Attacks on Democracy Must Be Met With Politics, Not Law

Donald Trump
Donald Trump is accused of corrupting and defrauding the United States. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Commentary: Democracy is under brutal pressure from many sides. In the US, Donald Trump is under indictment for having "corrupted" the USA. In Sweden, limitations of freedom of speech are discussed in order to put an end to the burning of the Quran. Attacking political decay with legal means does not solve the problem.


Norsk versjon.

Trump and burners of the Quran have in common that they oppose democratic processes with consequences far beyond their national borders. Not least, it is significant for Ukraine's fight for peace and independence. Trump because he will not, as president, guarantee help to Ukraine. The book burners because they are throwing a spanner in the works of Sweden's sovereign right to NATO membership. 

Copying dictatorships 

Yesterday, former president Donald Trump met in court, accused of what can most simply be described as treason. This is about a sitting president who encouraged his constituents to attack democratic institutions in order to prevent the chosen president, Joe Biden, from coming to power.

This Trumpian attempt to copy the dictatorship as a form of government is supported by an increasing majority of his Republican constituents. 

We are talking about the popularity of a president with no respect for democratic political processes, where even the alleged crimes against American society make no other impression on his supporters than that they flock around him. 

In Sweden and Denmark, legal means are being considered to stop the burning of the Quran, which literally puts Western democratic institutions ablaze in Muslim countries. In a purely formal sense, political leaders in two Scandinavian countries are looking for means to make Quran burning illegal. Today, the book burning is threatening both NATO and the Western democracies' ability and possibility to defend Ukraine as a free and independent state.

The effect of Donald Trump's denial of democracy and the book burners in Scandinavia is, if not in strength, then in consequence, quite comparable.

Parodically, the right to freedom of speech is used as an argument in both cases.

The US Constitution does not protect the right to incite illegal acts.

Freedom of speech

Trump invokes the US Constitution's First Amendment, a constitutional protection of the American freedom of speech dating back to 1791. Throughout the years, this protection has adapted to a more modern reality, but it has never protected the right to incite illegal acts. On the contrary, and that is precisely what Trump is accused of. 

Sweden also has legislation with a very thorough, detailed, and extensive protection of the freedom of speech. The protection is so extensive that even people, such as Quran burners, who want to ban others' political statements, receive almost absolute protection for their actions.

It will weaken democracy more than it will strengthen it.

The law and the judiciary are suitable means when crimes are committed and are to be punished.

However, the law does not and will never solve the democratic challenges which arise when political movements so brown that they belong to another time are resurrected in countries that traditionally have been democratic guarantors. 

Criminal acts

The courts may convict Donald Trump, but it does not solve the political realities that brought him to power and may lift him back into the presidential chair.

Limiting the freedom of speech in Sweden and Denmark to stop groups that aim to precisely limit the freedom of speech will weaken democracy more than it will strengthen it. 

Meeting criminal and conspiratory acts with legal means may be necessary. The indictment of Donald Trump is emblematic of that. 

However, the law does not solve the problem of Donald Trump or the book burning in Sweden and Denmark.

That can only be solved through politics.

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This commentary was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by HNN's Birgitte Annie Molid Martinussen.