Americans are used to thinking that “the struggle for the rule of law” refers to the struggles of other peoples in foreign lands for the rule of law in their respective countries.
But the struggle for the rule of law, in any country, is a permanent struggle, one in which advances can be made and even consolidated, while the threat that the rule of law may be undermined, suffer defeats, and even be lost, always remains present.
The United States is no exception to this rule.
Within the last week, one of the frontiers between the rule of law and tyranny was crossed, when the President of the United States ordered the Department of Justice to conduct a criminal investigation into the investigation of those who are investigating him.
A president should never be allowed to order an investigation by the Justice Department of any kind, and least of all one of his opponents, or those who he perceives to be his opponents. The very idea of the president ordering an investigation into the investigators into the potential crimes he and his associates may have committed is anathema to the very concepts of democracy and the rule of law.
The fact that Republicans in Congress have not cried out against this travesty is fresh evidence of how far the Republican Party and its representatives in Congress have entered down the slippery slope that leads to authoritarianism.
One characteristic of the latter is the use of the state to harass and sanction individuals who stand in the way of the will of the authoritarian Leader. We see this now in Turkey with Erdogan’s persecution of his opponents, in the Philippines where the president and his allies have just removed the president of the Supreme Court, and in Russia where opponents of Vladimir Putin are barred from running for office (e.g., Alexey Navalny) or even murdered with impunity (Boris Nemtsov, in 2015).
A leader who uses the apparatus of the state to harass or persecute his perceived opponents, or to block lawful processes aimed at holding government officials, the leader himself,or his associates accountable under the law, is a leader who is already traveling on the path to authoritarianism, and who has himself already manifested his authoritarian nature.
(to be continued)