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Friday, February 9, 2018

Sam Webb: Democracy at risk

Democracy at risk

I lived through Watergate, but I can't recall that I felt that democratic norms, institutions, and traditions were in such danger as they are now. Not for a long time, maybe never has the country experienced the likes of what we are living through at this moment.

Nearly every day there is something new. The Nunes memo, released a few days ago with the full support of Trump, is but the latest. And notwithstanding denials from House leader Paul Ryan, its obvious intention is to set the table to fire Depute Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and shutdown the Mueller investigation.

The aim of these constant lacerations to the fabric of democracy by Trump and his enablers isn't to "smash the state," but to recast it into his own personal fiefdom — a fiefdom that is corrupt, bellicose, hyper nationalist, racist, misogynist, nativist, billionaire friendly, and hostile to democracy, the rule of law, an independent media, and even a scintilla of opposition from within or beyond the state.

Needless to say, this is no time for summer patriots. Indeed, resistance to this assault on democracy is the overarching challenge today. Nothing else rises to its importance. To cede this ground will surely foreclose any hope of moving to the higher ground of substantive justice, equality, peace, and sustainability later on.

One difference that immeasurably contributes to the present peril is the willingness of the Republican to do Trump's bidding. During Watergate that wasn't the case. Some daylight existed between Nixon and some of his Republican counterparts in Congress. It wasn't everyone, but enough to allow the investigation of Nixon to go forward without extreme interference and partisan attack. That isn't the case now. The GOP is the zealous fullback for Trump's brand of authoritarian and obstructionist politics.

But this shouldn't surprise anyone. The Republican Party is a party of the extreme right. And has been for nearly four decades. What is more, Trump, is, more than anything else, a product of this retrograde movement that is animated by power — not free markets, not small government, not collective security — first of all. Their accommodation to his brand of authoritarian politics, therefore, didn't require any back flips. If anything, it is the logical end game of right wing extremism.

In making this pact, however, the GOP is endangering the foundations of democracy as well as making a big bet that it won't come back to bite them in November and long after.

But they could be very wrong here. The elections could turn into a Democratic wave as voters, worried sick over Trump overreach, chaotic governance, and authoritarian tendencies and well aware of Republican complicity, go to the polls and elect a new Congress that will stand up to Trump and address other pressing concerns as well.

To further disadvantage Trump and his Republican counterparts this fall, as the party in power, they now own the persistence of wage stagnation, a tax "cut" that will likely fall far short of its hype for most voters, and an economy that is still growing slowly by historical standards.
Moreover, it seems that immigration won't turn into the game changing election issue that Republicans think it will be. It riles up their base for sure, but it doesn't play out in the same way across the rest of the electorate. In fact, it will become one only if the Democrats sign a Devil's bargain with Trump and the GOP on immigration this winter or spring. Nothing would be more deflating for the Democratic Party base and the larger democratic movement opposing Trump.

In these circumstances, an obvious question is: what can we do to register our strenuous opposition to systematic breaches of our country's democratic forms, rights, and institutions — not least of which is attempts to shutdown the Mueller investigation — by Trump and his fifth column in the Congress?

For those of us who are at a distance from the seats of power nor leaders of the Democratic Party or the anti-Trump movement, the answers aren't so hard to divine.

Call Congress people. Talk to family, friends, coworkers, and strangers. Letters to the editor. Make a fuss on social media as well as in community organizations, churches, unions, student councils, etc. Join (and help organize if possible) the collective actions that bring together the far flung, diverse, and majoritarian coalition that opposes Trump. And, above all, become activists in the coming elections.

And, all the while, we should keep in mind that that Trump is the most unpopular president after one year in office in our country's history. In other words, we're the many.



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John Case
Harpers Ferry, WV

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