Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A mild balm for my July 4th pessimism

Eugene Robinson, Pultizer Prize winning editorialist for The Washington Post and political analyst for MSNBC, wrote this powerful essay.  He's more optimistic than my rather dark musings about the future of our democracy.
"Our #FakeHero President Is An Insult to Our Founders"
Eugene Robinson

"The signers of the Declaration of Independence were highly imperfect men. Thomas Jefferson and his fellow Southerners were rank hypocrites for declaring 'all men are created equal' while owning men, women and children as their slaves.  John Adams was sour and disputatious . . . Benjamin Franklin could have been described as kind of a dirty old man.

"Yet they laid out a set of principles, later codified in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, that transcended their flaws. At this bizarre moment in our history, it is useful to remember that the ideas and institutions of the American experiment are much more powerful and enduring than the idiosyncrasies of our leaders.

"I call this moment bizarre for obvious reasons. . . . We have a president who neither understands nor respects the basic norms of American democracy. Make no mistake:  Donald Trump is a true aberration.  There is no figure like him in U.S. history, for which we should be thankful.

"Trump’s inexperience is unique; he is the only president never to have served in government or the military. This weakness is exponentially compounded by his ignorance of both policy and process, his lack of curiosity, his inability to focus and his tremendous insecurity. He refuses to acknowledge his shortcomings, let alone come to terms with them; and he desperately craves the kind of sycophantic adulation that George Washington, a genuine hero, pointedly rejected.

"Trump is a #FakeHero. He strings along his supporters with promises he has no idea how to keep. Like many a would-be strongman before him, he defines himself politically by the fights he picks; he erects straw men . . . because authoritarians always need enemies. Yet his ego is a delicate hothouse flower, threatened by the slightest puff of criticism.

"The Founders, mindful of their own faults, ultimately designed a system to contain a rogue president. They limited his elective term to four years, gave checking and balancing powers to the legislative and judicial branches, and designed impeachment as a last-ditch remedy. . . .

"The role of the citizenry — to express approval or disapproval at the ballot box — includes making sure that suffrage is not selectively and unfairly denied by restrictive voter-ID laws or partisan purges of the voter rolls. It is heartening that red states have joined blue in resisting the attempt by Trump’s trumped-up “voter fraud” commission to assemble a national list of voters. . .

"Congress must assert its powers of oversight. . . .  [T]he signers of the Declaration . . . saw the mingling of royal power and British commercial interests as corrupt. We now have a president whose far-flung business empire — which he has refused to divest, and which his family still operates — presents myriad potential conflicts of interest. Trump has deepened the swamp, not drained it; and Congress has a duty to sort through the muck.

"Congress must also let Trump know, in no uncertain terms, that any attempt to impede or disrupt special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian election meddling will have the gravest consequences. Trump should be told that firing Mueller would automatically be considered grounds for impeachment.

"The justices of the Supreme Court, meanwhile, should study the court’s decisions in United States v. Nixon . . . and Bush v. Gore . . .  Both were instances wherein the court, which rightly shies away from decisions that determine who occupies the presidency, felt it had no choice but to act. It is no stretch to imagine that
Trump’s contempt for the Constitution will once again force the court’s hand.

"The Fourth of July is no day for despair. It’s a day to remember that our system, though vulnerable to a charlatan such as Trump, is robust and resilient. Eventually he will be tossed or voted out. And the star-spangled banner yet will wave."

It's worth noting that, although Robinson has faith in our system of checks and balances, he also sees the Trump presidency as one that will inevitably test the system -- and force the checking function to act.  That's how bad the situation is, and Robinson seems to agree with that.


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