The 'Rule of Law' Won't Save You

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On Tuesday night, following two days of reports about President Donald Trump’s general anger, former Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub—who resigned from that position last July—sent a pretty bad tweet:

Shaub is not the first one to say something along these lines, and rest assured he won’t be the last, particularly if Trump finally does take that remarkably dumb leap into the void and fire the guy investigating him for corruption.


But the comment is remarkably illustrative of what constitutes the “red line” for #Resisters like Shaub. It’s an idea of America that is fundamentally fair to everyone. That idea is a myth.

The list of things that people should (and, in many cases, are) marching in the streets over is endless: Police brutality, a problem in every corner of the country; constant attacks on Muslims; threats to labor rights; the welfare of the poor and the homeless; actual threats to democracy; ICE.


The “rule of law,” on the other hand, has enabled the abuse of power at every level, from beat cops who shoot unarmed people of color to the president of the United States having the final say over whether or not an investigation into his own corruption should continue. The deference that the justice system gives to power—in any situation—is the thing that enables Trump.

It’s not a new problem, even if Trump has exploited it in new and terrifying ways. It existed long before him and will exist long after him, unless we learn the lessons of the way he’s exploited his vast power and finally put in sufficient checks to reverse the executive branch’s continuous expansion and abuse. But until then, Trump will continue to inflict the most damage on the most vulnerable in more insidious and less attention-grabbing ways, such as executive orders to throw yet another wrench in the lives of SNAP recipients and intra-agency directives preventing undocumented people from receiving any sort of due process in fighting deportations.


This system is pure hell for many, many people, and has been for a very long time. If what finally pushes you to take to the streets is a defense of that crumbling, unfair system—which couldn’t muster enough willpower to stop a goblin like Trump from becoming president—then your priorities leave a lot to be desired.