“A Republic, if we can keep it.” –Steve Patterson

New Albany MS A Republic, Independence Hall
The State House about 1776 with wing buildings adjoined by wooden sheds. National Park Service
October 17th, 2019     Guest Authors

“Are we rolling downhill like a snowball headed for hell

With no kinda chance for the flag or the liberty bell

Wish a Ford and a Chevy

Would last ten years like they should

Is the best of the free life behind us now

Are the good times really over for good ?”

–Merle Haggard

 

Once upon a time there was an idea. It was a grand idea. An idea admired and emulated the entire world over. An idea conceived in liberty, justice, freedom and God-given inalienable rights. An idea that proclaimed all men were created equal and none were above the law. It was an idea that led to the oldest continuous representative democracy in world history. The idea became the United States of America.

This idea culminated in a written constitution that soon became the envy of freedom loving people everywhere. The deliberations that led to this magnificent document were held in strict secrecy. The debates were of an intellectual caliber rarely, if ever, seen in human history.

Consequently, people living in Philadelphia in 1787 gathered outside Independence Hall, where the debates were taking place, hoping to glean information about what the founding fathers were up to. As the deliberations ended, a curious Philadelphia lady named Mrs. Powell approached the revered old sage, Benjamin Franklin, and eagerly asked “Well Dr Franklin, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?” Without hesitation Dr. Franklin responded “A Republic, if we can keep it.”

“If we can keep it,” indeed!

Can we keep our Republic?

Today we live in an age of repugnant tribalism. An age of assault on truth from every quarter.. An age of unimpressive, self serving cowardly politicians in both political parties. An age of unreliable media. An age of a politicized judiciary. An age of corruption at the highest levels of government, and an age where the public has grown content with dysfunctional governance. Do these realities of the age forecast the end of the republic?

Not so very long ago, although it seems much longer, a corrupt, flamboyant, narcissistic, reality television star, with the help of a Russian despot, captured the presidency of the United States. A man, who, it has been painfully revealed, does not believe in any idea beyond his own enrichment. He is addicted to the adrenaline rush he gets from the praise of the many bootlicks in his cabinet and of white nationalists who fawn in slavish devotion to him as he delivers bigoted quips at Nuremberg-style political rallies. This guy really craves adoration. There appears to be no public interest, no national interest, only Donald Trump’s interest.

Will the Republic survive whether this President is impeached or not?

Of course it will!”

–Steve Patterson

I confess shock that this New York huckster was elected. I also confess that I mistakenly rationalized that his election might just be the wake-up call that America needed. A tonic to cleanse the system and improve the performance of our institutions. It just might put government on notice that “we the people” are still in charge. I should have known better!

However, I also knew our founders foresaw times and leaders like this in their deliberations at Independence Hall. In fact, it was times like this–indeed this very type dilemma–that consumed much of their intellectual energy. The genius of their work resulted in a novel system of “checks and balances“ and “separation of powers” between “three equal branches” of government. Additionally, they guaranteed the rights of a “free and unfettered“ press. Therefore, one could rationally reason that our democratic institutions would save us from both these abnormal times and the kleptocracy that is the Trump administration.

So, how’s it all working out? Are our Democratic institutions protecting us from these aberrations? Sadly, no, they are not!

Why the courts can’t save the Republic

The courts have been stacked with Trump loyalists. The President’s guiding principle in appointing judges is loyalty to him, not the constitution, and certainly not independent thought. And, he has appointed more judges than any President since George Washington. All in all, the courts have been a mixed bag. Trump’s effort to rig the census was denied, but his Muslim ban was not. I expect the courts’ biggest tests are yet to come with issues surrounding Trump’s efforts to extort a foreign nation to investigate one of his political opponents. Numerous other challenges to Trump corruption are also pending. Shall we say, “The jury is still out on the Courts?”

Why Congress can’t save the Republic

What about Congress? Well, until recently the Congress has been about as effective as the ole Miss Rebel defense was against the Alabama crimson tide. No trouble at all! Democrats have been predictably weak, unsure, and out maneuvered by Trump’s bully pulpit, and his favorite twin megaphones, Twitter and Fox News! Republicans have drunk the poisonous Trump Kool Aid. One day, that drink will send them home or, more likely, to lucrative gigs with K Street lobbying or law firms. Make no mistake this Kool Aid is deadly; it’s a long slow death and there is no antidote! Congress has long been in perpetual recess. We can only hope the bell is about to ring and playtime is over.

