David McCullough, in his excellent biography of John Adams, whose ideas were enshrined in the Constitution, discusses how the founding fathers constructed their vision of government. One of the seminal ideas to the balance of power of the three branches of government was the conviction that the country would be ruled by laws of reason. They rebelled against a government that was capriciously ruled by the monarchy and the oligarchs of the East India and Virginia Companies, and they sought something different.
Each subsequent generation accepted the ideal that America was a country of laws, without fear or favor, not a country subject to whims and fads of the moment. In recent months we have witnessed a stunning abdication of commitment by government to the ideal that America is a country of laws and that each man stands equally before the law. Donald Trump’s attempts to derail the Russian collusion investigation are an example of this. In May, Trump fired FBI Director Comey because Comey would not abrogate his duties and responsibilities under the Constitution for a pledge of personal loyalty to Trump.
Today, every effort is being made to criticize, deride, undermine and compromise Special Prosecutor Mueller’s investigation. The Republicans, in strident chorus, declare that Mueller should be fired. This is in marked contrast to the seven different hearings/investigations that consumed Congress over Benghazi, or the thousand days of Kenneth Starr’s investigation of Bill Clinton’s transgressions. The hypocrisy is appalling.
Trump criticizes his own judicial and intelligence departments and organizations that the taxpayers have paid good money for, over decades. Suddenly, in his ill-informed opinion, they are not satisfactory. After firing the leadership, his latest target is the whole of the FBI, demeaning its professionalism and patriotism. If America’s top law enforcement agency is deemed inadequate, to whom do we turn for justice, the irrational whims of Donald Trump?
Just wait. In the coming months, if unchecked, you will see a systematic dismantling of the laws that protect our democracy: Voting rights, the social safety net, healthcare, education – all will be tossed on the rubbish heap in the Republicans’ flagrant attempts to turn our country into a Russian-style oligarchy. Consider also that laws against emoluments, pederasty, sexual harassment, the dealing by civilians with foreign governments, will be ignored with abandon, and the picture gets even darker.
But, there are even more areas of concern, it is becoming clear that this Administration’s judicial appointees are woefully inadequate and are picked solely for their loyalty to Donald Trump’s ideas of justice. Appointees, such as Matthew Petersen, are showing up completely bereft of any judicial knowledge or experience. This incompetence taints all nominees and the ideal of commitment to the law.
Early on, Trump showed no respect for the judicial branch of the government. He criticized the ethnicity of a judge in a case in which his assets were involved. As a businessman, he sued the contractors he stiffed, using the courts as a billy club, not an instrument of justice. Joe Arpaio’s pardon was an outrage. The Republican handling of the Supreme Court vacancy leading to Gorsuch’s appointment was a complete travesty. The list goes on and on, but only highlights that this country is fast becoming a nation without laws and without order, which undercuts the very foundations upon which our country was built.
What to do? Give up hope, and just hunker down in our own private little worlds, and hope that by some miracle, things will get better? No, it will be far better to follow the example of the women of this country who rebelled against the very idea of everything that Trump stands for when they marched to Washington the day after his inauguration. Out of this came the “Indivisible” movement that has galvanized grass roots efforts to start changing politics at the local level, including the Culpeper Persisters right here in our own community.
The recent elections in Virginia that turned the House of Delegates upside down gives us hope that we can sweep the miscreants out of the House of Representatives in 2018 and return the nation to democracy in 2020, if not sooner. It will be hard work. Don’t sit this one out. Resist, insist, persist, enlist.
Editors Note: This has been reposted with the author's permission, and originally appeared in the December 30th print edition of the Culpeper Star Exponent, and is only available online on-line here, and here.