[Note: This item comes from friend Mike Cheponis. DLH]
American Democracy Is in Crisis
Our democratic institutions and traditions are under siege. We need to do everything we can to fight back.
By HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON
Sep 16 2018
It’s been nearly two years since Donald Trump won enough Electoral College votes to become president of the United States. On the day after, in my concession speech, I said, “We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.” I hoped that my fears for our future were overblown.
They were not.
In the roughly 21 months since he took the oath of office, Trump has sunk far below the already-low bar he set for himself in his ugly campaign. Exhibit A is the unspeakable cruelty that his administration has inflicted on undocumented families arriving at the border, including separating children, some as young as eight months, from their parents. According to The New York Times, the administration continues to detain 12,800 children right now, despite all the outcry and court orders. Then there’s the president’s monstrous neglect of Puerto Rico: After Hurricane Maria ravaged the island, his administration barely responded. Some 3,000 Americans died. Now Trump flatly denies those deaths were caused by the storm. And, of course, despite the recent indictments of several Russian military intelligence officers for hacking the Democratic National Committee in 2016, he continues to dismiss a serious attack on our country by a foreign power as a “hoax.”
Trump and his cronies do so many despicable things that it can be hard to keep track. I think that may be the point—to confound us, so it’s harder to keep our eye on the ball. The ball, of course, is protecting American democracy. As citizens, that’s our most important charge. And right now, our democracy is in crisis.
I don’t use the word crisis lightly. There are no tanks in the streets. The administration’s malevolence may be constrained on some fronts—for now—by its incompetence. But our democratic institutions and traditions are under siege. We need to do everything we can to fight back. There’s not a moment to lose.
As I see it, there are five main fronts of this assault on our democracy.
First, there is Donald Trump’s assault on the rule of law.
John Adams wrote that the definition of a republic is “a government of laws, and not of men.” That ideal is enshrined in two powerful principles: No one, not even the most powerful leader, is above the law, and all citizens are due equal protection under the law. Those are big ideas, radical when America was formed and still vital today. The Founders knew that a leader who refuses to be subject to the law or who politicizes or obstructs its enforcement is a tyrant, plain and simple.
That sounds a lot like Donald Trump. He told The New York Times, “I have an absolute right to do what I want to with the Justice Department.” Back in January, according to that paper, Trump’s lawyers sent Special Counsel Robert Mueller a letter making that same argument: If Trump interferes with an investigation, it’s not obstruction of justice, because he’s the president.
The Times also reported that Trump told White House aides that he had expected Attorney General Jeff Sessions to protect him, regardless of the law. According to Jim Comey, the president demanded that the FBI director pledge his loyalty not to the Constitution but to Trump himself. And he has urged the Justice Department to go after his political opponents, violating an American tradition reaching back to Thomas Jefferson. After the bitterly contentious election of 1800, Jefferson could have railed against “Crooked John Adams” and tried to jail his supporters. Instead, Jefferson used his inaugural address to declare: “We are all republicans, we are all federalists.”
Second, the legitimacy of our elections is in doubt.
There’s Russia’s ongoing interference and Trump’s complete unwillingness to stop it or protect us. There’s voter suppression, as Republicans put onerous—and I believe illegal—requirements in place to stop people from voting. There’s gerrymandering, with partisans—these days, principally Republicans—drawing the lines for voting districts to ensure that their party nearly always wins. All of this carries us further away from the sacred principle of “one person, one vote.”
Third, the president is waging war on truth and reason.
Earlier this month, Trump made 125 false or misleading statements in 120 minutes, according to The Washington Post—a personal record for him (at least since becoming president). To date, according to the paper’s fact-checkers, Trump has made 5,000 false or misleading claims while in office and recently has averaged 32 a day.
Trump is also going after journalists with even greater fervor and intent than before. No one likes to be torn apart in the press—I certainly don’t—but when you’re a public official, it comes with the job. You get criticized a lot. You learn to take it. You push back and make your case, but you don’t fight back by abusing your power or denigrating the entire enterprise of a free press. Trump doesn’t hide his intent one bit. Lesley Stahl, the 60 Minutes reporter, asked Trump during his campaign why he’s always attacking the press. He said, “I do it to discredit you all and demean you all, so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.”
When we can’t trust what we hear from our leaders, experts, and news sources, we lose our ability to hold people to account, solve problems, comprehend threats, judge progress, and communicate effectively with one another—all of which are crucial to a functioning democracy.
Fourth, there’s Trump’s breathtaking corruption.