We at The Lever work every single day to hold politicians accountable in a country that often seems like an accountability-free zone for the wealthy and powerful. So it is worth taking a pause from our day-to-day coverage to recognize the significance of this week’s indictment of Donald Trump for his coup attempt, which we predicted in the days after the 2020 election.
When we first published that piece about the incumbent president trying to overturn the election, some scoffed and eyerolled, seeing it as the kind of unrealistic sensationalism that defines ratings-chasing cable TV news outlets. But just because the MSNBCs of the world have numbed and anesthetized their audiences with hyperbolic coverage of all things Trump didn’t mean he wasn’t a serious menace.
The prosecution of Trump is important — and surprising — because it is a rejection of something we at The Lever incessantly lament: the longstanding tradition of providing de facto legal immunity for high government officials. It is also a rejection of the “belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards,” as incoming President Barack Obama put it in 2009 when he was asked about holding past administration officials accountable for their crimes.
I’d like to think this pivot to accountability is the start of something permanent and not merely a fleeting spectacle — a shift to a lasting culture of accountability, rather than a one-off operation against a particularly dangerous threat to democracy.
But for that to be the case, accountability must extend beyond just a Trump indictment and (hopefully) conviction.
Accountability must extend to the people and businesses funding the GOP’s insurrectionists and election deniers.
Accountability must extend to the government officials preserving the campaign finance rules that enable such funding.
Accountability must extend to Republican authoritarians, as well as Democrats whose betrayals and soft corruption create the backlash conditions that fuel right-wing extremists, as Franklin Roosevelt famously warned.
And accountability must finally become the ethos of the electorate and our culture writ large, which is all too frequently electing and empowering the politicians in both parties who are committing environmental, war, economic, financial, and human rights crimes.
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I’ve worked in and around politics for nearly a quarter century, so I’m under no illusion that the indictment of a former president will on its own birth a new era of accountability. But I’m also not (yet) pessimistic or cynical enough to think it cannot be a start.
With your support, The Lever will continue our journalism to help create some of that much-needed change. Our mission is the same clarion call of all those who rightly demanded Trump face consequences for his coup attempt.
It is a goal stated right at the top of our website: Hold them accountable.