Why Iowa Voters Rejected ‘Lawfare’ Against Donald Trump

Former US President Donald Trump, second left, speaks at a caucus night watch party in Des Moines, Iowa, US, on Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. Trump cruised to victory in the Iowa caucus, warding off a late challenge from rivals Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley and cementing his status as the clear Republican frontrunner in the race. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Last night we witnessed something pretty weird and unique at the Iowa caucuses. For the first time in American political history a presidential candidate from the out-of-power party won the caucus without ever participating in the debates or even actively campaigning in the state. Pro-Trump people will hail it as a triumph, and the never-Trumpers as an abomination. But when it comes to Donald Trump and his long strange trip into, and then out of, and then perhaps back into the White House, what do the results say about the state of our country?

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Trump’s candidacy so far is that the more his enemies (in both parties) try to take him down, the more popular he becomes. Indeed, no modern president has had so many forces arrayed against him. From rogue DA’s who openly ran for office with promises to prosecute Trump, to a hostile Congress and their sham impeachments, to the courts in progressive states kicking him off their ballots, to the media’s one-sided reportage, to Big Tech’s outright censorship, all the way to opposition from the wealthy donor class, Trump has had to battle wave upon wave of attacks and legal charges, frivolous and otherwise, all with one goal in mind — to prevent him from sitting behind the Resolute Desk ever again. And it appears they will continue to do whatever it takes to knock him out of the running. 

Those who oppose him are so entrenched in their manic disdain for this one man that, as Sam Harris has shown, they will rationalize ripping to shreds the credibility of our most important institutions in their jihad against the Teflon Donald. They would, to borrow an old phrase, “destroy the village to save it.” 

In fact, so aggressive has their prosecutorial zeal towards this one man been that attempts to decapitate the Trump candidacy are being called “Lawfare.” And my hunch is that a lot of Americans don’t like it. I’m not even a Trump man (I prefer DeSantis myself having seen what he’s done for Florida) and yet I have found myself repeatedly in print defending the besieged Donald from what I perceive as far greater threats to the country and “our sacred democracy” than who becomes the head at the end of one neck of the federal hydra. Americans are not always the quickest to realize what are bad policies and dangerous ideas. Nevertheless, we do catch on if they persist. And the overwhelming vote for Trump last night could very well be read as a repudiation of the machinations of political insiders and powerful interests weaponizing the law to take this man out in a way that would have made Lavrentiy Beria nod with satisfaction.

I wonder, is it just the instinctual revulsion to seeing the courtroom being wielded like a club by those who see themselves not just above the law but outside it that is at the heart of Trump’s win? Perhaps. But then again, for many others, it could be the complete breakdown of trust in every major institution in the country. Once important pillars of the Republic — a free and impartial press, enlightened education, equal and open exchange of ideas, corporate responsibility, a thriving middle class, a political leadership that caters to the needs and hears the concerns of its constituents, wise foreign policy, the legitimacy of the electoral process, and now even the law itself— have been, in the eyes of millions, hopelessly corrupted by people with the ruthless drive to wield the power these combined institutions can bring to bear on the average citizen. This feeling has only been solidified by the clear leveling of all the barrels of government power aimed at this one man just to ruin him.

And given his willingness to withstand (perhaps even relish) the slings and arrows of his many enemies inside and outside the D.C. Beltway, Trump has taken on the moniker of martyr. His supporters see in him their own William Wallace or Thomas Becket. (At least the film versions). When Trump says “It’s not me they’re after, but you,” this has real meaning for many who feel very much like they no longer have any say in their nation’s direction. One must think that more than a few of the 51% of those who braved the cold to cast ballots for Trump see him as their last hope to save the Republic from those detached insiders leading the country to destruction while pulling the strings of a mentally enfeebled president in name only.

It has often been said that Trump did not cause the divisions in our country so much as arise out of them — his opponents might say exploited them. However one wishes to view Trump’s victory in Iowa, it should be made clear that in this one state at least, voters took the measure of the man and weighed him against the charges hanging over his head and found the latter wanting. So many people I know on the Left are shaking their heads. “How is it that a man indicted on 91 felony charges could get any votes for dog catcher let alone the highest office in the land?” they ask in dismay. The answer is simple. The caucus participants considered who brought the charges and why and, as telling, who’s been spared prosecution due to party affiliation, despite their own demonstrable crimes. Iowans saw through the charade. As the great litigator Vincent LaGuardia Gambini once told a jury, they simply concluded that “everything dat guy just said is bulls***.”

Trump’s victory is both encouraging and concerning. It is encouraging in that it should tell those willing to use the law like a tinhorn generalissimo to silence opposition that it will not happen on Iowans’ watch at least. But the fact that such a message even needed to be sent shows in what a perilous position we find ourselves. More so than I think people understand. As mentioned above, if the citizenry no longer trusts the institutions, then a government built around democratic principles will collapse. It has to. If one doesn’t believe the law is equally applied, that it is nothing more than one of many political arrows in the quiver to let fly whenever an upstart gets too close to tipping the establishment apple cart, then why obey the law at all?

Thus we see the true dangers of what is often called Trump Derangement Syndrome. When people are either so self-righteous, or, more likely, so cynical that they are willing to scrap the institutions and processes that keep us from falling into the abyss of totalitarianism to destroy one man, they become the very ‘fascists’ they are too busy accusing others of supporting to see it in themselves. Or, worse, they don’t care as power is the aim, not a representative republic or, as the preamble to the Constitution reminds us, to “promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty”.

Representative, democratically structured governments are a relative newcomer to the political universe. At our founding, we were a lone, bright star in a firmament of monarchs, tsars, emperors, and despots. Our revolution and the republic it ushered in was the exception, not the rule, to governance throughout all recorded history. A mere 248 years against over some 5,400. And as we have learned through many hard and bloody lessons in failed nation-building disasters since the great democracies put down fascism and then held back communism, it may not even be the natural state of humankind. The authors of the Constitution knew a dark truth: ambitious men left unchecked will chase power, and all the brutality and corruption that goes with it. That we have thrived in our brief moment in the sun is a testament not to us as a people, for we are no different than any others when it comes to human nature, but rather the strength and legitimacy of the institutions our Framers bestowed upon us. Without them we are just another oligarchy in the making.

Love him, hate him, or, if you’re like me, take the good with the bad and judge him in a line-item fashion, there is no denying that Trump’s victory in Iowa was a pivotal event in American politics. Whether it is for the good or the bad, only time will tell.

Benjamin Franklin’s famous warning to a woman who inquired after the Constitutional Convention ended as to what form of government they’d created for the new country rings in my ears louder today than it has in a long time. “We have given you a Republic — If you can keep it.” 

Last night Iowans tried to keep it. For a little while longer anyway.

* * *

Brad Schaeffer is a commodities trader, author, columnist, and musician whose eclectic body of writing can be found in the Wall Street Journal, New York Post, New York Daily News, Daily Wire, National Review, The Hill, The Federalist, Zerohedge, and others. His latest book LIFE IN THE PITS: My Time As A Trader On The Rough-And-Tumble Exchange Floors is available on Amazon and soon Audible. 

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Why Iowa Voters Rejected ‘Lawfare’ Against Donald Trump