By Bhavya Surapaneni
Castle Pines, Colorado
As former President Donald Trump is implicated in an FBI document investigation of his Florida vacation resort, Mar-a-Lago, questions of executive privilege, democratic practices, and political corruption arise. What happened at Mar-a-Lago? Is former President Trump immune to consequences as per executive privilege? Such questions continue to be posed by people around the country, and the answers have major implications for the future of American democracy.
This investigation occurs on the toes of other social and political controversies on the American stage, most notably the continuation of the January 6th probe and the reversal of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court, removing nation-wide protections of a woman’s right to an abortion. The Department of Justice has ramped up the investigation into January 6th, with questions of Trump’s conduct and actions at the center of the probe. The reversal of Roe as per Dobbs v. Jackson has been headline news for weeks, with many red states’ abortion trigger laws going into effect, President Biden signing an executive order for access to reproductive services, and citizens protesting the Roe reversal on the streets of every American city. In a nation that has been becoming increasingly polarized during much of the 21st century, it is safe to say that the divergence of beliefs in America is more now clear than ever before. Classifications of red vs. blue and pro-life vs. pro-choice seem to hold more weight in a society that cannot come to consensus on the most critical issues facing its citizens.
On September 1, 2022, in a prime-time speech, President Biden addressed the issues harming the state of American diversity, commenting primarily on ‘Make America Great Again’ rhetoric and the harm it has inflicted. Biden stated that “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic,” and further said, “MAGA forces are determined to take this country backwards—backwards to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry who you love.”
The most notable and memorable piece of Biden’s speech was his stating that “we [are] in a battle for the soul of this nation.” Biden returned to the theme of his presidential campaign, discussing “democracy and peril” and the importance of an inclusive, safe America, as per the tenets America was built upon.
The Mar-A-Lago Investigation, Dobbs v. Jackson, and the January 6th probe all have the potential to change the fate of the 2022 midterm elections on Tuesday, November 8th. News sources such as PBS predict that the shock factor of Mar-a-Lago will enforce the idea that a vote for the Republican party is a vote for Donald Trump and MAGA rhetoric, which could draw away from the Republican vote. At the end of his Battle for the Soul of the Nation speech, Biden culminated with a call to action, urging Americans to “speak up. Speak out. Get engaged. Vote, vote, vote.” After Biden’s fervent speech, political journalist Jeff Greenfield said that “[Democrats] want this campaign focused as much as they can on saying, you might not be that fond of Joe Biden, but look at the alternative. And I believe that was the intention of the speech. It was the opening gun to the last round of the midterms.”
As the Mar-a-Lago investigation and other divisive events in American politics continue to escalate, the implications for American democracy may become clear. Or, we may have to wait until November 8th to see whether democracy remains to be “in peril.”