"Public opinion in the country is everything" - Abraham Lincoln.
In 1887, eminent thinker Wallace F. Campbell, writing in The North American Review, introduced the often-used term of today: The Court of Public Opinion.
As cataloged by the Library of Congress, Campbell wrote:
"It is commonly supposed that courts, juries, and counsel constitute the proper tribunal ordained by the people for the trial of alleged criminals. It has remained for the author of the "Court of Public Opinion" to assume that such is not the case, and that the machinery of justice exists merely for the purpose of automatically registering the prejudiced decision of a self-constituted tribunal ... a trial court whose judgment is infallible, and from whose decision no appeal lies, is a very unsafe tribunal for the people of this country to adopt."
Campbell may well have had the wisdom to envision what could happen 136 years later - and be talking about President Biden's and the Left's relentless campaign to send former president Trump to jail. Attorney General Merrick Garland and his aggressive prosecutor Jack Smith are expending all federal resources to build a case that, under the right circumstances of a biased jury and a sympathetic bench, could result in a judgment that might appear infallible, as Campbell said. But the eminent thinker warns that such an outcome would be hard for voters to embrace.
Indeed, the proceedings in the classified documents case are well underway. Judge Cannon has already set a trial date of May 2024, just six months before the next U.S. presidential election. Some conservatives complained that such a date is too dangerous for President Trump. What if he is found guilty of at least one charge? Democrats could not contain their glee. Running against a "criminal" would be the surest way to return President Biden to a second term.
But the Democrats could be miscalculating big time.
What we have seen over the years is that every time the Deep State tries to hurt President Trump, his poll numbers rise, and he is able to fund-raise even more than before. It is an inexplicable reaction that frustrates Democrats, who fail to understand that most Americans are honest, ethical, and busy individuals, committed to caring for their families, attending church, and being active in the community. Most voters do not understand the complexities of national security laws. Nor do they believe that Trump committed felony violations by participating in a conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Voters may not remember their civics classes, but they know that Trump has always cared about America's standing in the world. From the moment he descended the escalator at Trump Tower in 2015, Trump's brand is that he wants America to win. Even in television interviews in the late 1980s and 1990s, Trump's single-most consistent grievance against American officials was that they let foreigners take advantage of America and get ahead at the nation’s cost. For Trump watchers, the Make America Great Again campaign started more than 30 years ago.
So how could such an individual willfully bring harm to America? It is a question that baffles the average voter, and Jack Smith's attempts to prove that Trump obstructed justice ring hollow. On the contrary, voters examine recent history and conclude that the Deep State obstructed justice against Trump in every instance since 2015.
Russia-Russia-Russia proved to be a hoax. The first impeachment based on the Trump-Zelenskiy call was another hoax now that stories are being uncovered that Burisma executives allegedly paid the Biden family nearly $10 million in bribes. Trump's request to Zelenskyy was to investigate those corruption charges - and the average voter would retort; Trump was right, after all.
Unsealing the indictment against President Trump, Jack Smith went to extraordinary lengths to make a point about the universality of laws:
"Adherence to the rule of law is a bedrock principle of the Department of Justice. And our nation's commitment to the rule of law sets an example for the world. We have one set of laws in this country, and they apply to everyone. Applying those laws. Collecting facts. That's what determines the outcome of an investigation. Nothing more. Nothing less."
But the average voter believes that presidents are unique, and the laws should apply to them only after granting them significant deference.
They may not realize that the Constitution sets aside an entire article (Article II) to list out presidential powers - but the average voter knows that no man on Earth is as powerful as a United States president. While in office, Trump had access to every secret America held, including the power to press the red button. He had the sole authority to classify or declassify the nation’s documents. Trump may no longer be president, but that does not instantly make him a common man the day he left office. If that were the case, why would former presidents be eligible for Secret Service protection for life? Why would they be treated like royalty when they visit foreign countries?
Voters will likely hold with deep skepticism Jack Smith's case against Trump in the January 6 riots as well. We will wait for those charges to be unsealed before summarizing our view.
The bottom line is that Biden is wandering into uncharted territory. The Constitution does not forbid Trump from running for president even if he is guilty or thrown in prison.
President Biden, whose approval ratings are consistently hovering in the 40s, has a tough race against another human being. He has a formidable challenge against a martyr - so formidable that his over-zealousness in bringing Trump to justice could make Biden a disastrous one-term president.
tippinsights Editorial Board