudgel against his enemies (and suppliers) & to hide from accountability himself.
All this pre-dated Trump, as did the way the powerful escaped justice. Nixon: Pardoned. Iran-Contra felons: Pardoned. War criminals whose lies resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands in Iraq: No stomach to prosecute them.
But throughout, there was a facade of at least seeking justice, of saying we were a nation of laws, of repeating that no man is above the law. But Trump has put the lie to all of that. Day in and day out since he took office.
He has, dozens of times, pardoned or commuted the sentences of his friends and some who broke the law on his behalf (see Roger Stone). He has put in place an Attorney General who has openly obstructed justice and suppressed prosecutions of the president.
Barr has in fact actively sought to place the president above the law and if that was not possible to place him beyond its reach, putting obstacle after obstacle in the way of those who sought truth and justice regarding Trump's manifold crimes.
With the aid of prosecutors who were in his pocked and GOP judges, Barr has successfully shut down multiple investigations into the president and those around him and sought to block the course of justice in other ways for Trump cronies.
Manafort is out of jail "due to the pandemic" while hundreds of thousands of other unconnected inmates suffer and die from the disease. Barr has sought to help Flynn undo his plea. Barr has stood by as Stone's sentence was commuted.
Barr has sought to replace prosecutors who did not serve his corrupt vision of service to the president above service to the law. He has largely been successful in this. What happened with Jeffrey Epstein while he was under Barr's watch? Perhaps we shall never know.
Trump's anti-Justice agenda has been abetted as well by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He has effectively said, we will not convict Trump of any crime. He ensured the Senate impeachment trial was a complete, evidence-free sham, a kangaroo court.
By saying he would not convict while Barr said the president could not be indicted and history suggests we will not pursue him after the fact, Trump (and those closest to him) are placed beyond the reach of justice. Barr and McConnell have restored the monarchy to America.
The Supreme Court may rule against some of Barr's most preposterous ideas--like absolute immunity for the president--but nonetheless, the president is succeeding at playing out the clock, seeking re-election to preserve what presidential immunities & advantages he does have.
Those who would investigate--like Robert Mueller--were impeded by serial obstruction of justice and whatever their own perverse sense of institutional loyalties may have been. Truth-tellers like whistleblowers have been harassed, fired and seen their careers destroyed.
Meanwhile war criminals are rewarded by this president. The Russians who put bounties on the heads of US soldiers and who attacked the very bedrock institutions of our democracy have been defended and rewarded and rewarded and rewarded again by this president.
The president is a criminal and is above the law. His friends and associates who are criminals are above the law. Our enemies who attack us are rewarded and placed beyond the reach of the law. Those who seek to preserve, protect & defend the Constitution are punished.
There is no justice in America for the rich, for the powerful...or for the poor and the weak. And that means that there is no justice in America. We are a lawless society run by criminals for their own benefit. And check that statement--there is no hyperbole in it.
(Consider how the president and his family have used his office...and those he has given those relatives...to enrich themselves.) Can we undo this with an election? It will help. Only if Trump is defeated in November & the GOP loses its majority in the Senate is reform possible.
But even with a sweeping reform agenda, if Trump and those who have done so much damage to our system of justice are not tried and prosecuted, if they escape justice as past leaders have, then the terrible precedents of the past will be further reconfirmed.
It will take decades to undo the damage that has resulted from appointing unfit, inexperienced, partisan judges. That can be accelerated by efforts to remove them and offset unfair advantages the right wing has sought to give itself going forward.
But will that fix the advantages given the rich? Not so long as our political system is perverted by decisions like Citizen United to allow the check-writers in our society to pick the law-makers. There will be no justice in America until there is massive campaign finance reform.
Will it fix the endemic racism in our system of policing and of incarceration? Not without breaking that system down wherever it is not working and rebuilding it from the ground-up. Not without massive social change. Not without economic justice.
It has taken generations to destroy America's justice system. It will take generations and hard work and fighting the entropy of the establishment to fix it. The prospects do not look good, but unless we fight this fight, the prospects for America look even worse.
You can follow @djrothkopf.
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