AMERICA: MURDER BY SUICIDE
“My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over … Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule. But there is a higher Power, by whatever name we honor him, who ordains not only righteousness but love, not only justice but mercy.” – Gerald Ford in his 1974 swearing in speech.
One of the most interesting aspects of our current long national nightmare is how unfocused it is. I wonder what we are expecting to achieve, and what we believe we are protecting. With the increasing likelihood of prosecuting Donald Trump, are we at the threshold of returning to normalcy? Looking back, Ford’s comforting words weren’t true then any more than Reagan’s were when he promised us, only 6 years later, that “It’s morning again in America”. And both seem quaint and naïve in the context of today’s zero-sum politics.
For the first time in our history, we have a president who threatens to pardon himself while simultaneously declaring his absolute innocence of the crimes for which he is being accused. This is nothing, if not an attempt to erode the very rules that govern the Executive Branch. And this erosion of our institutions is being furthered by the robust support of this president by his own party. In doing so, aren’t they complicit in a conspiracy by remaining silent and doing nothing? They have shared information about their own investigations with Trump’s attorneys; they have refused to conduct thorough congressional investigations; and they appear on television questioning the integrity of those tasked by them to conduct the investigation. Trump’s supporters see only a fearless iconoclast, while the rest of the world sees an autocrat seizing control of democratic institutions to further consolidate his power as he siphons the life out of our republic.
Clearly, we can all see that our Constitution is neither infallible nor inviolable. But clearly, by now, we can also see that we lack the means by which to remove a criminal president if his political party, riddled with corruption, has legislated ways in which to subvert the intent of the Constitution by gaming the system: gerrymandering districts, voter suppression tactics like those implemented in North Carolina and Georgia, legislative abuses such as Wisconsin’s GOP sponsored efforts to strip a Democratic governor of his powers, and packing the Supreme Court with partisans who favor dramatic reversals of campaign finance regulations and women’s rights to control their own bodies. How can we rely on the power of the popular vote to right this ship if that vote is stripped of its power to act? What we see in our rear-view mirror today is not the notion of American exceptionalism but, instead, proof of how far we’ve fallen. Last year, The Economist Intelligence Unit, part of the magazine, The Economist, reduced its rating of the strength of our democracy from Full Democracy to a Flawed Democracy. Flawed, indeed.
When our constitution was written, the two-party system of today did not exist. There were, in fact, no political parties then, and concern that party politics could thwart the proper function of the legislature was even expressed by George Washington in his Farewell Address of 1796 with his reference to “sectionalism”. The Republican Party of today has found ways in which to undermine the ability of government institutions that were established by the Constitution to act as mechanisms to prevent the misuse of power by demagogues like Donald Trump or self-serving politicians like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan.
The state of our democracy today resembles that of many other democracies around the world, all of which are stressed by the same titanic changes that have emerged as a result of globalization and technological innovation. But our Constitution is an 18th Century document that is exceedingly difficult to amend so that it can adapt to the challenges posed by modernity. And what we are now seeing are its vulnerabilities being exploited ruthlessly by the corporate and plutocratic interests that now own the Republican Party.
So, we must ask ourselves whether this 17-month gladiatorial struggle being played by Donald Trump and Robert Mueller is merely a remake of The Untouchables – an excerpt from our American cultural breviary restating the prediction that good triumphs over evil – or whether this struggle should be seen as more epic in nature…as a struggle to preserve a system of government that is the embodiment of a social contract that has proven to be the most productive in human history. We need to bring our Constitution into the world of today. And the rule governing impeachment must be amended so that it is no longer a political process. We must not permit a criminal president like Donald Trump to remain in office, resign, or ever have the right to run for office again.
If this erosion of liberal democracy is allowed to continue while we, once again, continue to comfort ourselves with feelgood platitudes from our most flawed leaders, then our rear-view mirrors will reflect for all of history: America: Murder by Suicide.
Photo: dbking edited from Wikimedia Commons
Deborah Long is a Principal at Development Management Group, Inc. and founder of several non-profit charitable organizations. If you find her perspectives interesting, controversial, or provocative, follow her at: https://www.facebook.com/debby.long.98499?ref=br_rs