United States: Trump’s conviction shows turmoil and instability are the new normal

On Thursday, May 30, Donald Trump was convicted on 34 counts of falsifying business records to influence the 2016 election. Outside the Manhattan courthouse, the Republican denounced the trial, saying, “This was a rigged trial, a disgrace.” Contrary to the jury’s verdict, Trump declared himself not only innocent, but “very innocent.” Despite these protestations, he has made history once again—this time by becoming the first American president to be a convicted felon.

[Originally published at socialistrevolution.org]

Democrat Joe Biden’s campaign summed up the verdict this way: “In New York today, we saw that no one is above the law.” A chorus of liberals joined him singing hypocritical hosannas to the sacred principle of “equality before the law.” Such pieties cannot be taken seriously given the parade of rogues and reprobates who preceded Trump. These include the “unindicted co-conspirator” Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton, whose defense against accusations of perjury famously rested on the definition of the word “is.”

In reality, “equality before the law” is a fairytale designed to lull the working class into believing the system can be made to work for them. So while Trump may be the first presidential felon, he is hardly the first criminal to occupy the White House. Biden himself is a willing accomplice in Israel’s genocidal massacre in Gaza, which has killed at least 36,000 and counting.

Historically, presidents could count on the “justice system” overlooking their crimes. As long as they put the interests of the ruling class as a whole above their own, they would be absolved of the occasional sexual assault or mass murder. Donald Trump is different. The ruling class longs for political stability, but his presidency was a chaotic whirlwind. He consciously violated many of the “norms” of capitalist politics. The ruling class needs to make an example of him as a warning to future political mavericks.

trump trial Image fair useTrump and the Republicans’ attacks on the legal system will only discredit it further / Image: fair use

Whether they will succeed is in doubt. In a recent opinion poll, 67 percent of voters said a guilty verdict would not affect their vote in November. Only 17 percent said a conviction would make them less likely to vote Trump. Despite the capitalist media’s extensive coverage of The Donald’s manifold legal problems, most Americans remain stubbornly focused on such trivialities as rising food and housing costs and the ongoing bloodletting in Gaza—rather than the weighty issues surrounding Trump’s payoffs to an adult film actress.

Regardless of its effect on the 2024 race, the verdict is the latest indication that turmoil and instability are the new normality for American capitalism. The last half decade witnessed the Covid crisis, the BLM uprising, the January 6 riots, a deep recession, and skyrocketing inflation. Now Americans have the chance to see a convicted felon running for—and possibly winning—the presidency.

This can only accelerate declining faith in the once august institutions built up over centuries to secure and defend capitalist rule. A 2023 Gallup poll found only 17 percent of Americans have “a great deal or quite a lot of confidence” in the criminal justice system. Trump and the Republicans’ attacks on the legal system will only discredit it further.

Trump was an inveterate criminal long before he ever saw the inside of a courtroom. If there really were “equality before the law,” he would have built a considerable rap sheet during his half-century as a capitalist landlord and con man. In reality, the judiciary and other institutions of bourgeois rule are not rigged against Trump—they are rigged against the workers—who are increasingly aware of this truth.

Two years before the October revolution overthrew capitalism and tsarism in Russia, Lenin wrote:

"It is indisputable that a revolution is impossible without a revolutionary situation … when it is impossible for the ruling classes to maintain their rule without any change; when there is … a crisis in the policy of the ruling class, leading to a fissure through which the discontent and indignation of the oppressed classes burst forth. For a revolution to take place, it is usually insufficient for “the lower classes not to want” to live in the old way; it is also necessary that “the upper classes should be unable” to live in the old way."

A felon topping the ticket for a major capitalist party cannot be considered “living in the old way.” Trump’s conviction is another step towards the coming revolutionary showdown between capitalists and workers. In this struggle, workers will not only end exploitation and oppression, but they will also bring all the capitalist criminals to justice and replace the madness of capitalism with the sanity of a workers’ state and socialism.

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