Trump supporters, in and out of Congress, are undermining democracy and the rule of law

It pains one to say it, but Trump supporters, in and out of Congress, are undermining democracy and the rule of law.

Our “authoritarian clown” has sucked all of the oxygen out of public life, seduced perhaps 40% of the population, and wrapped himself inside and around our brains to such an extent that we can hardly think of anything else. The media, and particularly the cable media, are thriving on the Schadenfreude of their viewers while the latter watch in disbelief each day as each new outrage and each new revelation about the president’s unbelievably coarse and often apparently unlawful actions is reported.

“Trump did this today,” or “Trump is going to do that,” and so goes the refrain.

But spectators are not free of moral blame. You can’t just watch his actions and decry them. Something must be done to stop him.

And who, among those who should be acting, are doing anything to stop him?

The investigative press, principally but not exclusively consisting of the New York Times, the Washington Post, Politico, and the Wall Street Journal, are doing investigative journalism and publishing what they find. To be sure, most of it is of the scoop variety, and lengthy, thoughtful, authoritative investigative journalism is still hard to find.

What about Congress?

Congress is proceeding at a snail’s pace, seemingly content to leave the real burden of holding Trump accountable to Robert Mueller and his investigation into Trump’s obstruction of justice and his Russia connections.

There is ample evidence on the public record that is suggestive of  Trump’s commission of “high crimes and misdemeanors”, by obstructing justice through the firing of James Comey, and through his ongoing efforts to influence witnesses and threaten prosecutors.  He appears to be committing obstruction of justice before our very eyes, almost every day.

And what is Congress doing?  Slowly, ever so slowly, after six months of Republican foot-dragging, they are beginning to question witnesses and beginning to call witnesses to testify.

The Democrats are afraid to table a detailed, constantly updated, motion of articles of impeachment. The one motion by Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Al Green (D-Houston) that has in fact been presented lacks the substantive factual underpinnings necessary to make Congressmen and Congresswomen start thinking about their responsibilities to hold the president accountable. Nancy Pelosi has opposed tabling a motion for impeachment at this time.

See “Articles of Impeachment — Drafts and motions”, Trump Impeachment (www.trumpimpeachment.co), July 14, 2017.

They are waiting for a moment when the time is right. By the time that moment comes, Trump may have trampled on the rule of law to such an extent that it will be unrecognizable, and holding him accountable may be politically out of reach.

The Democrats are afraid to act. Infinitely calculating, they still believe that they can win a Congressional majority in the House by targeting each district with messages tailor-made to what the voters in that district want to hear on specific issues. It didn’t work in 2016, and it’s not likely to work in 2018. It didn’t work in Georgia’s 6th district in June, where Karen Handel defeated Jon Osoff by 3.8% of the votes.

The Democrats are afraid to make their rallying call the defense of the rule of law, American democracy, and America’s vital national interests. So they don’t make the case to the American people that Trump is dismantling all of that, every day, and that the Republican Party has become the party of the Guardians of the President, a new G.O.P.

Robert Mueller may have already made great progress in his investigation. He may have already secured sealed indictments and prepared a preliminary report which will become public if and when he is fired by Trump. The President seems to be considering or plotting to fire him every day. Then again, Mueller may not really believe he may be fired — the transgression is simply too great, too monstrous — and simply be proceeding as if he had all of the time in the world.

With this president, Mueller does not have all of the time in the world. He should begin returning indictments, as quickly as he can, to start flipping Trump associates so that what may be a large criminal enterprise can be brought down, as quickly as possible.

What is to be done?

First, the Democrats need to start attacking Republicans for their support of Trump when he shows disdain for the law and for democratic traditions and processes. This applies immediately to his attacks on the Attorney General and prosecutors in the Justice Department and members of Robert Mueller’s investigative team.

Second, they need to start criticizing voters who still support Trump, and point out the damage such supporters are doing to our democracy and the rule of law, and the social fabric of the country.  They need to challenge Trump supporters forcefully, and hold them accountable for the moral depravity which they themselves manifest when they support the moral depravity of Donald Trump.

Finally, we all need to turn our attention away from Trump. The media don’t have to cover everything he says, or every bullying tweet he uses to intimidate his opponents and the voters.

Let’s focus on his supporters. Let’s interview them, in the media and in our own personal lives, and find out how they justify to themselves supporting the actions of the authoritarian clown. And let us not quietly listen to what they say without responding, lending them legitimacy. Let us engage them, and forcefully rebut their fallacious arguments when they defend violations of the rule of law and democratic traditions.

We must always remember that there can be bad clowns, even evil clowns, and that the current president of the United States seems to be one of them. And that he seems to be an extraordinarily dangerous clown, who threatens the very concept of facts and the truth upon which the institutions of our democracy are founded, and the rule of law we have fought for over two centuries to uphold.

The operative questions are:

1) How long will it take to remove this authoritarian clown from office?; and

2) How long will it take to put him in prison, if guilty, for the crimes he may have committed and may be committing before our very eyes?

That should be our focus. Every day.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

The Observer
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by The Observer, an international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. He is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (IACHR), where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, The Observer has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. The Observer speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, The Observer has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on the best articles that have appeared in the blog.