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Democracy in Peril

Author: Gary Hart

Across several weeks our colleague Michael has raised serious questions about the future of democracy in America and elsewhere.  The questions he has raised and arguments he has made deserve equally serious consideration.

Increasingly the media are focusing on the rise of disinformation in campaigns, the challenge to factual narratives by false ones, the erosion of truth itself, and the use of social media to undermine and replace traditional reporting by “fake” media.

All this may or may not be “populist”, but it is most certainly authoritarian, the acquisition and concentration of power in the hands of the few by undermining the world of facts and truth.

There are many examples of this process throughout history, but none better than Germany and Italy in the 1930s.  Uncouple political narrative from truth and the train of authoritarianism is well down the track.

This process is enabled when there is widespread distrust of government, encouraged by anti-government political media, demonization of immigrants, replacement of reliable democratic alliances with dictator friendships, distrust and even hatred toward domestic political opposition, perversion of elections, dismissal of public ethics and morality, and replacement of necessary public information by propaganda.

Whether the U.S. national election of 2020 will prove to be a hinge of history remains to be seen.  But it is not too soon to worry about this and its consequences.  Once eroded, democracy is difficult to repair and recapture.  And the forces of erosion are closing in.

The authoritarian pattern further rejects the empirical world of science, thus leading to denial of climate change even as destructive evidence of it mounts daily.  But if you believe Barack Obama was born in Kenya, you will believe anything.  And once that pattern begins, there is no end to it.  The Authority can and will tell you preposterous lies and you cheer him onward.

The Authority high jacked an entire American political party.  Where is the limit?  Can an entire nation be highjacked?  Twentieth century world history proves yes.  And tens of millions of people died.

If Donald Trump loses re-election narrowly next fall and refuses to leave the White House, claiming election fraud, do not be surprised if Fox News broadcasts his call for support from the “base” and tens of thousands surround the White House.  The Secret Service does not have the manpower to manage such a situation.

Who has the authority under the Constitution to request, if not command, military assistance?  The current Attorney General, now a full-fledged presidential assistant, will not seek a court order for military intervention.  But even if he did, there is no guarantee the current Supreme Court would uphold it.

Scenarios such as this can and will be dismissed as darkly pessimistic speculations of a profoundly concerned American.  But it has happened before, thankfully not in America, and it can happen again given how much has changed in the past three years.

After all, we do have a president and presidential supporters for whom their motto is: “Who are you going to believe…me or your lying eyes?”


Authoritarianism by Stealth

Author: Gary Hart

If you intend to be an authoritarian president, like others you so admire, then it is necessary to demean and diminish the professional career civil service that stands in your way by administering the laws of the nation.

A president at war with his own government, at least the executive branch which he has taken a Constitutional oath to administer according to the laws that govern our nation, deserves much more consideration than brushing aside his occasional references to the “deep state” to which he attaches full blame for his failures.

The “deep state”, as yet to be defined as anything other than a permanent, Democratic presence out to thwart him, springs from the Trumpian guru Stephen Bannon who early laid down the mission to dismantle, if not totally destroy, the “administrative state.”

That is a clearer objective to deal with.

The administrative state is the product of two domestic revolutions: first, the late 19th century reforms against the political state, the practice of filling government positions with patrons; and second, the Rooseveltian reforms and New Deal expansion of the role of the national government in administering a social safety net as a rescue from the Great Depression.

The result was a professional civil service apart from partisan influence.  That is the “deep state” that Bannon, and Trump under his influence, want to destroy.

Leave aside that the size of the professional civil service has rarely varied even in conservative Republican administrations, despite proclamations by Ronald Reagan that “the government is the problem” and various rhetorical flourishes by others about shrinking the size of government.

The national civil service remains at a constant size for the simple reason that it is required to administer laws adopted by both Republican and Democratic administrations, laws that Republican Congresses have failed to abolish for the equally simple reason that they are popular.  The most recent example is the failure to abolish the Affordable Care Act.

