The eroding rule of law in the U.S.
Hayat Bangash
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a rally, August 5, 2022, in Waukesha, Wisconsin. /CFP

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a rally, August 5, 2022, in Waukesha, Wisconsin. /CFP

Editor's note: Hayat Bangash is a freelance columnist on international affairs with degrees in business administration and war studies.The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily those of CGTN.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart is facing a storm of death threats. He is the Florida magistrate who approved a search warrant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to search the former U.S. President Donald Trump's expansive Mar-a-Lago estate. When it became public that the search warrant bears his signature, the Republican Party, the right-wing media, and the virulent supporters of Trump came after him.

As the search went ahead, the threats expanded to the wider judiciary and the FBI, prompting concerns that the rule of law in the U.S. is slowly but visibly eroding.

The situation has exacerbated after Trump's defeat in the 2020 election. Not only did he refuse to accept the election results but after the criminal proceedings following the Capitol insurrection of January 6, 2021, he has refused to accept the legitimacy of the legal system.

Had this been an act of a random U.S. citizen, it could have been termed an aberration. Coming from a former U.S. president instead, whose words are unquestioningly believed by a large portion of the American populace, this is putting a serious question mark on the rule of law in the U.S.

Clearly, Trump's ideas are not from the fringes of society. His presidential nomination leading to his election in 2016, his slim defeat in 2020, and his vote base's rejection of Republican Liz Cheney, who has denounced his antics, are proof that his ideology is firmly in the mainstream.

U.S. Representative Liz Cheney speaks at an election night event during the Wyoming primary election at Mead Ranch in Jackson, Wyoming, August 16, 2022. /CFP

U.S. Representative Liz Cheney speaks at an election night event during the Wyoming primary election at Mead Ranch in Jackson, Wyoming, August 16, 2022. /CFP

Donations of millions of dollars are pouring into his political action committee and his party is gullibly defending his lies after the FBI search. The rhetoric of America First has morphed into Trump First.

The Western commentators, or at least a section thereof, have portrayed the image of the U.S. as responsible at home but detestable abroad. Ironically today, the U.S. is acting equally detestable at home. The detestation is not just aimed at a particular administration; it is the American political system that has become so rotten that it is threatening the very ideals of the nation's concept of democracy.

In the study of failing democracies that disrespect the rule of law, the U.S. has become exhibit-a. The Varieties of Democracy Index, Economist Intelligence Unit, Freedom House and the World Justice Project's Rule of Law Index are all providing empirical evidence of the country's downward trajectory as its institutions continue to decay.

The American democratic model has thus failed to serve as an example for the rest of the world. No matter how loud Western intellectuals present the case of Capitol Hill as the epitome of democracy, the possibility of the U.S. turning despotic cannot be ruled out.

The same intellectuals and non-governmental organizations have been passing judgments on the governance models of other countries on scales of democratic compliance. Likewise, the U.S. government has given preferential treatment to other governments on how closely they resemble the American system. But it is time they realize that the supposed yardstick itself is rotting.

Any hope for abatement in the American political circus is far from sight. Despite facing extensive attacks, the U.S. Department of Justice is knee-deep in its commitments, the January 6 insurrection trial is one of the most complex criminal trials in the department's history, and Trump, on the other side, is showing no signs of toning down his aggression.

The fissures that became alarmingly evident with Trump's election in 2016 are now ripping apart the society. Americans, already divided on racial lines, are further segregating under political polarization. As the legal system wears out, it is not an overstatement that we may well be looking at the U.S. returning to the days of the Wild West.

The U.S. is a major country and, therefore, has certain responsibilities at the international level as well. In case the ever more popular Trump, with little regard for the rule of law, comes back to the White House, implications for global peace will be appalling. The FBI has recovered top-secret documents from Trump that are possibly related to the American nuclear arsenal. Seeing how the country keeps its secrets, its commitment to international law also comes into question.

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