An America tragedy began on November 8, 2016, when an unfit, malignant narcissist won roughly 70,000 more votes spread over three states despite losing the popular vote by 3 million votes. The tragedy was made cemented when the Electoral College certified Trump's fluke win, ignoring the intent of the Founding Fathers that electors protect the nation from electing an individual who was demonstratively unfit for office and dangerous to national security. Since that day, the nation has been gripped in an ongoing tragedy that is only intensifying as Vichy Republicans continue to support a would be despot much as the Vichy French collaborated with their Nazi overloads during WWII. With a large part of the federal government shutdown due to a tyrannical temper tantrum, the nation is moving into Act III, with the growing possibility of a constitutional crisis exploding any day. Many saw this disaster on the horizon from moment the result were clear on the morning of November 9, 2016. The question now is whether constitutional democracy will survive. Andrew Sullivan reviews the growing tragedy and threat to American democracy. Here are excerpts:
When is the moment we can say that Trump has clearly gone over the line in erasing democratic and constitutional restraints on his personal power? I’d say declaring a national emergency when there isn’t one to fund a project he can’t get through Congress pretty obviously qualifies. Wouldn’t you?He couldn’t manage to get his wall funded when his own party controlled the entire government. He even turned down a bipartisan offer to build a “wall” in return for a path to citizenship for Dreamers last year, because he wanted a reduction in legal immigration as well. He petulantly refuses to accept greater funding for border control and immigration enforcement if his symbolic wall isn’t part of the package. He says he intends to use the military to do what a civilian border force is constitutionally designed for. He even intends to seize private land in order to construct the Great Wall of America, using a military version of “eminent domain.”
His benchmark for when an emergency begins? When Nancy Pelosi refuses to budge. Which is proof that this “emergency” is pulled out of his giant, shapeless ass.
And for all this, he has shut down much of the federal government as leverage to get his way, jeopardizing public safety and health, disrupting the lives (and now paychecks) of millions.
The words he has used to justify all of this are an assault on liberal democratic norms and the rule of law. Emergency powers do exist in the event of a national security crisis — but, as David French has noted, they only apply in an actual national emergency that “may require” the use of the military and even then only for “already authorized” construction projects “essential” to “national defense.” These laws were designed to restrain the executive through the law, not to give him carte blanche to appropriate funds Congress has designated otherwise. The laws were never designed to enable [Trump]
the presidentto do things the Congress had never authorized (the 2006 funds for border fencing have already been used up), and which the Congress actively, indeed strongly, opposes.
There is indeed a crisis at the border — caused by a big increase in the numbers of families with children from Central America applying for asylum. But they are not trying to evade a wall, and even if they were, you couldn’t build one fast enough to stop them. Regular economic migration from Mexico is way down. The overwhelming majority of drugs come through routine ports of entry, not the open border, or, like fentanyl, through the mail from China. Almost everything [Trump] the president has said about all of this is a lie . . . . He just wants his goddamn wall, and he will shut down the government and violate the Constitution if he cannot get it.
I’m not against fortifying the southern border. I would have given the man his funds to start his beloved wall a long time ago, as part of a package that would also provide much more funding for immigration courts, detention facilities, more judges, and a path to citizenship for so many caught in the horrible DACA limbo.
It’s also vital to see this in a broader context. The Executive branch has been getting more and more powerful and unilateral for a long time, through Bush’s torture program up to Obama’s unconstitutional moves with respect to DACA. But Obama resorted to that in part because tribalism had spiraled, especially on the right, and what should have been complicated but manageable compromises became impossible. Our system has broken down. The Congress is effectively not functioning, elections merely rearrange the tribal deadlock, and reasoned discourse has been tweeted out of existence in the wider public space. This democracy has no effective means to govern itself, except through bitter paralysis or executive fiat.
Now we’ve added an instinctive tyrant to this equation, and the last two years have been blinking bright red for constitutional corrosion and collapse.
It was bad enough when he was fighting his own party, his own Cabinet, and all of our allies. Now he’s lost the House and fired everyone who disagreed with him in his own Cabinet. He runs the country by impulsive, often contradictory diktat, and grips other tyrants— from MBS and Sisi to Putin and Bolsonaro — more closely to his chest. With the Mueller report pending, a docile new attorney general in the wings, and a majority on the Supreme Court inclined to give the executive the benefit of the doubt, we are about to enter Act III of this tragedy.
We all knew this was coming. Our liberal democracy is in abeyance. We now wait to see what the replacement will be. It could come sooner than we think.