Why Trump v. Vance really matters

As soon as the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Trump v. Vance was announced Thursday morning, there was jubilation. I tweeted “LAW AND ORDER!” (as did several other clever commentators), gently mocking the president’s repeated tweeting of that same all-caps phrase.

Soon, however, the deep analysis began, and the consensus seemed to be that, while initially the decision was a defeat for Trump, actually it was a HUGE WIN for him and a DISAPPOINTING SETBACK for liberals/progressives/humans in general.

Why? The ruling doesn’t actually turn over Trump’s tax records immediately, to either the Manhattan grand jury or to Congressional committees seeking them. So the whole issue probably gets kicked down the road beyond the November election, meaning the contents of those mysterious tax returns won’t be used against Trump in presidential campaign ads.

This is how we got here. This is the world we live in. Every decision is parsed through the lens of hyper partisan politics. Everything is a win for one side and a loss for the other. It’s the zero-sum game taken to its insane extreme.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand there’s a political component in any court decision. Most of the time, one political faction will benefit more than others.

But can’t we just celebrate the fact that the Supreme Court of the United States, despite the attempts by the current administration to select jurists who would reliably decide things in its favor, just voted 7-2 to uphold the concept that no American is above the law? (Notably, Trump appointees Kavanaugh and Gorsuch voted with the majority, and chief justice Roberts wrote the majority opinion.)

After all, if the decision had gone the other way, you could argue that American democracy was over, replaced with a dictatorship. That’s not hyperbole; if the president can’t be held to account for violations of the law, the president is essentially a dictator. (Potentially benign, sure, but still a dictator.) So the decision in Trump v. Vance was crucial, perhaps the most crucial decision SCOTUS has made in generations. They confirmed what we were all taught in school growing up: that in the U.S. no one, not even the president, is above the law.

The dictatorship was put on hold for now. LAW AND ORDER!

Author: Tom Kephart

Actor, director, writer. Social media guy. Higher ed drone. Sings for beer in karaoke bars.