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Scott M Krasner
7 articles
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  • For present purposes, however, let’s focus on the party’s failure to restrain the president from two unforgivable sins. The first is his attempt to erode the independence of the justice system. This includes Trump’s sinister interactions with his law-enforcement apparatus: his demands for criminal investigations of his political opponents, his pressuring of law-enforcement leaders on investigative matters, his frank efforts to interfere with investigations that implicate his personal interests, and his threats against the individuals who run the Justice Department. It also includes his attacks on federal judges, his pardon of a sheriff convicted of defying a court’s order to enforce constitutional rights, his belief that he gets to decide on Twitter who is guilty of what crimes, and his view that the justice system exists to effectuate his will.
  • The second unforgivable sin is Trump’s encouragement of a foreign adversary’s interference in U.S. electoral processes. Leave aside the question of whether Trump’s cooperation with the Russians violated the law. He at least tacitly collaborated with a foreign-intelligence operation against his country—sometimes in full public view. This started during the campaign, when he called upon the Russians to steal and release his opponent’s emails, and has continued during his presidency, as he equivocates on whether foreign intervention occurred and smears intelligence professionals who stand by the facts. Meanwhile, the Republican Party has confirmed his nominees, doggedly pursued its agenda on tax reform and health care, and attacked—of course—Hillary Clinton.
  • Even now, erosion is visible. Republican partisans and policy makers routinely accept insults to constitutional norms that, under Barack Obama, they would have condemned as outrageous. When Trump tweeted about taking “NBC and the Networks” off the air (“Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked”), congressional Republicans were quick to repudiate … left-wing media bias. In a poll by the Cato Institute, almost two-thirds of Republican respondents agreed with the president that journalists are “an enemy of the American people.”
  • But the broader response to Trump’s behavior has been tolerant and, often, enabling.The reason is that Trump and his forces have taken command of the party. Anti-Trump Republicans can muster only rearguard actions, which we doubt can hold the line against a multiyear, multifront assault from Trump and his allies.It is tempting to assume that this assault will fail. After all, Trump is unpopular, the Republican Party’s prospects in this year’s midterm elections are dim, and the president is under aggressive investigation. What’s more, democratic institutions held up pretty well in the first year of the Trump administration. Won’t they get us through the rest?Perhaps. But we should not count on the past year to provide the template for the next three. Under the pressure of persistent attacks, many of them seemingly minor, democratic institutions can erode gradually until they suddenly fail. That the structures hold up for a while does not mean they will hold up indefinitely—and if they do, they may not hold up well.
  • (1) The GOP has become the party of Trumpism. (2) Trumpism is a threat to democratic values and the rule of law. (3) The Republican Party is a threat to democratic values and the rule of law.
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