Political prosecutions mean diminishing liberty here, overseas


The world is becoming less free. That’s the takeaway from a report released Thursday by Freedom House, a think tank best known for its annual summary of the state of political rights and civil liberties around the globe.

The nongovernmental organization raised an alarm at the dimming of liberty’s torch in 52 nations, with only 21 countries reporting improvements. The conclusions were based on criteria that, applied to the United States, would make an honest observer wonder whether we still qualify as a free country.

Since Freedom House receives all but a fraction of its funding from the State Department, it has never been particularly introspective. But what would it say, if identifying information were withheld, about a country in which a state judge from one political party erased all votes for the opposition party’s candidate?

That’s what happened Wednesday when Illinois Circuit Judge Tracie R. Porter, a Democrat, issued the following order: “The Illinois State Board of Election shall remove Donald J. Trump from the ballot for the General Primary Election on March 19, 2024, or cause any votes cast for him to be suppressed.”

As Freedom House observes, even countries nominally listed as free aren’t legitimately so if officials are allowed to tilt the election process to maintain their grip on power.

“One of the most widespread methods for manipulating competition in an election is controlling the field of candidates that appear on the ballot,” the latest report explains. “Candidates or parties can be arbitrarily disqualified before the election, leaving voters with fewer choices.”

In condemning Vladimir Putin, for example, Freedom House complains that the Russian strongman, in addition to booting opponents from the ballot, “imprisoned activists and politicians.”

That neatly describes the next phase of the Democratic Party’s response to Mr. Trump’s candidacy. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is sprinting to the courthouse to open a felony criminal trial of Mr. Trump, with jury selection beginning as soon as Mar. 25.

Famous for his refusal to prosecute violent criminals, Mr. Bragg openly campaigned on his willingness to use the legal system to go after the former president. He now threatens to jail Mr. Trump under a contrived legal theory that a payment made eight years ago to make adult film actress Stormy Daniels go away somehow represented an in-kind political contribution to Mr. Trump’s successful 2016 campaign.

According to Mr. Bragg, the only legal thing to do would have been to make the payment from the campaign account, and not personal funds. The premise is so preposterous that even the Department of Justice wasn’t interested in pursuing the case. Billionaires often find it easier to make “hush payments” than provide fodder for the tabloids with a public dispute — regardless of the truth of the underlying allegations. This payment would have been made had there been no election.

The Supreme Court is set to rule on at least two of the novel legal propositions Democrats are advancing to interfere in the upcoming U.S. election. Let’s hope the justices are wise enough to spare us from the ignominy of being ranked alongside countries notorious for rigged elections such as Burundi, Iran, Nicaragua, Russia and Venezuela.

By Editorial Board  The Washington Times  Friday, March 1, 2024