Trump Explains Sovereignty and Ronald Radosh Loses It

by John Fonte

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My old friend Ronald Radosh, writing in the Daily Beast about President Trump’s recent United Nations speech, notes, “there was a critical word tucked into Donald Trump’s U.N. speech . . . that word is sovereignty and we should all understand what the president means when he invokes it.”

I agree, let us understand what he means.

What is sovereignty? I wrote a 450-page book on the subject (Sovereignty or Submission: Will Americans Rule Themselves or be Ruled by Others?) but in the end it all comes down to two words: who decides? Who decides a nation’s tax policy, foreign policy, trade policy, immigration policy? Will it be the people in the nation themselves or supranational global institutions?

A year ago, President Trump told the U.N. General Assembly, “In America the people govern, the people rule, and the people are sovereign.” Abraham Lincoln defined sovereignty as “a political authority without a political superior.” American leaders who have valued our own sovereignty have also valued the sovereignty of our friends and allies.

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It appears that what has triggered Radosh is Trump’s praise for the conservative government in Poland, which is taking seriously its election campaign promises to reform a corrupt judiciary. Radosh repeats the false progressive-liberal narrative that Poland is becoming “authoritarian” and “moving away from democracy.” He notes “the EU sued Poland for steps it has taken to undermine an independent judiciary.”

So, what is going on in Poland? The conservative Law and Justice government has inherited a corrupt judicial system that was established in 1989 in ”roundtable talks” between the “reformed” Communists and the anti-Communist Solidarity movement. Ultimately, the former Communists proved to be better negotiators.

Writing in National Review Online, Michael Brendan Dougherty described the unfortunate results of the roundtable negotiations. For decades, “the Polish judiciary was run like a medieval guild, with judges nominating their own successors. On occasion, the sons of existing judges would get preferential treatment over qualified law professors. Judges protected one another from lawsuits and pay freezes.” Further, the judiciary influenced by post-Communist elites repeatedly blocked transparency initiatives that would have revealed more perpetrators and collaborators of the crimes of the Communist-era dictatorship.

The Law and Justice government, whose leadership was formed by the most uncompromising anti-Communist elements in the Solidarity movement, is attempting to democratize the judiciary. In the final analysis, their judicial reforms will mean that democratically elected officials (rather than the sitting judges themselves) will play a role in the appointment of new judges. After all, in most Western democracies—including the United States and Germany—democratically elected officials participate in the process of choosing judges, otherwise one would have an unaccountable and undemocratic judicial oligarchy.

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