Donald Trump is a Convicted Felon

Do we get the leaders we deserve?

It's official. He's a criminal. Pending a successful appeal, he's a convicted felon. Will it matter? Yes and no. I doubt it will matter much in the outcome of the next U.S. presidential election. Minds have been made up for some time. It is hard to imagine that the verdict will sway many voters. Some recent polls showed that 25% of Republicans would be more likely to vote for him if he was convicted. Then again, voting for a criminal might be a bridge too far for some. That could matter in what will be a close election. The bottom line is that we don't know.

In what way will it almost certainly matter? It will (or at least should) matter when future generations study this period in our history. This is the first time a former president has ever been convicted of a crime. In that sense, it will be historic even if it changes few contemporary minds.

In the U.S., we've been reluctant to hold our leaders accountable. We like to talk about how everyone is equal under the law, but we know it doesn't work that way. It was clear to many outside our country that former Vice President Dick Cheney was a war criminal. And so was his lackey, former President George W. Bush. The fact that they were tried and convicted by other courts mattered little to most Americans. Our news media barely covered it at the time. President Obama made it clear that he had no desire to hold them accountable.

I'm not going to claim that this is why we ended up with the president we deserved (i.e., Trump). But it didn't help. Treating our leaders as if they were above the law never helps. Instead, it normalizes a lack of accountability.

Many Trump supporters seem surprised and angry that their man was convicted. And why shouldn't they feel this way? We've allowed our leaders to get away with far worse. Trump loves to claim that he's being treated unfairly. He's not, but it does seem that he's being treated differently from many prior leaders.

Remember the disastrous response of the Bush Administration to Hurricane Katrina? We saw the tragedy unfold in real time. There was no accountability afterward. This doesn't inspire much confidence that we'll see a more effective response to the next one. That's one of the consequences of a lack of accountability.

Holding political office should not shield anyone from prosecution for crimes they commit. That seems obvious, doesn't it? If we want to claim that we are "a nation of laws," we need to act like it. I hope that this prosecution will put us on a path toward increased accountability for our leaders.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay