As 2024 nears, Democrats step up attacks on political rights

By Terry Evans
October 2, 2023
Boston cops seize socialist literature during 1919-20 Palmer Raids. Inset, Victor Berger’s 1918 Socialist Party election campaign. Congress voted 309-1 to bar him from office after he won.
Boston cops seize socialist literature during 1919-20 Palmer Raids. Inset, Victor Berger’s 1918 Socialist Party election campaign. Congress voted 309-1 to bar him from office after he won.

The Democrats’ seven-year-long relentless campaign to drive Donald Trump out of politics and bar him from running for president in 2024 is becoming more frantic as the primaries come nearer.

President Joseph Biden’s Justice Department and Democratic prosecutors in Georgia and New York are pushing criminal cases in four venues against Trump as part of this effort. Trials in each of these cases are set to begin before or during the 2024 primaries.

Many of these prosecutions involve charges most often used to target and frame up unionists and opponents of Washington’s imperialist wars — RICO laws, conspiracy charges, “domestic terrorism” laws and other thought-control statutes.

The stakes for working people and our unions are high. Key constitutional freedoms, including the right to free speech, are under attack. Trump, a leading candidate for one of the U.S. rulers’ two main capitalist parties, is currently facing 91 felony charges. If they can frame up one of their own, the rulers will be more than ready to use such methods against working people, as they have done repeatedly in the past.

Fearing the charges will be thrown out or that Trump will be acquitted, liberals and some Never-Trump Republicans are now suing to have state authorities ban Trump from running. They’re pinning their hopes on section 3 of the 14th Amendment, adopted after the Civil War. It was intended to disqualify former Confederate combatants from holding office because they engaged in “insurrection or rebellion” or had “given aid or comfort to the enemies” of the U.S.

Lawsuits have been filed in Colorado, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Wisconsin demanding state authorities unilaterally disqualify Trump from running. Similar cases are being prepared in at least eight other states.

Targeting political rights

Rep. Adam Schiff told MSNBC Sept. 3 the disqualification clause “doesn’t require that you be convicted of insurrection.” He claims “it fits Donald Trump to a T.” But this flies in the face of constitutional protections against anyone being found guilty and punished without access to a court of law to defend themselves. And the fact that the Democrats’ 2021 impeachment of Trump — claiming he had incited an insurrection — was thrown out by the Senate doesn’t bother Schiff.

Politicians in Colorado who demand Trump’s name be removed from the ballot claim he orchestrated a mob of “neo-Confederates and neo-Nazis” to “violently storm and seize the United States Capitol, a feat even the Confederacy never achieved during the Civil War.”

The melee on Jan. 6, 2021, was nothing like an insurrection, much less the Civil War. There are no “neo-Confederates” today seeking to restart the Civil War and reimpose slavery.

The last time Congress used the 14th Amendment’s section 3 to toss out the result of an election was to unseat Wisconsin Socialist Party candidate Victor Berger in 1918. Berger ran and was elected to the House of Representatives while under indictment for violating the Espionage Act. This was passed by the legislature to silence opponents of U.S. entry into the first imperialist world war.

Berger was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. While out on appeal, he went to Washington to take his seat. United in defense of the Espionage Act and its blanket denial of free speech, Democrats and Republicans voted 309-1 against seating him. Berger was reelected the following year in a special election called to replace him, but the House refused him again.

Many of the most dangerous and contemptible laws that attack basic constitutional freedoms were passed by the U.S. rulers and their two parties in the shadow of the war and the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. This includes the 1918 frame-up and imprisonment of Socialist Party presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs under the Espionage Act.

Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, part of President Woodrow Wilson’s Democratic Party administration, set up raids on the homes and headquarters of communists and militant workers in 33 cities in 1919 and 1920, leading to the imprisonment and firing of thousands and the deportation of many foreign-born workers. These blows to political rights were aimed at instilling fear and curbing militancy across the labor movement and growing interest among working people in the inspiring example of the socialist revolution in Russia.

The gamut of laws targeting Trump today have always been used first and foremost against workers, especially those opposed to the rulers’ wars and those attracted to fighting to replace capitalist exploitation with something better. And, no matter who is targeted today, these laws will be turned against working people tomorrow.

“Every constitutional protection that allows workers to debate a road forward and to organize to defend ourselves from attacks by the bosses and their government must be safeguarded,” Rachele Fruit, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Senate from Florida, told the Militant. “Workers use these freedoms whenever we resist bosses’ assaults, like striking United Auto Workers are doing today. And they are crucial to organizing opposition to the threat of new wars and actions against Washington’s embargo of Cuba.

“That’s why we speak out against the witch hunt against Trump today. To protect our rights, we say, drop the charges against Trump! Defend constitutional freedoms!”