The anti-government rhetoric against government rarely if ever notes that the national government represents around 12% of the civil service, State governments represent twice that number, and local governments comprise all the rest, about two-thirds of all government employees.  Any growth in government has occurred at the levels Republicans claim to like.

But the sinister attacks on the “administrative (or “deep”) state” are not about its size or even the fact it is carrying out Congressional mandates.  It is about letting an authoritarian president become authoritarian.  It has taken Donald Trump almost three years to understand that the professional civil service’s resistance to his unilateral demands are because they are doing their respective duties under the laws.

No one explained these basic 8th grade facts of civics to him.  So, he has had recourse to claim to his “base” that he has been prevented from promised dismantling of many government programs (many of which the “base” benefits from) by a sinister “deep state”.

Where he has undertaken to dismantle those programs administratively, he has done so by wreaking the damage on blue States and sparing red States and districts.

It’s the old corrupt spoils system administered by the president.

The central point of all this is that the Bannons of the world seek to introduce authoritarianism into Western democracies, including first and foremost, into the United States through the backdoor.  The first and most important step is to destroy the professional civil service.

Trump has done so by fiat, for example in dispersing agencies of the U.S. Department of the Interior, encouraging early retirement by senior career officials, and appointing Washington lobbyists to key administrative positions.

Members of the press now celebrate the fact that it was career foreign service officers, members of the professional administrative state, who blew open Ukrainiangate.

Why one or two of the myriad Democratic candidates do not feature this explanation in their public appeals is a mystery.

An Appeal to Our Better Angels

Author: Gary Hart

Many of us of a certain age and generation deplore the nation’s recent lurch into incivility and recollect an earlier time when discourse, routine as well as political, was carried out without resort to bickering, insult, and sarcasm.

Naturally, the impeachment proceedings and the press quarrels accompanying them brought this to mind.

But even before that, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described an entire swath of Americans as “deplorables”, separating them from the rest of presumably polite society.  As the child of meagerly educated parents, Eisenhower Republicans who would not have voted for Mr. Trump, I winced at that word.  Did she mean people like my parents?  Who, exactly, was she talking about?

If that one word did not cost her the election, it came very close.

What did she gain by using that word…except, perhaps, to demonstrate her and her friends’ and supporters’ superiority to those who couldn’t find the Yale Law School on a map and had no reason to do so.

Of course, she was competing with the master of invective, divisiveness, and coarseness, whose main theme was “lock her up.”

If she felt she had to defend herself, take it out on Trump and not the third of America who thought, and seems still to think, he speaks for them.

But democracy does not thrive in a cesspool.  And it is Trump’s triumph that he is dragging much of America down to his level.  When things get ugly, tempers fray, and anger is the mood of the times, who doesn’t look for a food fight.

Those of us who pray for his replacement, sooner rather than later, cannot ensure that outcome by descending to his level.  The eternal struggle between good and evil is never won by both sides competing on the evil plane.

This all sounds pretty elementary, I know, but the long road back to civility must start somewhere.

The struggle for America’s national soul ultimately depends on one thing, the character of the American people ourselves.

Despite the convoluted outcome of the last election, and the chaos that has followed, we will either keep the American Republic, as Benjamin Franklin pleaded, or we will not.  It depends on us, not the harsh partisan voices in Washington, or headline seeking journalists.  It depends on our willingness to insist on truth, to reward integrity, to respect honor, and to follow common decency.

But there is one other factor now at play.  Our concern for our children and their future.  Long after my generation is gone, we will be judged by successor generations for our stewardship of the natural world.

My generation fought for nuclear sanity.  Now those who follow must fight for sanity toward the natural world.

This fight will continue long after Trump is gone.  It will not be won by language that pits party against party, politician against politician, and American against American.

It will be won by appealing to the better angels of our nature.

