Assaults on constitutional freedoms, led overwhelmingly by Democrats, dominate the 2024 presidential election campaign. President Joseph Biden’s Justice Department is piling up charges against former President Donald Trump, trying to turn political differences into “crimes” and trying to put him in prison and out of the race.
At the same time, some Republicans are calling for Biden’s impeachment, as the scandals surrounding his son point to the president’s involvement when he was vice president. Republicans hope the scandal will boost their bid for the presidency. Which of the rulers’ two main parties will control the White House, Justice Department and the capitalist rulers’ political police — the FBI — dwarfs any debate over policy.
The Biden administration filed a third set of charges against Trump Aug. 1. Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith indicted the former president on “conspiracy” charges, saying he aimed “to defraud the U.S.” These are thought-control charges, based on what Trump said, claiming the First Amendment doesn’t apply. His exercise of free speech, the indictment claims, was a criminal act.
The indictment adds on three other charges, of (1) conspiring to obstruct the certification of the 2020 election, (2) obstructing and attempting to obstruct that certification, and (3) conspiring to threaten people who were exercising “the right to vote.”
In fact, the “criminal” conduct listed in the indictment rests on what the then-president said to state officials about hunting for voter fraud, and said about establishing an alternative set of electors in some states, in case his claims of fraud in these states were proven. The so-called fake-electors were only doing something that political parties have done before when a state’s vote is in dispute.
None of this has anything to do with Trump’s claims about the election being stolen. It targets his right to say it was stolen and speak about what he thought.
Smith makes a passing acknowledgment that there is a constitutional protection for free speech at the outset of the charges. He says Trump “had a right, like every American, to speak publicly about the election and even to claim, falsely, that there had been outcome-determinative fraud during the election and that he won” and to challenge the results.
When Trump’s efforts to get state officials to challenge the vote were exhausted, he joined a rally on Jan. 6, 2021, to urge Vice-President Michael Pence to not certify the election. Smith details statements Trump made in a speech there, none of which even approaches a call for an “insurrection” that liberals have insisted he organized that day.
What Smith doesn’t quote is Trump’s concluding remarks, urging participants to “peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” He told them to give members of Congress “the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.”
To try to make his charges stick, Smith claims Trump engaged after the riot in “exploitation of the violence and chaos at the Capitol.” Again charging him for things he said.
Smith says there are six as yet unindicted co-conspirators. Media accounts say they are all lawyers or political consultants for Trump. They include Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Sidney Powell, Jeffrey Clark and Ken Chesebro. This continues a trend by Democrats to put pressure on any lawyer who works for the former president.
The administration’s charges will be heard before Judge Tanya Chutkan, a Barack Obama appointee. She has sentenced a large number of Jan. 6 protesters charged by the Justice Department even more harshly than prosecutors called for.
The real assault on the “right to vote” is the Democrats’ drive to crush Trump’s candidacy.
“Everything’s breaking President Biden’s way,” Nate Cohn crowed in the July 21 New York Times, pointing to highly exaggerated claims about the end of inflation and full employment, which liberals attribute to “Bidenomics.” But then he laments that Biden’s low approval ratings haven’t budged.
In fact real wages have continued to fall under Biden’s administration and there’s been no reversal of the long-term crisis of capitalist production and trade, with workers facing difficulties finding full-time jobs with wages and schedules that make starting or sustaining families feasible. Growing uncertainty about the future has led to a decline in birth rates.
The more charges prosecutors file against Trump, the more he solidifies his position as the Republicans’ front-runner. Head-to-head polls either put Trump ahead of Biden or say the race is a toss-up.
Organize opposition to attack on rights
Defending freedoms protected by the Constitution is at the center of the class struggle. Organizing opposition to these attacks, no matter who is targeted, is crucial. Whenever attacks on these rights arise, they always end up being used against workers, farmers and the oppressed.
The Justice Department is using its “foreign agent registration” law to try to frame up members of the African People’s Socialist Party and Uhuru Movement, who were hit by a pre-dawn armed FBI raid last year. The foreign agents law dates back to the capitalist rulers’ drive to criminalize union opposition to the U.S. entering the second imperialist world war over markets and colonies. It was used during the 1950s witch hunt and since, including the 1998 arrest and frame-up of the Cuban Five.
The government charges APSP members with failing to register as “Russian agents” and trying to influence elections in Florida. In fact they were exercising their constitutionally protected right to collaborate with forces abroad who share their support for Moscow’s war against Ukraine’s independence.