“Trump hasn’t staged a coup, and so far our institutions are holding up. But he’s doing more damage every day.”
By Heather Digby Parton | Salon | January 30, 2018
“There seems to be a consensus that over the course of the last few months Trump has shown an alarming propensity to abuse his power, but it’s still unclear whether there is a clear case that he broke the law. If it can be proven that he has abused his power or broken the law, the one remedy everyone can agree upon — as with any president — is impeachment.
Because the Republican majority in Congress is acting as Trump’s accomplices rather than a co-equal branch of government with oversight responsibility and an obligation to defend the Constitution, however, impeachment is highly unlikely. The GOP caucus in both houses is barely keeping up the pretense of investigating Russian interference in the election, and one group of powerful members is trying to create an alternative scandal, accusing top officials at the FBI and the Department of Justice of conspiring to help Hillary Clinton’s campaign and destroy the Trump administration. Trump himself has been pushing this operation, telling Chief of Staff John Kelly and supposedly recused Attorney General Jeff Sessions to aid in the effort.
The FBI is under assault by a rogue group of powerful lawmakers and the power of the president of the United States. These elected officials are deeply authoritarian by instinct, ideology and temperament. They are clearly using their authority to undermine the rule of law and democratic norms and practices, not uphold them.
This president and his henchmen could create an authoritarian regime within the rough boundaries of the Constitution and the imprimatur of democratic legitimacy. It would hardly be unprecedented. It’s the way it happens in the modern world. Political scientists Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt have written a new book, “How Democracies Die,” which surveys how democratic nations can slide into authoritarianism when they lose their willingness to live by two specific norms: mutual toleration and forbearance.”
The first is the belief that the opposition is operating in good faith and with a common love of country. The other is the forbearance not to push the boundaries of power, something that all the players in our system have more of than the law can possibly constrain on its own.