The Regular Order

Author: Gary Hart

In former days, on the rare occasions where protocols of the U.S. Senate were breached in the heat of the moment, for example if Senators engaged in debate without seeking recognition of the chair as rules require, order would be restored by one or more Senators who would address the chair, the presiding president of the Senate at the time, with a command for “regular order.”

Given the chaos now endemic to the current executive branch, remaining statesmen and women should now be heard demanding the “regular order, Mr. President.”

The difficulty is that the current President is not familiar with any regular order in governing.  And this is central to our current historic dilemma.

In our long history America has never before had a president so unfamiliar with the Constitution, the rule of law, checks and balances of the branches of government, the limits on presidential power, the necessary role of diplomacy, and the necessity of democratic allies for our own security and the stability of the world.

For those of us who have spent three years searching for an explanation for repeated incidents of irrationality, reversal of policies just announced, stunning turn over in the White House and executive branch, denigration of allied leaders, and unilateral withdrawal from serious international security, trade, and environmental treaties, it is this repeated ignorant blundering against established governing (and civilizing) norms that offers an explanation.

The only plausible excuse for this unprecedented behavior is total ignorance of the existence of a regular order in democratic governments.  This ignorance may also be augmented with behavior calculated to pander to angers and prejudices of those composing a political “base” that is delighted by an irregular order that they applaud and cheer.

The irregular order is enabled by a very simple human characteristic: hypocrisy.  This characteristic increasingly underlies American politics in this period.  It is simple:  if they do it, it is wrong; if we do it, it is just, right, and fair.

Everyone in America knows, if the events at the center of the impeachment process now had occurred during a Democratic administration, Republicans would be outraged.  When we do it, it is ok; when they do it, it is wrong.

Imagine if Barack Obama had behaved in Ukraine and in many other areas as the incumbent president has done, Republicans would be beside themselves.  Impeachment proceedings would have begun in those circumstances much earlier than is occurring today.

The press and media should be pointing out this hypocrisy on a daily basis, but they have become so inured to Trumpian behavior and Republican complicity that they all seem to throw up their hands.  And the Pelosis and Schiffs are so accustomed to it that they simply roll their eyes.

This double standard would be amusing if it weren’t so tragic.

There is little to no hope for a change in conduct.  It is a little late in life for an aging autocrat to learn civility, decorum, respect for his office, mature behavior by a genuine leader, and a host of other qualities that were missed while growing up.

In the meantime, we Americans will once again muddle through, in this case wholly unnecessarily, until sanity returns.

But while doing so, it is also legitimate for all right-minded citizens to point out and demand an end to partisan hypocrisy and double standards, and to demand return to the “regular order.”


America on the Verge

Author: Gary Hart

Sometime in the past decade or less the American political universe experienced a significant earthquake.  And I missed it.

Our correspondent Michael rightly attributes this, at least in part, to substantial changes in the media, and he is clearly right.  The decline of the print press, the explosion of social media, the rise of partisan electronic media, and much else.  Everyone is now a journalist, both a photographer and commentator.

In elections and governance, on the good side is the rise of small dollar fund raising on the Internet.  Sadly, this is outweighed by wholesale gerrymandering into red and blue Americas, blatant partisanship of the judiciary, demonization of the opposition, and in the Trump era blatant disregard of facts, meaning, and truth itself.

This latter pollution of language is the most disturbing epicenter of the earthquake.  It marks the 21st century’s refinement of last century’s totalitarianism of the right and left.  He who defines the meaning of words wins the debate.  The new authoritarianism massively redefines the meaning of words.

Nowhere is this more true than in Trumpian America where his supporters could care less that he calls black white and invents his own version of history.  This is incidental because “he understands me and my anger”, they say.

In war, the first casualty is the truth.  Trump has declared war on traditional democracy and its norms and declared dictators and autocrats his friends’ and a third of America doesn’t care whether he is telling the truth or not.  They may not care what truth is.

This has been documented and commented upon endlessly and vainly.  He does not care nor does his “base”.  There have been Trumps before, but none has ascended to the highest national office.  Now he is there and possibly for a second term.