Why the free press can’t save the Republic

Surely “the fourth estate,” the free press, provides a solid guardrail against both the unhinged era and tyrannical President?  Well, no, not really. Aggressive investigative reporting is greeted with apathy and wild partisan claims of “fake news.”

The press has reported that:

  • Donald Trump committed “outright fraud “as a businessman. No one cared!
  • Donald Trump is an unindicted co-conspirator in a criminal case where hush money was paid to silence both a porn star and a playboy model with whom he had affairs. No one cared!
  • Donald Trump has personally profited from both U.S. government and foreign governments booking rooms in hotels he owns, a clear ethical conflict and direct violation of the constitution. No one cared!
  • Donald trump has told over 10,000 lies since taking office. No one cared!
  • Donald Trump has committed numerous instances of obstruction of justice for which any other American citizen would be indicted and likely imprisoned. No one cared!

The press is doing the reporting, but no one cares!

The founders’ ultimate weapon for protecting the Republic

So what’s a republic to do? How does a republic react when its democratic institutions fail to provide the safety rails the checks and balances system was created to ensure? What does it do when national interests are traded away to foreign countries? What’s a republic to do when the rule of law is routinely discarded? What does a republic do when it goes into survival mode?

How does it deal with the slime and sleaze oozing out of that big ole White House that threatens to ensnare, not only the president, but the Vice President, the Secretary of State and the biggest sycophant of all, the Attorney General?

Well, the founders meeting in independence Hall in Philadelphia proved their genius once again by creating a fail-safe mechanism. They enshrined in Article 1 of the Constitution an orderly, legal process for cleansing the republic of what cagey old Ben Franklin called “obnoxious“ federal officials, including the President. It’s known as–dare I say it? The Impeachment Clause.

James Madison, who is generally considered the father of the constitution, led the debate in favor of inclusion of the impeachment language. He argued, in part, that a future president might someday “betray his trust to a foreign power.”

The day Madison feared has arrived. One would have to be in a coma, a drunken stupor or living on a far-away planet not to know about President Trump’s extortionate telephone call with the new President of Ukraine. The transcript of that call reveals the depth of the President’s corruption and the shallowness of his character. Like Forrest Gump, that’s all I’ve got to say about that!

Where might we go from here?

But, will the idea that led to (this nation’s) creation be left intact?

The idea that “all men are created equal and no man is above the law.”

Will that idea survive?”

–Steve Patterson

Impeachable misconduct entails a President’s serious abuse of power and serious abuse of trust. Based on what has been reported so far and on what the President has already admitted, his call with the Ukrainian President did both. It was an abuse of power, because he used his office to extort the Ukrainians to do something benefiting him and not the country. It was an abuse of trust, because Americans trust their President not to engage in self dealing to either line his own pockets or cause a foreign government to intervene in their elections on the President’s own behalf.  After The President’s self dealing was discovered he outrageously and brazenly doubled down, and right on the White House lawn, called on China to do the very same thing. None dare call it treason; it’s just Donald trump doing what Donald Trump does. The framers believed such self dealing was the essence of corruption. They invented impeachment to get rid of it.

If the shoe fits, Mr. President, you must wear it; and Congress, you must hold the shoehorn! Political consequences are damned! The Constitution requires it!

Listen to the words of one of the twentieth century’s most eloquent voices, former Texas Representative Barbra Jordan, speaking at the impeachment hearings of President Richard Nixon: “My faith in the constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total.  I’m not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the constitution.”

Every member of the House of Representatives and the Senate should read and embrace those words. The Republic demands it! The Republic deserves it! The Republic is depending on it!

Will the Republic survive whether this President is impeached or not? Of course it will! It survived a bloody civil war, two world wars, economic depressions, terrorist attacks, and natural disasters. And multiple scoundrels, rogues, and crooks. The Republic will endure. The United States of America will survive!

But, will the idea that led to its creation be left intact?  The idea that “all men are created equal and no man is above the law.”  Will that idea survive?

I honestly don’t see how!

More Steve Patterson:  The Mint Julep     Reflections and Insights on Hate

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From the Community

PK says:

Very well written and well reasoned article . No one, even the craziest trumpeters can quarrel with the logic of this article .
The Republic will survive trump but the constitution will not unless Republicans in the Congress stop being scared of Trumps obnoxious, childish Tweets !
When the President brings his circus to Tupelo next week I hope there are chants of lock him up . Lock him up ! Lock him up ! But of course there won’t be because those true believers that attend had rather be entertained by his foolish lies ! After all Trump thinks we are all backwoods rubes ! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! lOCK Him Up!!!!

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