The 2016 presidential election has narrowed down to three candidates who each poses a challenge to the rule of law.
Donald Trump is currently continuing his attacks on the federal judge presiding in the Trump University fraud case, whom Trump says is biased because of his Mexican heritage. He has also threatened to rein in the media by changing libel laws, and has said the U.S. should kill the families of terrorists (though he later said he would obey international law).
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) believes that the state should have vast powers to seize and redistribute private wealth. Though he claims to be a “democratic” socialist, his policies have destroyed the rule of law everywhere they have been tried. (Pressed to comment on socialism’s ongoing self-destruction in Venezuela, Sanders has declined to respond.)
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is currently under investigation by the FBI for serious criminal charges regarding her mis-handling of classified information. Last month, the State Department inspector general found that she violated the rules on the handling of her e-mails. And she lied to the public about being willing to cooperate with investigators, whom she ignored.
In sum, each candidate poses something of a threat to the rule of law: Trump by rhetoric, Sanders by ideology, and Clinton by personal example.
The 2016 campaign has also been marred by violence. Trump supporters have attacked hecklers inside rallies — initially, with the candidate’s encouragement — and Trump opponents have attacked Trump supporters without any provocation, most recently in San Jose last week, while the police looked on. (The major of San Jose blamed Trump.)
It is important to recognize that this breakdown began with Barack Obama, who in 2008 not only encouraged his supporters to confront those who disagreed with them, but also coddled the extremists of Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter, while demonizing Republicans and disregarding both Congress and the Constitution through rule by executive order. Obama made possible what was previously unthinkable — while the media and academia applauded his supposedly good intentions.
And so here we are.
The 2016 election is a reaction to eight years of Obama’s soft authoritarian style. Republican voters have punished their party for failing to stand up to Obama by nominating an outsider with a strong persona.
Democrats, largely unrepentant, are torn between Clinton, whose loyalists have helped run the Obama administration, and Sanders, who represents Obama’s core beliefs and the “community organizing” world from whence he came.
There is no candidate who stands for the traditional institutions and values of the constitutional system. And so the question becomes: which threat is the least bad?
This is a less unusual question than it may seem at first, given that we like to think of our chosen candidates in positive terms. Certainly the messianic cult that Obama built around himself in 2008, complete with supernatural powers (“the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal”), was seductive to millions.
But most elections are between human beings, and the reason our Constitution has endured is that it is not designed to bring salvation, but to prevent failure.
Of these three challenges to the rule of law, only Trump can be contained by, and within, our legal and constitutional system.
Sanders refuses to compromise his ideals, and if there is anything Obama has taught us, it is that the seductive promises of socialism are virtually impossible to resist in the absence of a Cold War enemy.
Clinton regards herself as above the law; once in power, her network of cronies will ensure she remains so.
Trump, at least, evokes principled resistance from his own party, as well as the press, who have belatedly re-discovered the Constitution and can be counted on to use it against him.
Between three poisons, pick the one with an antidote.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new e-book, Leadership Secrets of the Kings and Prophets: What the Bible’s Struggles Teach Us About Today, is on sale through Amazon Kindle Direct. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.