A large segment of America has changed.  It not only tolerates his behavior, it rewards it.  This has been written off as anger at globalization and immigration.  Neither justifies wholesale abandonment of a rich democratic heritage, the rule of law, and standards of mature conduct in America.

Some current projections show a Trump re-election if markets stay up, if Democrats do not nominate a strong and persuasive candidate, if young people, women, and minorities stay home, and if voter turn out generally is low.

Too many Americans longing to recover better days have virtually assumed the next national election would restore normality.  This assumption is not assured.  If our nation is undergoing a negative resurgence, it could take only four more years to incorporate it into our culture.

If a substantial minority of our fellow citizens are becoming, or perhaps already have become, Trumpian to the core, then we are in for a dark period in our nation’s history.

Our unwillingness or inability to cooperate with allied nations will increasingly be mirrored by divisions at home along ethnic, racial, and religious lines.

Trump’s eagerness to appeal to the worst angels of our nature will continue to resonate and those dark angels will be legitimized.

Trump’s claim to represent the party of Lincoln is in fact a claim to represent the party of Trump, a party that Lincoln would not recognize.

A year from now we will know whether our current unprecedented detour is over or whether we are becoming a different kind of country.

As we now head toward year end holidays, there is a palpable sense of something between gloom and deep uneasiness.  This is particularly true within political circles broadly defined…those who follow the news (now all “breaking”) and pay close attention to government in all its dimensions.

This unease masks a deeper fear that our governing institutions are in trouble and may yield an as yet undefined tragedy.  Leading columnists confess to worrying about our Constitutional system cracking under stress.

There are among us those who can see farther over the horizon (on one or two occasions I have believed myself to be one of them) who hold open the possibility that events might produce circumstances dire enough to threaten our reliance on laws, institutions, civil society, and human nature itself.

There are serious individuals who wonder whether a chief executive impeached and convicted might refuse to leave office.  There are back corridor mutterings about partisan ideological confrontations leading to some form of civil war.  There is considerable discussion about the role of the uniformed military’s response to social and political breakdown.

Contributing to this deepening discontent, networks, social media sites, extremist groups (some hidden), and political wedge drivers fan flames of discontent, fear, and hatred.

Americans increasingly warn each other about other Americans who disagree with them.

We now openly discuss how seriously we should be concerned about foreign nations manipulating our elections, an idea not considered serious as recently as five years ago.

Some comfort is taken these days by those who remind us that The Paranoid Style in American Politics, written 55 years ago by Richard Hofstadter, documented the several recurring eras when a discontented America let itself be lured down a rightward path toward authoritarianism.  And, the point is made, we’ve always recovered our democratic roots.

Let us pray this detour from those roots will produce a brighter dawn with new, more sober, and more enlightened leadership that will point out that we have much more in common than we have that divides us.  If so, we will later look back and shake our heads about how so many of our fellow countrymen could have been led so far astray.

But that day will require many dedicated Americans to pull an oar.  For example, friends and supporters of mine over the years are planning to create a Center for Public Service at Metropolitan State University here in Denver.  It’s purpose, in a word, is to restore the ideal of civic contribution, engagement in the life of the community, State, and nation.

The challenge is to get it off the ground, up and running, in an election year when funds are scares.  It is a challenge, especially financial, but everything I’ve done in life has been difficult, at least at the beginning.

As a student of the theory of the republic, I am convinced that the American Republic, perhaps all republics, rise or fall on the principle of civic duty, citizen engagement, and public service.  That was what “ask what you can do for your country” meant to many of us these 60 years ago.

The remaining idealists among us cannot permit ourselves to be dragged down to Donald Trump’s level.  If we permit this to happen, we lose and he wins.

He and those around him are doing their best to diminish or destroy the best of our nation’s ideals and with it the true core of our civil society.

We are confronted now with a test of our national character.  He seeks to vulgarize our society. We must not let him.


