If convicted, don’t put Trump in jail

A few thoughts on our squirrely political world:

With boxes of classified documents stored in one of his bathrooms as part of the evidence against him, former President Donald Trump looks guilty as hell. If found guilty, and it appears likely, he could face jail time.

I have no problem with a conviction, but am not in favor of making him an even larger martyr in the eyes of his mega-MAGA believers, about one-third of Republican voters. A Trump behind bars would be an open wound in our political system.

Never wrong, always the victim, he would have a telegenic platform in an orange suit from which to rant endlessly about his innocence.

I therefore would be satisfied if he is found to be a legitimate felon by a jury of his peers, his fellow citizens, and thereby ruled out of running for any office ever again.

Put him on parole so he can play golf in his remaining years.

If found guilty, the judge will have the first opportunity to mitigate the damage to our political system with a pragmatic non-jail sentence.

But President Biden could calm the nation, too. He could pardon Trump for his relatively low-level offenses. Trump didn’t kill anyone, and he apparently didn’t sell the classified information.

President Gerald Ford calmed the waters in 1974 when he pardoned Richard Nixon for illegal Watergate activities. His controversial decision allowed the country to heal.

It was heartening that gridlock in Madison and Washington D.C. proved non-fatal. Centrist Republicans and centrist Democrats in both capitals carried the day on compromises to keep their governments running.

After throwing out Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ budget, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu used their solid majorities to craft a state budget that Evers could live with. The extremes of both parties were overruled by the solid center.

Gridlock, when neither party has outright control, works to eliminate excesses of policy and spending. With the centrists of both parties in charge, the big winners were local schools, both public and private, and local governments in Wisconsin.

Ditto at the federal level when House Speaker Kevin McCarthy stood up to the Republican firebrands on the far right and sold a compromise bill to raise the federal debt limit while containing in federal spending.

As with all compromises, nobody got everything they wanted.

The majority of Wisconsin congressmen supported the master compromise. Two Republicans, Sen. Ron Johnson and Rep. Tom Tiffany from up north, and two lefty Democrats, Mark Pocan and Gwen Moore of Milwaukee, opposed the compromise deal. Had those four ideologues prevailed, and U.S. welched on its $31 trillion in debt, a nasty recession was in the cards.

Many businesses that are still recovering from the COVID economic convulsion of 2020 and 2021 could have ended up on the rocks, along with their employees.

If you are an uncompromising ideologue, those economic hits to prosperity are somehow not high on your radar screen.

Business people, big and small, would have been furious if an unnecessary tuition had resulted.

What prompted Robin Vos to end the Wisconsin Cold War with Gov. Evers? And vice versa? The $7 billion state surplus provided the grease to fund pivotal education agendas. Most people in the state knew of the huge surplus; it would have looked weird not to put it to good use.

Most people I talk to want our government to work to good ends; they don’t care about scoring political points. Vos and Evers certainly heard that, too.

Vos once commented wryly when I was in the room that Assembly Speakers don’t ever become governors, because they have to make many tough calls and build up layers of political baggage and numerous disgruntled people.

Maybe he thinks he can change the perception of him as a partisan pit bull to that of a high-minded leader and statesman.

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