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Nice Try, Founders


Who knew the Constitution was so fragile?

Who knew it could be so easily eviscerated in just three years? Who knew all it would take was a single media-savvy sociopath happy to run roughshod over any law, norm, institution, or value?

Of course, no single sociopath could pull this off alone. He needed a rogue political party willingly enabling him, gorging on his corruption, happy to trade the country’s future for their donors’ present.

Could the Founders have anticipated this? That a Trump could take over the entire party in a sort of slow-motion putsch? That he could have them jumping through hoops of gaslight and fraud, blackmailing them into doing his bidding? All for fear of triggering a tweet attack?

I’m generally an admirer of the Founders, but it’s hard to deny that they got a few things wrong, things that have gone largely unexposed until now. I’m not referring to the electoral college, which continues to be a bad idea gone wrong. Nor am I referring to the composition of the Senate, two per state, which distorts beyond reason the representation of the actual citizenry.

I refer, rather, to the checks and balances. As ingenious as the system was — and it worked fairly well for almost two and half centuries — the Founders made a perhaps fatal assumption: that if one branch of government proves to be corrupt, the other two would step in and put a stop to it.

They never anticipated that all three branches could be corrupt simultaneously.

Yet for the first time, that is what we have. A president who gives corruption a bad name. A Senate oblivious to the rule of law. A Supreme Court at least as radical and backward-facing as we feared — with a Judiciary newly stocked with unqualified imbeciles, courtesy of Mitch McConnell’s confirmation assembly line.

The Founders made it almost absurdly difficult to remove a president. Impeachment is effectively the only remedy (forget the 25th amendment), and it’s a poor one at that. Impeachment is, at root, a political action, not a legal one. As we’ve seen recently — and vividly.

Why isn’t it written directly into the Constitution that the president is not allowed to break the law? Founders? Are you there?

It’s almost unthinkable that any other presumably democratic nation, when faced with such an astonishing mix of incompetence and criminality, would not find a way to put a stop to it. But we can’t. The Constitution has us boxed in. It is no longer clear that it, or we, can protect the rule of law from these usurpers.

So it was a nice try, Founders. Not only did the Constitution seem to work, more or less, for all that time, but we also managed to sell much of the rest of the world on its perceived virtues. They admired us. They emulated us. Do they have buyer’s remorse?

I, for one, am embarrassed that my country, once held up to the world as a best practice, has so quickly devolved into a bad example.

Can we undo any of this? Can we get back the rule of law? I’m worried.

Trump’s most senior enablers — Barr, Pompeo, and especially McConnell — have gone all in. They seem to be betting their own survival on tanking the Constitution and setting up some sort of half-assed, poorly-thought-out dictatorship.  

I’m not sure they meant to put themselves in this position, where they either have to steal the next election or go to prison. But that’s what they’ve let Trump con them into. And he’s pushed them, I fear, past the point of no return. All while the virus makes it crystal clear just how irredeembably vile these people are.

Rule of law is the secret sauce of democracy. Without it, things get dicey, and fast. Which is what’s happening now, and fast. The next six months are going to be, in a thousand ways, batshit crazy.

I think no less of the Founders for having unwittingly gotten us into this mess. But I sure wish they could get us out of it.


Berkley MI

Friday 05/29/20

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