I don’t give a damn about the byzantine and stupid details of the New York hush-money case that resulted in Donald Trump becoming the first US president convicted of a felony. Neither should you. Here’s what matters: Ever since 2016, Democrats, the security establishment, and their media allies have sought to nail the Orange Bad Man, and the effort finally paid off on Thursday. But in truth, it was American democracy that got nailed.

“In truth, it was American democracy that got nailed.”

The verdict obtained by district attorney Alvin Bragg—who could’ve gotten a Manhattan jury to convict Trump of starting the Chicago Fire—represents a decisive step forward for the forces of depoliticization: for those who seek to forestall authentic democratic contestation; and to treat one side in our big debates not as fellow citizens with different opinions, but as a “problem” to be treated using the business end of law enforcement and the security apparatus.

Bragg’s case was, by many accounts, convoluted and weak. But even if it had been stronger, this prosecution would have come as part of a larger anti-populist project going back to Trump’s first term. You’ve probably forgotten most of the elements of that project, and who can blame you? Each day would bring some devastating new “revelation”—later revealed to be factitious—that was supposed to take down Trump. After a while, they all blended together.

There was the Steele Dossier, filled with false allegations about a Moscow “pee tape.” There was the falsehood, first published by McClatchy, that Trump’s onetime lawyer Michael Cohen had visited Prague to receive instructions from his FSB handlers. There was Buzzfeed’s equally false claim that Trump had suborned Cohen to commit perjury before Congress. There was the mountain of bullshit known as Russiagate, which only grew taller even as special counsel Robert Mueller gave the lie to the underlying claims. There was George Papadopoulos, who did something or other (remember him?). There were not one, but two impeachment trials.

A verdict in New York, and possibly another one in Georgia, should and will be ignored by those of us who care about preserving democracy. It is impossible for us to accept that Bragg’s exertions were anything but a continuation of the elite lawfare—bolstered by Big Tech censorship and a savagely partisan media—that targeted Trump for the “crime” of winning an election.

Meanwhile, Bragg’s borough is being drowned by an ongoing crime wave, owing not least to his anti-anti-crime approach. As a vulgar Persian proverb advises, “Wipe your own ass before worrying about others.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly implied that Trump was convicted in his second impeachment trial.

Sohrab Ahmari is a founder and editor of Compact.


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