It’s hard not to weep for the Republic as trust in our institutions collapses — and collapses for good reasons.
Washington cannot retain public confidence when the frontrunners in both parties represent the dregs of public life and are credibly charged with serious malfeasance; when those charges have surrounded both parties’ presidential nominees in every election since 2016 and do so again for 2024.
It can’t retain public trust when the Department of Justice and FBI have sunk in public esteem because of their obvious bias, as when they overlooked the classified materials on Hillary Clinton’s server, wrote her exoneration before interviewing her, ignored the sleazy connection between her position and her family’s foundations and damaged her candidacy badly with James Comey’s unauthorized press conference before the election.
Or when the DoJ spent years investigating Joe Biden’s family corruption, only to propose an unprecedented sweetheart deal, one that even the prosecutor acknowledged was unlike anything he’d ever seen, and on and on. Or when the US prosecutor in Delaware inexplicably let the statute of limitation expire on millions of dollars of Hunter’s income on which taxes had not been paid, and when defenders of the sitting president are reduced to saying “You haven’t proved he personally received payoffs” from a massive family scheme designed to monetize his position as vice president, ignoring the web of family LLCs set up after he assumed the vice presidency and clearly designed to hide the sources and distribution of those foreign funds.
Washington certainly can’t retain public confidence when the president’s press secretary pretends to be repeating the same mantra (“He knew nothing about the family business”) but switches it to “he was not in business with his son,” a very different story and probably still false; when the only thing the Biden family had to sell was political access, based on Joe Biden’s position as vice president, and then the family grifters proved they could provide that access by having the vice president phone their business meetings and open the White House multiple times for meetings with Biden family business associates during Joe’s vice presidency; when Hunter Biden was not only a partner of businesses in the most corrupt countries in the world, but specifically the countries where his father was charged with leading the Obama administration’s foreign policy.
Or when Hunter bragged that one of his partners was the head of China’s spy agency; when US banks filed hundreds of “suspicious activity reports” on money sent to the Biden family’s opaque web of LLCs (during Joe Biden’s vice presidency); when anyone else in Hunter’s position would have been charged, at the very minimum, as failing to register under Foreign Agents Registration Act, but Hunter was not, despite reams of evidence, until one federal judge posed an uncomfortable question to keep that possibility alive; when the experienced IRS team investigating this dark money was told by the assistant US attorney for Delaware that they would not pursue any leads that led to “the Big Guy,” Joe Biden, and when that whole team, which had worked on this case for years, was fired at the direction of the Department of Justice.
Also when the mainstream media refuses to cover the story, lest it harm their party’s candidate; and when they ignore the bombshell revelations exposed by Representative James Comer’s House Oversight Committee — and when the sitting president refuses to answer any questions about this mountain of credible information about his family business. He lied about Hunter’s laptop in 2020 and now he simply refuses to talk.
As for the alternative: how does Washington hope to earn public trust when former president Donald Trump attacks a fundamental feature of our democracy — the peaceful transfer of power — by refusing to acknowledge his defeat in November 2020, continuing his tirades and denials after failing in court to overturn the vote count in any state, being told by his closest advisors that the loss was legitimate, and then trying to delay the counting of electoral votes by Congress, asking former vice president Mike Pence to go beyond his lawful authority; when he continues to demagogue the issue, deny his loss, issue veiled threats and viciously attack anyone who dares to challenge his false assertion of victory in 2020.
Put simply: our national governance is in shambles — and the public knows it. They know, too, that problems go beyond partisan politics and specific leaders to include their enablers, the media and core institutions of law enforcement.
What they don’t know is how to restore some semblance of integrity to a political system that makes it very hard to block the nomination of a sitting president, like Joe Biden, or the nomination of another candidate, like Donald Trump, who is backed by a strongly committed minority of party activists. That base doesn’t have to be a majority. It need only be a plurality to win all the delegates in most state primary elections. So far, that base has not been shaken by Trump’s indictments or his leadership of the national party in three dismal elections.
What about third-party candidates, like “No Labels” or possibly Trump himself if he doesn’t capture the Republican nomination? They face a twofold problem, beyond gaining some traction with voters. The first is that the winner of each state’s general election receives all its electoral votes. (The one exception, Maine, splits its electoral votes by congressional district.) This winner-take-all system means the main impact of third-party candidates is not to win any electoral votes themselves but to help the Democrats or Republicans win them, depending on which one is damaged least by the third-party candidates. That’s how Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party helped defeat his former Republican ally, William Howard Taft, and elect Democrat Woodrow Wilson, beginning the modern era of progressive politics.
Second, even if a third-party won a state or two (as Strom Thurmond did in 1948), he is extremely unlikely to win the White House. At most, he will deny both major party candidates a majority of electoral votes, throwing the selection into the newly elected House of Representatives, where each state would have one vote. Since all those representatives are Democrats or Republicans, they would elect their party’s nominee.
There’s no easy way to escape this swamp of corruption and failed national leadership. It’s not enough for partisans to point at their opponents and say they alone are to blame. They aren’t. Alas, there is more than enough blame to go around.