Let Us Reason Together

Meet in the middle somewhere?

This is a post for those who are not in one of our two ideological caves or anyone who might be willing to emerge from the darkness of dueling perspectives long enough to consider a rational view of the Mueller report. What does it all mean for American democracy?

First, some basics. Democracy requires three things. First is rule of law. That means that both the rulers and the ruled must adhere to the law and all citizens are equal under the law. Second is consent of the governed. That means free and fair elections. Third is loyal opposition. That means that losers accept the results of elections and work within the system; their recourse is to try to win the next election. Democracy is also enhanced by a free press that attempts to hold all those in power and seeking power to account and a professional, non-partisan bureaucracy.

My first question concerns Russian meddling in the 2016 election, as detailed by Mr. Mueller. That malign activity took place when Mr. Obama was President. Where the hell were Clapper and Brennan when Russian trolls were stirring partisan rancor on Facebook? They are now constantly on CNN and MSNBC decrying collusion, but they did nothing to punish the Russians while it was going on.

My second question is about the FBI. It has been credibly alleged that senior members of the FBI team attempted to put their thumbs on the electoral scale to try to defeat Mr. Trump. If that happened, we need to find out about it and punish those involved. Our civil service must not be allowed to become its own interest group, and must assuredly not be allowed to align itself with one of the political parties.

My third question is why we allowed Putin to win. He is alleged to have acted to help elect Trump. That may have been the objective of some of his efforts, but I suspect he thought Trump had no chance to win, the same assumption held by every other underwriter of electoral outcomes. His objective was to denigrate the democratic process. His trolls organized the resistance rally in NYC that occurred the day after the election. His intelligence service was undoubtedly the source of the infamous dossier which was shopped to the FBI and leaked to the press. The partisan war we are currently waging is a direct result of his efforts. Our democracy is in profound paralysis, failing to act on a host of vital issues, as a result of that war of words and subpoenas he instigated. We handed him a victory on a sliver platter.

Our most profound problem is the campaign to impeach Donald Trump. Some partisans are proposing to overturn the results of an election. I’ll stipulate that Trump is a tacky narcissist who is not qualified to be the chief executive of our country, but he won fair and square. Hillary won the popular vote in California. Trump won the popular vote in the rest of the country. All of which is immaterial. All the participants had ample notice of the rules, which had been in effect for 230 years. Thwarting the will of the voters via impeachment is the antithesis of the loyal opposition principle. Trump is scarcely the first flawed human being to sit behind the desk in the Oval Office. There are numerous examples in the modern presidency. Kennedy was an obsessive philanderer and probably addicted to pain meds (exposing himself to blackmail on a regular basis). Robert Caro has exhaustively demonstrated that LBJ was a despicable human being and a compulsive liar. Nixon was a raving paranoid. Clinton was a sexual predator. In fact, we knew more about Trump’s flaws in advance of election day than those of any of his predecessors. The voters chose him in any event. The establishment should be looking at itself in the mirror and asking how their performance so alienated 53 million voters that they voted to “drain the swamp”.

Let’s close with a little thought experiment about the impeachment process. Say the House begins impeachment proceedings, which don’t result in a conviction in the Senate. Say the Democrats nominate someone from the left side of the spectrum of candidates now running, who wins a squeaker of an election in 2020. Say the Democrats hold the House but Republicans hold the Senate. Say the new president, frustrated by an inability to enact progressive reforms, issues some sweeping Executive Orders to move his/her agenda forward. Say that rule by decree creates a backlash in 2022 that sweeps away all the moderate House members who swung the House to the Democrats in 2018. Republicans how have the House and Senate. I can hear a faint cry from the future . . . Impeach the motherbleeper.

We are going down a dangerous path. Most ill considered partisan escalations result in countervailing and even more serious escalations. Let’s take rule of law, consent of the governed and loyal opposition seriously.

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