The crisis of democracy in America is more dangerous today than during the Watergate affair. Nixon did his dirty business in the dark – but Donald Trump undermines the legitimacy of the Constitution in broad daylight.
That wasn’t just any week in Washington. Even measured by the new standards set in the era of Donald Trump. Within a few days, the American president attested to the strength of character of his convicted former campaign manager. He accused his former attorney of inventing stories to reduce his own sentencing. He demanded that the Department of Justice minimize the tools it uses to conduct investigations.
He questioned the judgment of his attorney general, because the latter recused himself from the investigation into the Russian affair due to the appearance of a conflict of interest. He also instructed the same attorney general to investigate the opposing Democrats if he were really so intent on protecting his department from undue political considerations. And Trump said he only talks about justice in quotation marks.
After such a week, the news station talking heads discussed in terms that were almost touching about whether Trump is obstructing justice, or whether he is questioning the independence of the judiciary. But it was his adviser, Kellyanne Conway, who put the icing on the cake on CNN. There, CNN repeatedly tried to coax an admission from Conway that Trump had lied, namely in his answer to the question of when his attorney, Michael Cohen, paid a porn actress hush money. Conway repeatedly managed to avoid answering.
Then she set up her counterstrike. The “anti-Trump media” only reports on alleged scandals, but never mentions that the economic situation in the United States is rosier than it has been in a long time, she complained. So, she said, the media should continue going on like this. That is how it was during the 2016 campaign, after all. In the weeks leading up to election day, the liberal mainstream media repeatedly broadcast the clip of the infamous bus ride during which Trump boasted that he would just “grab [women] by the pussy” in order to make women do what he wanted.
And what was the result? Conway asked. She answered herself. Americans elected Trump. She also claimed that the strategy of the mainstream media will falter during the congressional elections in November. Of course, Conway’s attack elicited indignation. But these reactions could not conceal one thing: the irritated, even rattled sight of her counterpart. You could read it: What if she’s right?
The Dangers of Encroaching Governmental Powers
The Founding Fathers thought about a lot of things when they founded their republic. In a truly brilliant way, they sprinkled figurative sand in the democratic works, so that nothing went too smoothly and everything sputtered a little. They were aware of the dangers of encroaching governmental powers. So these should be kept in check, have control over one another and balance the system in its entirety. The danger of populism was also not lost on them, which is why the so-called voice of the people has to run the gamut of a complicated filtering system.
What the Founding Fathers did not consider as a possibility was a president who openly and damn-nigh flirtatiously violates the unwritten, and written, rules, and goes on like a driver in the wrong lane about how others are corrupting the system. The crisis of democracy in America is more dangerous today than during the Watergate affair. Richard Nixon did his dirty work in the dark. But Trump undermines the legitimacy of the Constitution in broad daylight to the applause of his base – those “masses” that he constantly seeks to appeal to. And Congress? And the Supreme Court? Do those “checks and balances” – the competition and balance among the political powers – still work?
The Democrats are still drawing conclusions about the political crash and burn from two years ago. There is one virtue that they have recently taken to heart: They have learned a little humility and do not trust conventional predictions about how events will unfold. Even if they were to win in November during the midterm elections (which is by no means set in stone), it will hardly be a landslide. There is a chance that they will win the majority in the House of Representatives. That’s not so much the case in the Senate. That’s why calls for impeachment proceedings have only come from those in the back (apart from the soon-to-be 94-year-old former President Jimmy Carter).
Republican Support Still Not Crumbling
The party knows which problem is a threat: With a majority in the House, the pressure would grow to introduce impeachment proceedings. That would be – always assuming that no other bombshells land – doomed to fail, because a majority of 67 votes in the Senate would be necessary to actually remove Trump from office. Support for Trump is still not crumbling among the Republicans. And without a considerable number of votes from the GOP, impeachment proceedings would be a big annoyance to Trump, but no real danger.
Whether the situation changes in the Senate will be decided less by the outcome of the midterm elections than by a man who has withdrawn from the public for over a year. Robert Mueller, former director of the FBI and current special counsel in the Russia affair, has had several successes this week: first, the conviction of Trump’s erstwhile campaign manager, then the statements from Trump’s erstwhile attorney, Cohen, who has leveled serious accusations at his client, and, finally, the willingness of two additional people to lay their cards on the table in exchange for immunity.
Mueller’s investigation reveals that Trump’s audacity, which he so blatantly put on display this week, is no show of his confidence in victory. It has been reported from the White House that the president rages whenever he hears Mueller’s name. Trump’s behavior is a bluff; the investigation is in reality driving him crazy.
The attacks on his attorney general, which clearly are meant to lead the way for the removal of Jeff Sessions, are actually aimed at Mueller. A successor, if confirmed by the Senate, would assume oversight over the investigation, authority which currently resides with the deputy attorney general. And he could end it. The Senate would then have to prove that “checks and balances” need not be used in quotes.