As a history major I've often wondered what people living during times when dictators came to power and democratic norms must have felt. Examples of such times include the the fall of the Roman Republic and, of course, the rise of Adolph Hitler. Now, it seems, I know some of their distress and fear for the future as I watch a presidency out of control, normal political behavior throw in the trash, and the Republican controlled Congress acting much as the Roman Senate did as Augustus Caesar made himself the first Roman emperor. The main difference is that Augustus was a man of intelligence who sought to stabilize the empire and outwardly followed the practices of the Republic. With Trump, we are witnessing a man devoid of morality and driven only by self interest and the apparent need to cover up his own criminality. A column in the Washington Post looks at the destruction of the rule of law taking place before our very eyes. Here are excerpts:
On both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, we are witnessing a collapse of the norms of governing, constant violations of our legitimate expectations of political leaders, and the mutation of the normal conflicts of democracy into a form of warfare that demands the opposition’s unconditional surrender.Trump’s latest perverse miracle is that he has progressives — along with everyone else who cares about the rule of law — rooting for Sessions. The attorney general is as wrong as ever on voter suppression, civil rights enforcement and immigration. But Sessions did one very important thing: He obeyed the law.
When it was clear that he would have obvious conflicts of interest in the investigation of Russian meddling in our election and its possible links to the Trump campaign, Sessions recused himself, as he was required to do.
Trump’s attacks on Sessions for that recusal are thus a naked admission that he wants the nation’s top lawyer to act illegally if that’s what it takes to protect the president and his family. Equally inappropriate are Trump’s diktats from the Oval Office calling on Sessions to investigate Hillary Clinton and those terrible “leakers” who are more properly seen as whistleblowers against Trump’s abuses.
Our country is now as close to crossing the line from democracy to autocracy as it has been in our lifetimes. Trump’s ignorant, self-involved contempt for his duty under Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed” ought to inspire patriots of every ideological disposition to a robust and fearless defiance.
But where are the leaders of the Republican Party in the face of the dangers Trump poses? They’re trying to sneak through a health-care bill by violating every reasonable standard citizens should impose on public servants dealing with legislation that affects more than one-sixth of our economy. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan have little time for worrying about the Constitution because they are busy doing Trump’s bidding on health care.
Let it be said that two Republican senators will forever deserve . . . . In voting upfront to try to stop the process, Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski demonstrated a moral and political toughness that eluded other GOP colleagues who had expressed doubts about this charade but fell into line behind their leaders.
The most insidious aspect of McConnell’s strategy is that he is shooting to pass something, anything, that would continue to save Republicans from having a transparent give-and-take on measures that could ultimately strip health insurance from 20 million Americans or more. Passing even the most meager of health bills this week would move the covert coverage-demolition effort to a conference committee with the House.
The Senate’s unseemly marathon thus seems likely to end with a push for a “skinny repeal” bill that would eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s individual and employer mandates and its medical device tax. But no one should be deluded: A vote for skinny repeal is a vote for an emaciated democracy.
But McCain could yet advance the vision of the Senate he outlined in his floor speech and rebuke “the bombastic loudmouths” he condemned by casting a “no” vote at the crucial moment. Here’s hoping this war hero will ultimately choose to strike a blow against everything he said is wrong with Congress.
And when it comes to the ongoing indifference to the law in the White House, Republicans can no longer dodge their responsibility to speak out against what Trump is doing. They should also examine their own behavior. The decline of our small-r republican institutions can be stopped only if the party brandishing that adjective starts living up to the obligations its name honors.
I for one am not optimistic about the future. Once again I find myself wonder whether the husband and I should emigrate - like many Germans did in the 1930's under Hitler's growing menace - before the bottom falls out. The main concern if we take that course is how to get my children and their families out while there is still time to do so. I have no faith that Republicans will do their sworn duty and uphold the U.S. Constitution while there is still time to do so. Be very afraid.