As the dust finally begins to settle after one of the most dismal episodes in U.S. history, we can begin to assess how our political system has withstood an all-out assault on its fundamental element — the right of all citizens to participate in the selection of leaders through casting ballots.
In the recent presidential election, the margin was close in electoral swing states, but the result was clear. The voters spoke, and Donald Trump lost.
But Trump refused to concede, alleging that “the election was rigged,” presumably by unnamed conspirators. His pitch was that if manipulations of voting procedures, fraudulent votes and orchestrated irregularities in vote counting were exposed and corresponding tainted votes disqualified, it would be determined that he actually prevailed.
Then, funded by contributions from supporters to a massive slush fund, his network of enablers, headed by Rudy Giuliani, launched a multi-faceted campaign to challenge vote counts in the critical swing states. Recounts were demanded, investigations of voting procedures were made and election officials were harassed. All without measurable success.
The multitudinous assaults came to a head in a barrage of lawsuits in both state and federal courts, nearly all of which were dismissed for lack of substantiating evidence. The uniform negative disposition of the lawsuits extended even to the U.S. Supreme Court, which brushed off a clumsy effort to bring before it a lawsuit initiated by the state of Texas against four swing states.
When put to the test in courts of law, it became clear that the Trump rhetoric was baseless; it was just smoke. No disparities material to the outcome were revealed. And yet, assumptions were made by Trump and his enablers that courts would be malleable. They were not.
Dispositions of courts up and down the land on the issue of election integrity have been remarkably consistent, notwithstanding wide variations in how individual judges constituting those courts were selected and differences in their ostensible political-party affiliations. How could that be?
The answer is judicial integrity. Judges make their decisions on the basis of legal standards rather than popular sentiments or political pressures. Their task, stated in the simplest terms, is to render decisions based on the application of applicable law to established facts.
Underlying this demonstration of judicial integrity is a system of laws, rules and procedures in the United States maintained by legislative bodies and bar associations and drilled into aspiring lawyers in law schools, that the rule of law governs in our political system and that those who become judges will commit to a standard of fairness and impartiality in application of those laws.
As has been revealed in debates over the selection of judges in the Supreme Court and lower courts in our federal system, differences do exist in judicial philosophy as to broader issues of constitutional law, and, as revealed by the practice of forum shopping, some judges, being human, are inclined to rule predictably in certain types of cases.
But still, even though the losing sides might not be happy about with the results in individual cases, decisions are not arbitrary. They are based upon reasoned analysis in accordance with applicable evidentiary and procedural rules.
Collective application of fundamentals of the rule of law with respect to the unfounded Trump claims has shown that our judicial system is fundamentally principled. In this instance, it has held firm against an assault with the potential of undermining the democracy for which the United States of American stands.
Clayton Parr, Draper, is a retired natural resources attorney who maintains pride in his profession.