Published at 12:04 on 8 January 2021
Earlier, I claimed:
American democracy has one foot in the grave. If the Biden Administration’s Department of Justice refuses to investigate and prosecute Trump’s crimes, it becomes a corpse. It might then take a while for it to start stinking and bloating enough for people to notice it is a corpse, but it will be a corpse.
Let’s look into some of the evidence (some of it new, some of it quite old) for that claim, shall we?
As I write this, the Democrats are still dithering about whether or not to impeach the President for inciting an attempted coup. They may still decide to, but:
- This should not be a hard decision. Trump literally attempted to incite a coup d’etat! Yet the Democrats have to think about it long and hard.
- The Republicans will probably refuse to convict in the Senate, anyhow.
What does it say about the state of a supposed opposition party that it has to ponder it over when the party in power literally tries to stage a fascist coup against them? What does it say about that party’s institutional commitment to any principles it claims to profess?
What it says about the Republicans, a majority of which voted to ignore the results of the election on Wednesday, is clear. The GOP as an institution is a fascist party. There are still non-fascists still among its members, but the Romneys and Raffenspergers will doubtless be purged from its ranks soon enough.
However, back to the Democrats for a moment: The descent into fascism that the USA is presently undergoing is almost as much the fault of the Democrats for failing to oppose it as it is of the Republicans for pursuing it.
If it happens, the Senate will probably not convict. That said, it is still a useful exercise.
In the House, it will be a demonstration of principles for the Democrats to go through with impeaching Trump a second time. Their dithering has already irreversibly weakened the point they will make, but not doing at all will weaken such a point into oblivion. Better late than never.
In the Senate, it will force Republicans to take an up-or-down vote. As Jonathan V. Last writes:
The Republican party, as currently constituted, is a danger to democracy. Full stop. Which means that anyone working to further the prospects of this party is supporting the institution that favors authoritarianism.
If the Republican party is to be reformed, such reform is not going to happen organically, from the inside. It will take place only in the aftermath of a schism which drives either the forces of authoritarianism, or the “reasonable” center-right, out of the party. Only then will it be even theoretically possible for a responsible party to emerge.
Forcing Republican senators to vote on removing Trump will hasten this schism. This is critical for the long-term health of our polity.
Just how ailing the Republic is can be illustrated by the phone call that Nancy Pelosi made to the Joint Chiefs of Staff this morning. She begged the military to engage in insubordination against their commander in chief:
This morning, I spoke to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley to discuss available precautions for preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike. The situation of this unhinged President could not be more dangerous, and we must do everything that we can to protect the American people from his unbalanced assault on our country and our democracy.
It’s all for the best of intentions, of course: avoiding a war, possibly avoiding a nuclear war. But, she still is encouraging insubordination. There is nothing in the Constitution saying that the military should follow the orders of the President except if the Speaker of the House requests otherwise. What Pelosi has done is itself a transgression of the Constitution.
There are two Constitutional ways of dealing with an unfit commander in chief: impeachment and conviction, or removal from office via the 25th Amendment. Neither are being used. Instead, an extra-Constitutional way has been invented on the spot and is being attempted.
Nobody is even much talking about this. It is being taken as self-evident that it is too difficult for the Federal government to operate within the bounds of the Constitution. The rot is so all-pervasive, and recurring evidence of it so routine, that people are used to it, and do not even much talk about it.
And yes, it is all-pervasive. In my lifetime we have seen (incomplete list):
- A president lie his way into a war in Southeast Asia, a war that was engaged in without Congress going through the proper procedure, per the Constitution, for declaring it.
- A president lie while he was expanding that war into Laos and Cambodia,
- A president create a secret police squad that operated outside the law, and use it against the political opposition by spying on them.
- A president covertly sell weapons to a terrorist state that had just held our diplomats hostage for over a year, and use the ill-gotten proceeds of that sale to fund right-wing terrorists in Latin America.
- A president perjure himself in front of Congress.
- A president lie his way into a war in Southwest Asia, a war that was engaged in without Congress going through the proper procedure, per the Constitution, for declaring it.
- A president institute torture as an official state policy, in contravention of international law.
Nobody high up has been held to account for any of these actions. Nobody. Occasionally, there have been a few designated fall guys take the hit, but that’s it.
And I have not even listed anything the Trump Regime has done! If I did, that list would be at least twice as long. It would finish, of course, with the literal coup attempt that is likely to go uncensured.
This is the degree to which constitutional principles actually matter in our supposed constitutional republic.
When I said our democracy had one foot in the grave, I was not being dramatic. I was being optimistic. The likelihood that it is already a corpse, but not yet stinking and bloating enough for people to notice that fact, is actually pretty damn high.