A slight problem
OK, here’s the issue: the Constitution wasn’t designed to deal with people who want to actively subvert it from a position of power.
The Founders tried to protect against foreign influence of our Republic by writing that only “natural born citizens” could serve as President. The fear was that some foreign prince—or someone allied with a foreign government—would decamp to the United States, obtain citizenship, win the presidency, and turn the Republic over to the object of his first loyalty. Which was a fear for an 18th century government.
But the Constitution has had a bad record of dealing with subversion from within.
It didn’t prevent the South from seceding. It wasn’t the Constitution which brought the South back into the Union, but the Army of the Potomac. And, as of now, it’s failing miserably in stopping our modern subversion.
In case you’ve been under a rock, Donald Trump averred last night in an interview that if a foreign entity were to come to him with dirt on his Democratic opponent, not only would he not tell the FBI, but he would use the information. In one interview, he gave the green light to Russia, North Korea, and anyone else who is benefiting from having him in the White House to unleash hell on his opponents. While by the strict Constitutional definition this isn’t treason, it’s sedition, subversion, espionage. I’m sure Trump would say “Well, we’ve interfered in plenty of elections.” I’m just waiting for that tweet, because it’s what he believes. Yes, the US has been wrong, during the Cold War, of what Trump is inviting foreign actors to do. That doesn’t mean that a sitting President of the United States should then turn around and apply the same standards to this country. This is definitely a textbook case of chickens coming home.
Of course, Trump wouldn’t be able to get away with any of his malfeasance were it not that the leader of one of the chambers of Congress has abrogated all his Constitutional responsibilities. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is, I will argue, destroying the Constitution far more effectively than Trump is. Trump is a buffoon, and could be contained were the Senate to exercise its responsibilities. People are excoriating Speaker Nancy Pelosi for not frogmarching Trump out of the West Wing. “Dems in disarray” is the order of the day. But not one single journalist camps outside of McConnell’s office and hounds him as to why it seems that he’s not doing even the bare minimum of his job. As dangerous as Trump is, he can do what he does, including inviting subversion of our electoral processes, because of Mitch McConnell, and that reptilian shell-dweller gets a free pass from the media and those pounding on Pelosi.
And here is why impeachment isn’t the end all and be all it’s made up to be: These people don’t care about the Constitution. They use it to get elected, but they have absolutely no fealty to it. Imagine if Richard Nixon had hinted at foreign power for help to keep him in power. For all his many crimes, he was no traitor. Such a suggestion comes out of Trump’s mouth without a second thought. McConnell prevented President Barack Obama from even receiving a vote on his choice to replace Antonin Scalia, and called it his “proudest moment”. Yes, he disdained his Constitutional responsibility and was proud of it. Much like the South in 1861, the Republican Party has no use for the Constitution. An impeachment won’t shame it. It will feel no remorse at being stained with it. It will just simply ignore it.
So, what’s to be done?
Well, it’s not sexy. It doesn’t have the drama of televised impeachment hearings (for which I’m still hoping). It doesn’t have the Republic-ending Gotterdammerung of a military coup or an armed uprising. What’s to be done is what has saved this Republic time and again: the people.
There’s a strain on both the Left and Right which disdains the American people. And, considering that so many don’t even vote, such an opinion is not without merit. But in the end, in a democracy, we eventually have to put our faith in the people. People marched for civil rights. People marched to end the Vietnam War. People pushed for marriage equality. Almost any advance in this country has been a result of pressure from below, not of a favor from above. Robert Mueller won’t save us. Nancy Pelosi won’t save us. Joe Biden won’t save us. They have their roles to play; but in the end, as it has always been, we’ll have to save ourselves.
An engaged electorate is the ultimate power in any democracy. And from the data of the past three years, the numbers aren’t with Trump and the GOP. The Constitution works when the people make it work. It’s what needs to happen again.
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