Much of the United States — and the world — is in shock. A symbol of modern democracy is suffering through an anti-democratic cancer and virus. From the outside, Russia not only meddled in the latest US presidential election, but it’s getting much of what it could have hoped for as a result of its efforts — core US democratic institutions are under attack, power is not in balance but has been more centralized in a emperor-like role for the presidency than probably ever before, the media is constantly under attack by the president and others in the party as if it is trying to operate in a dictator-run political world, and the White House won’t even implement sanctions on Russia for dramatically trying to influence the election.
The President of the United States, Republican Congressmen, and what is essentially state/party media (Fox News) are relentlessly attacking what should be an independent investigative body (the FBI) that is investigating the president and his campaign team. They have gone so far as to personally attack several FBI and Department of Justice Republicans involved in the investigation or who won’t fall in line fighting the investigation. The efforts to illegally obstruct justice are so blatant that they seem to skip by the eyes of supporters while leaving concerned Americans with their jaws open.
Just a few of the unprecedented anti-democratic moves in the past year include:
- The President of the United States firing the Director of the FBI … and then admitting on national television that the FBI’s investigation of Donald Trump’s campaign and collusion/conspiracy with Russia was on his mind when he fired James Comey.
- The President of the United States later started personally attacking the Deputy Director of the FBI, who took over as Acting Director for a while. Eventually, after much pressure, the Deputy Director of the FBI was reportedly forced to resign from duty early.
- A Special Prosecutor is put into place to continue the investigation into Donald Trump’s campaign and collusion/conspiracy with Russia as well as potential obstruction of justice … and Donald Trump then reportedly tries to fire the Special Prosecutor, Republican and former FBI Director Robert Mueller.
- Before the investigation is even close to over, it finds crimes that a few key Trump campaign members committed.
- All the while, Republicans in Congress and “Trump TV” (aka Fox News) attack the investigators, open investigations into the investigators, and act as if no wrongdoing by Trump’s campaign team has been found (despite guilty pleas).
- Republicans in Congress — despite warnings from the FBI and a top member of the DOJ — release a memo of cherry-picked, classified information aimed at making the investigation into Trump and his campaign look like some kind of conspiracy. Those same Republicans block a longer memo from Democrats that aims to put the cherry-picked information into broader, relevant context.
- Echoing 3rd world dictatorships and some of the worst political massacres in human history, the Republican Party consistently attacks critical media agencies and reports as “fake news,” a term that ironically was brought into focus right after the 2016 election when it was made clear that Russia had pushed actual fake news in front of over 100 million Americans via social media.
Donald Trump and Republicans have repeatedly attacked the people investigating Trump, attacked anyone from their own party who tries to support or defend the investigation, attacked people from their own party who are party of the investigation, broken down the walls that are supposed to exist between the White House and our chief investigative agencies (the FBI, CIA, and Department of Justice), ignored the role of Congress as a check on the power of the presidency, attacked the independent media (a pillar of democracy, if not its most important institution, according to Thomas Jefferson) as “fake news,” and conducted one hollow political stunt after another to confuse the public and create “alternative facts” that aren’t actually facts at all.
Some Republican leaders have fought back and tried to protect US democracy, but they have swiftly been ridiculed and ostracized by Donald Trump and his henchmen.
In the meantime, Republicans in Congress forced through unprecedented tax cuts for the super rich that will further fatten the tumor of economic inequality that is at a record level in the United States. No surprise, severe economic inequality is one of the greatest threats to democracy — and it is also a symptom of a very weak democracy.
This extreme economic inequality is a big part of what led to Republican control of the White House and Congress, is a big part of the reason tax cuts for the super rich was their legislative priority in 2017, and is a big reason why they are attacking democratic institutions in unison and without significant blowback right now.
The question is, with the US facing such a period of democratic crisis, where will it go from here?