Are We About to Reelect a Modern-Day Godfather?

Thug culture has crossed over into major party politics.

3 mins read
a protester in front of the US Capitol holding a sign
Photo: Maria Thalassinou / Unsplash

This will be an election in infamy, I’m sure, for many reasons, but one of the more pronounced are the felony convictions that plague both the Trump and Biden candidacies for the White House. President Richard Nixon must be turning in his grave right now. 

Although we have had members of our First Families who behaved in scandalous and felonious fashion, never before in American history has one major party candidate been a convicted felon and the other major party candidate the father of a convicted felon.

The executive, namely the President, who appoints the leadership of the Justice Department with Senate approval, has to live the “rule of law” and the reality that “no one is above the law.”

But wait a minute.

The Supreme Court ruling on the last day of the Court’s term, in Trump vs. United States, now grants immunity from prosecution to the President for the first time in our history. Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the majority opinion, “We conclude that under our constitutional structure of separated powers, the nature of presidential power requires that a former president have some immunity from criminal prosecution for official acts during his tenure in office,” while Justice Sotomayor characterized the ruling as effectively creating a “law-free zone around the president.”

In her sharply worded dissent for the minority opinion, Sotomayor wrote, “When he uses his official powers in any way, under the majority’s reasoning, he now will be insulated from criminal prosecution. Orders the Navy’s Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political rival? Immune. Organizes a military coup to hold onto power? Immune. Takes a bribe in exchange for a pardon? Immune. Immune, immune, immune.”

I guess that leaves the ultimate political punishment of impeachment. Oh, goodie, more impeachments.

These felony convictions are for acts Trump committed before becoming President, and Hunter Biden is obviously not subject to the Supreme Court ruling. However, the convictions are in no way comparable except for their relationship to the presidency. And even in that regard, the difference between a convicted felon president and the convicted felon son of a seated president is considerable and should pose very different concerns or threats to us.

Although neither felony convictions have anything to do with the present campaign in 2024, Trump’s hush money convictions have the implied motive of suppressing information to affect the outcome of the 2016 election. Historically, Watergate was all about crimes committed to affect the outcome of an election.

Times’ Kids

In the summer of 1973, I participated in the News Media Workshop at the Los Angeles Times. It was the first and, to my knowledge, the only time this workshop was held. I was eighteen years old and an impressionable teenager.

Thirty-seven of us, LAUSD high school newspaper editors, became known thereafter as the “Times’ Kids.”

However, that summer became much more notorious as the “summer of Watergate” when the Senate hearings were underway. As a “Times’ Kid” at a major city newspaper, I not only recollect the daily disclosures of alleged crimes committed by the highest officials in the Nixon Administration but also the revelation that President Nixon himself may have committed serious crimes. It took the loss of Republican Party support to convince Nixon finally to resign the presidency in 1974. And rather than face justice, Nixon’s Vice President, Gerald Ford, elevated to the Presidency upon Nixon’s resignation, pardoned Nixon of all federal crimes.

As an idealistic teenager, I felt cheated by a dual judicial system where political power appears to be protected. It seemed as though Nixon got around the law rather than pleading his case in court, and we were robbed of proof that no man is above the law.

Kissing the Ring

Today both candidates enjoy support from enthusiastic followers and their respective political parties despite the felony convictions. Something has changed.

But before you start rewatching the movie “The Godfather” (1972) to learn the new Presidential protocol, namely the kissing of his ring, I think you have to ask yourself whether the convictions should have a bearing on how we vote in November.

Before the first debate, the convictions hardly budged the polling needle. Support for Trump went down by barely one percent, and Biden’s support never wavered. It would seem that criminality is becoming normalized. Thug culture has crossed over from pop culture to mainstream politics, as prognosticated in the movie “Bulworth” (1998). 

Now, the first debate, particularly Biden’s poor performance, has overshadowed any impact on the election by the convictions. We have nothing much to draw on historically or otherwise for interpretation here. Not even the legacy of Watergate helps us put this in context.

We are in new territory now, and, at first blush, it would appear that we have lower expectations of our candidates…namely to be America’s Mafia Don and a ‘tough hombre’ to domestic and foreign adversaries.

Do we want ‘crime families’ to maintain domestic tranquility through intimidation and threat of violence? There is no indication of resistance to it.

May Richard Nixon finally rest in peace.   

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Casey Coss

Casey is an Emmy-winning television producer and entrepreneur. A proud gay man, he hosts the "Casey's Cause" podcast on Pasadena Media. When he is not solving the issues of the day, he is walking his dogs, Mac and Rudy. Email: [email protected]

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