Do the American people want a bold overhaul of our economy while it seems to be doing reasonably well?  If so, is there a Franklin Roosevelt among the many Democratic contenders who has the confidence of the voters to carry it out?

Those and related questions are raised by the so-called “progressive” wing of the Party, especially Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and the answers from them are “yes” and “me”.

Most of the other candidates are either in the “moderate” wing of the Party, offering policy-by-policy solutions to economic and social problems such as unemployment, homelessness, stagnant wages, fragmented health care, and a range of domestic social issues.

There does seem to be unanimity on the climate crisis and need for dramatic action before a tipping point is past, a more humane immigration policy, the need to protect public lands and resources, and mainstream policies on much else.

But on tax increases and major redistribution proposals put forward by Warren and Sanders, a major groundswell in favor has yet to form, and there is confusion where the details of redistribution are vague.

And there is little evidence of significant movement of the independent center voters toward the Democratic left, at least while markets expand, GDP stays in a favorable range, and unemployment stays low.

Though the Trumpian chaos provides more than ample grist for the chattering pundit class, most voters, even in early primary States, haven’t sorted it all out yet.  Much can happen one way or another.

On the primary question—do a majority of American voters want another New Deal, green or otherwise–there is little if any historic evidence in favor.  There is something to the old, and conservative, adage: if there is not a need to change, there is a need not to change…at least in massive ways.

Democratic voters are divided between those who want dramatic action on vital economic issues and those who want to make policy improvements issue by issue, that is to say between progressives and moderates.  A major economic downturn would shift this balance dramatically.  But what if that does not occur?

While we watch the economic indicators for hiccups or earthquakes, the real struggle seems to be one of character.  There is evidence that a slight majority of Americans think Trump is, or may be, unfit for office and has become an embarrassment to our nation.  But they have yet to conclude that any Democrat is preferable.  This will not begin to sort itself out until there is a Democratic nominee and then the real race begins.  But that is next summer.

The fear many of us have is that anger at Trump will translate into a nominee proposing a major economic make-over that the average independent American voter is not yet ready to accept.

So far, there is little evidence that enthusiastic Warren and Sanders rally supporters are composed of independent swing voters necessary to win a national election.  Turning out Democratic voters is necessary but not sufficient to win.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to create smaller forums of independent voters to listen to and respond to presentations by Warren and Sanders?

Most independents will not make up their minds until after the Democratic nominating convention and even then possibly not until the final days of the 2020 campaigns.  By then it will be a little late if they don’t buy the massive overhaul story and decide either to stick with Trump or stay home.

Of at least equal concern it the possibility of Warren and Sanders supporters staying home if one or the other of them is not nominated.  Hopefully, their loathing of the incumbent will not permit that to happen.

But we should not assume that loathing of Trump necessarily leads to support for a massive overhaul of the national economy.

Corrosive Careerism

Author: Gary Hart

Even a cursory study of early American history reveals at least two widespread convictions among the Founders.  One was the dread of “factions”, what today are known as political parties.  The other was that service in public office should not become a profession.

Of course, a third conviction was the separation of powers and a system of checks and balances among the three branches of government.

It was not long before “factions”, i.e., political parties, emerged taking shape as Federalists and Republicans, with the division largely over the degree of power to be given to the national government.

It is now pretty well conceded that President Jefferson cut across his own convictions about national and concentrated powers to make the Louisiana Purchase.

Centuries later, we are now experiencing what happens when a president exercises arbitrary power backed by an improbable “base” made up of a faction of his Republican Party.  Members of Congress of his own Party rubber stamp his actions with greater or lesser degrees of conviction and do so in many cases silently, that is without explanation or justification.

The Founders would have seen their most dire warnings come true.

How could this happen?  Careerism.

Three decades ago, conservatives rallied around a cause called “term limits.”  Twelve and out.  Two Senate terms and six House terms.  Then go home.  That cause disappeared under two realities: even those who claimed not to like their government found it more appealing than going back to the farm, and even those who stepped out of office or were defeated stayed on in Washington to form the revolving door—lucrative lobbying careers.

