Professor: 3rd Trump indictment won’t change minds
UMass Lowell professor claims 'democracy can't survive' without following the rule of law
Former President Donald Trump may have been indicted for the third time Wednesday, but University of Massachusetts Lowell professor James Forest said the latest trouble will likely not change right-wing extremists’ minds or behavior.
“Unfortunately, they are already convinced any such indictment is just additional ‘proof’ of an illegitimate government conspiring against Trump and, by extension, against people like them,” said Forest, who is an anti-terrorism expert. “They won’t see this as a legal and necessary effort to hold Trump accountable.”
Trump was indicted on four charges Tuesday for working to overturn the results of the 2020 election, leading up to the violent riot by his supporters at the U.S. Capitol. This is the third criminal case now against Trump.
“Despite having lost, the defendant was determined to remain in power,” reads the indictment filed by special counsel Jack Smith in Federal District Court in Washington, D.C.
The indictment goes on to state Trump perpetrated three criminal conspiracies: one to defraud the United States; a second to obstruct the certification of the Electoral College vote; and a third to deprive people of the right to have their votes counted. Trump was also charged with a fourth count of obstructing or attempting to obstruct an official proceeding.
Forest, who works in the school of criminology and justice studies at UMass Lowell, said that without the rule of law, democracy can’t survive.
“Securing a democracy requires that all its citizens — regardless of wealth, race, etcetera — hold each other accountable for adhering to the rules and laws we have agreed upon as a society,” Forest said. “The Jan. 6-related indictment against Trump stems from this central democratic principle.”
Yet the partisan divide appears unshakeable.
“The Londonderry Town Republican Committee is aware of the pending indictments against presidential candidate Donald Trump,” the LRC executive committee wrote in a statement. “We are not aware of any charges that he is facing in or from the state of New Hampshire. As an affiliate of the NHGOP, we will continue to give equal representation to presidential candidates in and entering the field.”
Democrats in the area are echoing Forest’s comments, adding the indictment could potentially going to affect voter turnout.
“I concur that this action will more likely than not affirm people’s perspective about Donald Trump, his presidency and his candidacy,” said Mark DiSalvo, a member of the executive committee of the Democratic State Committee.
DiSalvo, who was a member of the electoral college, is worried people will “check out” from their voting duties on both sides of the aisle, even if he believes this is the most consequential election since the election of Abraham Lincoln.
“Sadly, it is clear to me that it will have an effect on depressing turnout and civic agency,” DiSalvo said. “That is the saddest thing to me.”
The Massachusetts Democratic Party seems to agree, being proactive about their messaging to voters.
“Our focus as Democrats in Massachusetts is on reminding voters how President Biden and Vice President Harris continue to deliver for the American people and why they deserve another term,” said Steve Kerrigan, chair of the Massachusetts Democratic Party. “There is too much at stake in this next election to allow MAGA Republicans to take us backward.”
Forest, who directs UMass Lowell’s security studies program, said the Republicans’ “circle the wagon” defenses have been used for previous indictments and impeachments.
“I doubt it will serve to prod them to do anything they’re not already doing, nor will it convince them to pause for reflection and consider the inherent contradictions and failings of their convictions,” Forest said. “The fact that Trump continues to promote the blatant lie, widely believed by his supporters, that he won the 2020 election and it was ‘stolen’ from him — a lie that is a root cause of what happened on Jan. 6 — makes it even more unlikely this indictment will have any significant impact on right-wing extremists.”
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