Who will stop him now? Donald Trump knows the answer after Lamar Alexander announced Thursday evening that, yeah, the president used taxpayer dollars to extort a foreign government into ratfucking the 2020 election for his personal gain—so what? A couple of Republican senators will vote to hear from eye witnesses to the American president's attack on American democracy, but not enough to actually hear from the witnesses. Mitch McConnell has surely arranged for that. Soon enough, they will vote to acquit him having acknowledged that he did it. And so the Republican Senate will rubber-stamp the president's activities with respect to Ukraine, and offer him a blank check to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, between now and an election in November that we cannot in any way expect to be free and fair.
It's tempting to be cynical, to shield yourself with the idea we always knew this would happen, because the craven depravity of Trump's congressional allies has been on show for three years now. But the milestones on the road to autocracy must be acknowledged. On Wednesday, the president's lawyer—the "civil libertarian" Alan Dershowitz—argued on the floor of the United States Senate that, so long as the president declares his re-election to be in the national interest, he is free to do anything to make it happen. He can even undermine the integrity of that election for his own personal gain. Never mind that the traditional purpose of an election is for the public to decide, through VOTING, whether his re-election is in the national interest. Dershowitz declared our American King shall have the sole power to decide, and the Republican majority in the Senate has seconded the motion.
That leaves us with the inescapable prospect that the president will do more, and probably worse, to hold onto power in the coming election. As a malignant narcissist, Donald Trump's life has been defined by pathological self-interest and deranged risk-taking in order to fill the bottomless hole in his soul. The greatest risk he ever took, and boy did it ever pay off, was running for president while simultaneously running a crooked business with shadowy funding sources. He also ran a crooked Foundation, and a crooked University. He is a crook. But he subjected himself to the most scrutiny the world has to offer—and attracted the interest of many different law-enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York—by running for president, and he lived to tell the tale. He survived by winning the only job in America that, according to some absurd decades-old Justice Department legal opinion, makes him immune from prosecution. He cannot afford to lose that immunity. It may be the only way he remains a free man. He will do anything to keep it.
In Dershowitz's world, which apparently is now our world, the president could theoretically declare a state of emergency on Election Day in Democratic strongholds across key swing states to shut down the polling stations there. He already declared a phony national emergency to seize funds Congress refused to appropriate for his Big, Beautiful Wall, a brazen attack on the Constitution's separation of powers. He's already invited three different nations to attack our democracy: Russia, Ukraine, and China. That was just in public. Who knows what he's doing behind the scenes? He has shady business entanglements with dozens of foreign actors and governments, including, say, Saudi Arabia. He would happily trade favors, in the form of American foreign policy decisions or whatever else, for his own self-preservation.
Perhaps he could just cancel the election entirely. The national interest—his re-election—is at risk! Or at least, that's what Alan Dershowitz said. And that is, in effect, the power that the most powerful Republicans outside his administration have granted him. Do what you wish, my king. Do you really believe that Lamar Alexander, or anyone else, will stop him if he declares a national emergency heading into Election Day?
The nature of power is that it belongs to whomever wields it. The Congress has declined to exercise its constitutional authority, and so now that power flows to the Executive Branch, and a man who will not hesitate to make use of it. Maybe it was always going to be cowardice and careerism and crony corruption that sunk the American experiment. Giving it all up for a tangerine game-show host was harder to predict. Still, amid all the cynicism, we ought to say something while we watch it go. We will miss it when it's gone.
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