Is American Democracy dying? For months, as I have watched the bizarre spectacle of the new Marshal in town and his posse, there's been a phrase rattling around in my head—the historian Allan Nevins' observation that "Democracy must be reborn in every generation."
For Nevins, the man who met the moment was Lincoln, who persevered through failure and terrible loss of life to lead "a new birth of freedom." For me and many of my generation, it was Watergate—a crime met with the deliberative process leading to bipartisan consensus that a sitting President needed to resign. For others, it might have been the Reagan years and the restoration of American power, or the astonishing rise of Barack Obama.
What rebirth might this generation, marinating in the glory that is the Age of Trump, see that would reaffirm their faith in first principles?
For the moment, it's not coming from the Right. We have a Tweeter-in-Chief who demonstrates his policy chops by sending out 140 character jeremiads. A substance-free Speaker who practices posing three quarters' front with chin upraised, affecting a scholarly but manly demeanor. And a Senate Majority Leader who periodically emerges from whatever underwater den he schemes in to gum a little lettuce while spreading his own bilious joy. This is not a trio that inspires confidence.
Meanwhile, on Stage Left, La Résistance (sounds chic and très Macron, n'est-ce pas?) bravely fights the good fight with banners and words and marches—but without victories in Congressional Special Elections, or on cherished policies. And, besides a Democratic version of #nevertrump, without a coherent ideology.
Drama, poor judgment, and just malfeasance we have in abundance. The White House seems to be stocked with people who spend their time watching their backs. Most of the Executive Branch jobs that require Senatorial oversight are unfilled, either because of benign or malign neglect. The State Department is so understaffed that they are considering setting up a search party to find anyone who might know anything about foreign policy—or just anyone who knows anything about anything.
It goes on. There's Russian meddling, a tragi-comedy in three acts. Trump meets privately and alone with "Friend of the Show" Vladimir Putin and Putin's translator. Donald Jr. had a chinwag with seven caviar salesmen bearing gifts of opposition research. Jay Sekulow, one of Dad's platoon of lawyers, does a "Full Ginsberg," appearing on all five Sunday talk shows, in each one showing his remarkable intellectual dexterity by seemingly claiming simultaneously that Senior has never met Junior, and if he had they would have never talked about the campaign, and if they had talked about the campaign, no laws were broken—because Jay Sekulow says so. I'm certainly satisfied. And, again, the Democrats chasing every thread as if it were catnip, and, again, taking their eyes off the ball. Please, boys and girls, I beg of you. This is why the Almighty invented Robert Mueller. Look to your own house first. It's not like you don't have work to do.
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