If you can keep it
This was, as you likely know, part of Benjamin Franklin’s response when he was asked “What kind of a government do we have?” at the close of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, at which point he answered “A Republic, if you can keep it.”
Oh, well. It was sure nice while it lasted, eh?
Granted, that may be a bit overly pessimistic, but in light of recent events culminating in the Republican-controlled Senate’s refusal to allow additional witness testimony and evidence in their so-called impeachment “trial” involving the two articles of impeachment filed against Mr. Trump by the House (thus clearing the way for them to officially proclaim their transparently pre-ordained “verdict” of acquittal), it now seems rather uncertain whether or not we actually will be able to keep it.
The President’s lawyers put forth the stunningly brazen argument that whatever a president does in order to help himself get re-elected is not illegal as long as he believes that his re-election is “in the nation’s interest.” So, would it be likely that any sitting president would believe that his re-election is not “in the nation’s interest”? What then could he possibly do that would be considered illegal as long as he claimed that his actions were “in the nation’s interest”? Could he cancel elections if he fears he might lose? Could he actively ask for help from any or all foreign countries in his re-election effort, promising them that such efforts will be rewarded? Could he order “his” Justice Department to “investigate” his political rivals and critics with no justification except to “smear” them and thus aid in his re-election?
Apparently so. Mr. Trump has said that the Constitution allows him “to do anything he wants” – which aligns nicely with Richard Nixon’s infamous claim that “when the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.” By this logic, he can use the power of his position however he wishes in order to ensure his re-election, and that’s just fine and dandy. As long as he believes his actions are “in the nation’s interest,” by definition they cannot be corrupt and illegal.
And now the entire Republican party, once the champions of “law and order,” have shamelessly surrendered their integrity to Donald Trump and are working in lock-step to cover up his multiple wrongdoings and to protect him from any adverse consequences which normally would follow, further reinforcing his belief that he truly is “above the law” and thus empowering him to push his limits even further and engage in even more extreme behaviors along these lines. So much for checks and balances. Buckle up.
What if we were talking about a Democratic president here? Do you think these same Republicans would view things the same way?
Thus Mr. Trump and his GOP enablers are providing us with a textbook demonstration of how democracies wither and die, becoming twisted and reshaped into authoritarian regimes of one kind or another – from within, as a result of corruption, greed, and the insatiable hunger for power.
Yet our democracy has proven resilient through many challenges over the years, and there is one final opportunity to save it come this November. May we, the citizens of this great nation, put aside our partisan differences, open our eyes so we can see clearly what is facing us, and cast our votes in a way that truly is “in the nation’s interest.” Our now battered democracy awaits our decision in this approaching and extraordinarily critical election, which will indeed determine which path our nation will take for both ourselves and generations to come. We must all embrace this responsibility with heartfelt passion and great wisdom. America is depending on us to do so.
Dale E. Buonocore,