OPINION: On America’s political front, we must avoid Murphy’s Law

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Many people have heard of Murphy’s Law. While it may not be scientific or philosophically inevitable, it does seem to operate unerringly across the history of relatively powerless people, especially African American citizens. In its simplest form, the law says that if anything bad can happen, it will, or if things can get worse, they will. 

When Donald Trump descended the escalator in Trump Tower to announce his candidacy for the U.S. Presidency in 2016, many people laughed, feeling that there was no way he would obtain the Republican nomination. After he was nominated, many felt that there was no way he would win the election over Hillary Clinton. Yet, worse continued to get worse; he was inaugurated as president. 

The country then got a break with control of the Senate and the House. The measures most destructive for low-income, working-class, non-white, and marginalized people did not get enacted to law. Furthermore, the Democrats won control of the House the second year into the Trump presidency and of the Senate near the end of his presidency. This made it look as if Murphy’s Law had been put to bed or averted. 

Alas, it was only a reprieve because as Trump lost the presidency to Joe Biden in 2020, he fomented a set of insurrectionary actions, culminating in an attack on the Capitol to prevent the certification of Biden as president. It did not seem to matter that Trump was then impeached for that role and that the Congressional January 6th Committee exposed the plot, matters got worse around the country. Murphy’s Law had again reared its head.

Attorney General Merrick Garland took almost forever to appoint a special counsel to take any action and even longer for counselor Jack Smith to seek indictments for the insurrection or Trump’s taking of government documents when he left the office. This gave Trump time to announce his candidacy for the presidency and to get far down the road, using free speech opportunities. It was clear for all to see that this was Trump’s way of hopefully preventing the investigation, indictment, and imprisonment.

The country is now in an apparent, virtual civil war launched by Trump’s far-right supporters to not only prevent his imprisonment, but to get him into the office of president and to do away with democracy as we know it. As the revolutionaries move forward and are engaged by the federal government and defenders of American democracy, it seems that there is no clear path that can be taken to avoid Murphy’s Law. Bad conditions continue to deteriorate.

The legal process of indictment, trial, and conviction in Florida, Georgia, New York, and D.C. is in each case met with possible loop-holes. There are the matters of the cases being assigned Trump-friendly judges, of hung juries being possible, of lenient sentences, and even of pardons if he is convicted. Murphy’s Law is perched at every corner.

Several imminent Constitutional scholars have pointed to the Fourteenth Amendment’s disqualification provision as a way of eliminating the threat of another presidential administration. Of course, many who are familiar with America’s political system realize that such an attempted action would end-up in the Supreme Court, which is currently packed with conservative, and seemingly Trump-sympathetic justices. Again, we are staring at Murphy’s Law.

Perhaps the least cluttered path out of the morass is the ballot box. Here, however, proponents of democracy are faced with the uncertain matters of low voter turn-out, the implementation of voter suppression techniques, and negative reality of the undemocratic electoral college. Each has to be overcome. It should be a no-brainer given the fact that the majority of citizens seem to be opposed to the anti-democratic and lawlessness of much of Trump’s far-right support base and when one compares to policies and accomplishments of President Biden and the Democrats at the national and state levels, compared to the negative positions and the anti-democratic intentions of Trump and the Republicans. Murphy’s Law can be turned aside. 

Yet, the success of the effort depends upon the political education of the voters, the effectiveness of political messaging, and even upon the personal motivation of each citizen. Murphy’s Law thrives when people fail to be vigilant in protecting their rights and the idea of democracy. If too many remain asleep or let down their guard, things can go wrong, and they will. 

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OPINION: On America’s political front, we must avoid Murphy’s Law

By Dr. Ivory Phillips
September 11, 2023