Colorado was a hotbed of term limit fever, at least until the limit was reached.  Then, shamelessly, its most ardent supporters proclaimed that they were needed in Washington to push back against “big government” Democrats.  Besides, the perquisites of office were better than civilian life, they confessed in whispers to each other.

So now we have a ruthless, out of control President and acquiescent members of his Party who fear his “base” and believe holding onto office is more important than protecting the country.  All because of cowardice and careerism.

And now corrosive careerism is aided and abetted by insidious gerrymandering, a red nation and a blue nation.  You can spend the rest of your life in office in red States and districts, so long as you toe the line, that is support the increasingly autocratic President silently and unquestioningly.

Democrats among us must be willing to concede that careerism also exists in the blue nation.  But there is a broader base in the Democratic nation with a wider range of ideological belief and more open debate about the future of the Party and nation than in red America.  And there is much greater willingness to question leadership and orthodoxy than in confused conservatism.

What makes conservative careerism and a Trumpian dictatorship possible is a willingness to suspend traditional orthodoxy to serve a loony leader.  Now, deficits don’t matter.  Now, we throw principles to the wind to court dictators.  Now, the Party of conservation wants to privatize the public patrimony.  Now, we throw valuable allies to the wolves.  Now, we start trade wars.  Now, we abandon valuable alliances necessary for our security.

What is next?

We are on the cusp of a highly divisive struggle in our country, superseded only by the awful Civil War and few other occasions.  A President with no allegiance to the rule of law or the Constitutional balance of power has thrown down the gauntlet, defied Congress, and ordered his administration not to cooperate with lawful searches for information on a wide variety of fronts.  Meanwhile, his consigliare in the Senate rushes to stack the judiciary with friendly judges.

To the impeachment count of seeking political help from two foreign nation, specifically prohibited by the Constitution, he now adds the second count of blatant obstruction of justice.

Pray for the triumph of truth and justice.


The Real Deep State

Author: Gary Hart

The only reason a President should hate his own government is when it won’t do what he wants it to.  What he wants it to do is to disregard the law, as he does.  So, when he orders something to be done that is illegal and the Executive branch, which he is supposed to administer, refuses to do an act contrary to the law, he and those who work with him and unquestioningly follow him accuse a mythical “deep state”.

Of course, there is no separate hidden state.  There is an administrative branch of government largely led by career civil servants.  They are there by their own choice and appointment to responsible positions by virtue of their experience and talent.

If the career civil service refuses to break the law, they do so because they are oath bound to do so, even if ordered to break the law by the President.

Donald Trump came to Washington to operate the Executive branch of government as he chose to do so.  He thought everyone in government worked for him and not the American people.  (FN: After taking the oath of office, I told my Senate staff they did not work for me, they worked for the people of Colorado and of the United States.)

Among the many myths Trump chose to believe, because of his ignorance of our system of government and our Constitution, this one angers him the most.  If my orders are not carried out, he fumes, there is a secret system out to get me.

It has never occurred to him that there is a much higher loyalty than to him.  The senior civil service is loyal to the laws passed by Congress and the regulations promulgated to carry out those laws.  Those laws cannot be abrogated by a President.  So, he appoints a Cabinet whose members set about dismissing duly enacted regulations by previous Democratic and Republican administrations.

This is especially true where the Obama administration is concerned and where regulations to protect the public lands, the environment, public resources, climate, wildlife, and a host of public recreation areas are concerned.  Privatize it all is his motto.  And Cabinet officers, largely wealthy lobbyists, are delighted to comply.

The only “deep state” that exists is the one he has created.  It exists to dismantle decades of public interest programs in virtually all areas and to privatize as much of the commonwealth as it can.  Even when Trump’s Party had majorities in both Houses of Congress, many Republicans did not want to vote to eliminate popular laws that worked.  Therefore, the dirty work would be done behind the scenes by self-interested Cabinet and sub-Cabinet loyalists who had no constituency to object.  All know they will be welcomed back into special interest land with handsome salaries to reward their efforts.

