Crossing The Rubicon

The descent of the GOP from Reagan to Trump, and its increasing acceptance of illiberalism and actions at odds with our democratic tradition to gain/maintain power, is perhaps the most important political story of our time.  As I argued in this long form magazine piece from 2012, once Communism fell and a new age of globalization began, the American right failed to reinvent itself around new circumstances, becoming an angry reactionary force which has chosen the corrupt path of cheating and degrading our democracy to win rather than doing the hard work of modernization that every political party must do as times change. 

In 2000, the GOP gained power through a party line SCOTUS decision which prevented votes from being counted (remains astonishing); in 2002, it lied about the cause of a war of choice to America and the world; it went on an orgy of illegal voter suppression/redistricting in the 2010s which led to unlawfully gained power in state after state in the Union; it illicitly stole a Supreme Court seat in 2016/17 and jammed a terribly flawed nominee through in 2018; its nominee won a very close election in 2016 through the help of a foreign power and a dramatic late intervention by the FBI, and the GOP has worked as a party to illegally cover it all up for years.  So perhaps it is no surprise that we are where we are today, with the GOP unified in once again covering up for this obviously venal President, even to the point of turning the Constitutionally mandated  Senate “trial” into perhaps the first in our history without witnesses and evidence. 

This week feels a bit like a “crossing the Rubicon” moment for the once proud party of Reagan and America itself, particularly after last night’s revelations that John Bolton will be the fourth Trump aide to confirm the President broke the law and abused his power (joining Mulvaney, Sondland, and Parnas). Will the Senate and the Chief Justice really still allow the corruption of the trial as the President calls for? Will the Senate really sanction the effort to rig an upcoming election, certainly one of the gravest crimes an American President can commit, and one which we know from history and the present day can lead shortly to tyranny? The President’s defense is dangerous, and constitutionally ignorant.  Impeachment is not extraordinary this close to an election; it is required if the crime is an attempt to deny citizens their right to fairly choose their own leaders.  Impeachment was included in our Constitution for a situation just like this – an errant President using the awesome power of their office to prevent a free and fair election, and thus the remedy of removal through the upcoming election is simply no remedy at all.  Many of the world’s worst leaders – Putin, Maduro – have gained power through corrupt elections and Potemkin edifices of democracy.  Is this where the Republicans really want to take us this week?  

Failure to allow witnesses and documents in this trial at this time will be among the worst betrayals of our nation and our Constitution in American history.  It may very well leave us a republic in name only, as we will at that moment be led by the kind of Mad King without checks and balances that the Founders so desperately feared.  I am not sure our democratic experiment has seen as many moments as consequential as the one ahead – a moment which unfortunately may be far too much a Rubicon moment than any of us could have imagined even a few months ago.  Let us hope that reason and patriotism prevails, and that this Impeachment “trial” has those elements so critical to the rule of law and our republic itself – germane evidence and witnesses.