For a President and administration operating by principles of distraction, it makes perfect sense to attack a “deep state” that does not exist in order to distract attention from a deep state they have created.

And the Trumpian deep state now extends internationally.  We now know that the career foreign service officers represented by our Department of State have been decimated and are being replaced by inexperienced freelance hacks such as Rudy Giuliani to carry out impeachable offenses in Ukraine and who know where else.

We are now at a point where the national interest and the interests of all Americans are represented against Trump’s deep state by whistleblowers and watchdogs stunned by the immorality of this administration.

If the Republicans in the Senate protect their political careers by refusing to vote conviction on a House-passed impeachment indictment, then it will be up to a majority of Americans to shut down the Trump deep state at the ballot box.

What Is Going On?

Author: Gary Hart

From the founding of the United States in 1787 until the first impeachment of a President occurred, that of Andrew Johnson, 81 years transpired.  Thereafter, proceedings were brought against Richard Nixon in 1974.  Then William Clinton in 1998.  Now proceedings against Donald Trump are just underway.

Between Andrew Johnson and Richard Nixon 106 years transpired.  In the past 45 years, there have been three impeachment proceedings.

What is going on here?

There are several possibilities.  Presidents are violating the Constitution more often.  Parties are using the impeachment option to overturn elections.  We are not electing the most upright Presidents.  Presidents are cutting legal, if not moral, corners more often.  The press and media are looking for sensationalism more.

Or, corruption of one kind or another is becoming more common.

Still, an impeachment procedure on average every 15 years is extraordinary.  We should spend time thinking why.  Is the discipline sometimes afforded by political parties breaking down?  Has big money totally polluted the political arena?  Are leaders and everyday citizens paying less attention to civic and civility standards?

Until recently, commentators would have said that political careerism has fostered an atmosphere where election and re-election are all that matters.  Then came the businessman that so many have longed for so long.  He is running the United States government the way he ran his businesses.  He sees no difference.  Run over competitors.  Refuse to pay bills.  Stiff the small services, suppliers, and contractors.  Tie up challenges in court until the plaintiffs are exhausted.

Paramount is: don’t be a “loser”.

The difference is the United States Constitution and the laws enacted by Congress.  That is why there are more lawyers than doctors in government.  Mr. Trump has given no evidence of having read, let alone understood, it.  For him, Constitutional governance is a nuisance.  He is bound by no rules or, for that matter, laws.

Devil may care is all well and good unless…unless you care about the kind of nation you leave your children and future generations.  Even a slight appreciation for true patriotism inevitably leads you to the rule of law.

Trump is pushing a peculiar brand of nationalism in which anything goes, and devil take the hindmost.  The populist brand of easy, chest-thumping nationalism comes at a time when the serious problems we face are increasingly global—security, pandemics, complex trade, mass migrations, and most of all climate destruction.

The Trumpian response to this is: leave us alone; we will dictate trade terms to one and all; we will build walls around our country; we choose to deny fact-based science; and our computers will destroy your computers.

This nihilistic approach is what has brought the country to the latest sad impeachment doorstep.  But it is still not enough to account for the pattern.

Sooner or later, every Member of Congress will have to vote whether to impeach and convict Donald Trump for blatantly enlisting a foreign government to intervene in our election by destroying one of his opponents.  If we lived in a time when facts matter and blatant facts blatantly matter, this case would be open and shut.  But for one party at least, they apparently don’t matter.

Still the question will remain: have we fallen down a political rabbit hole of government by impeachment?

The Nixon impeachment saga at least led to an era of political reform, one in which I was privileged to participate.  In revolving door Washington, it lasted not long at all.

This tragedy would be a blessing if it led to another era of reform, one that would last for generations to come.