I’m just trying to digest some of what is happening today, this week, and thought I’d share my thoughts with you all, see what your own thoughts are.
Yesterday, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens died at age 99. One of the things he will long be remembered for is his stance that a sitting president is not above the law. In 1997, he wrote the opinion that Bill Clinton must face Paula Jones’ sexual harassment lawsuit because a sitting president does not have immunity from all civil lawsuits for actions when he was not in office.
In another case in 2006, Hamdan v Rumsfeld, he wrote: “The Executive is bound to comply with the Rule of Law that prevails in this jurisdiction.” And in a recent interview, when asked how he viewed Trump’s abuse of power, Stevens said …
“The president is exercising powers that do not really belong to him. I mean, he has to comply with subpoenas and things like that.”
I may have a tribute to Justice Stevens later, but for now I am wondering … how has this nation changed so much from the days of Justice Stevens’ rulings? Nixon tried to abuse the power of the office, and he was stopped both by Congress and the Supreme Court. That was in 1974 … forty-five years ago. What changed?
Sure, Trump is a bully who rules by instilling fear of his red-faced wrath, but frankly, his power, his authority, derives from We the People. He has no power without the approval of Congress and the Court, and Congress derives their power from us. Or at least, so the theory goes. Which brings me to my next thought.
After the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, Trump remarked that there were “very fine people” on both sides – one of those sides being white supremacists who had committed murder on that day. Based on those remarks, his net approval rating dropped by 10%. But this week, after his blatantly racist remarks … and yes, they were racist remarks … about four members of Congress, it turns out that his approval rating among republicans actually went up by 5%!
How can this be?
His approval rating among independents dropped a bit, thus his overall approval rating remains unchanged. But … think about this. Some people who did not approve of him a week ago, now like him because he denigrated lawmakers based on their ethnicity and the colour of their skin. What does this say about us?
One thing it says is that the divisiveness of this nation is a division of values, or morals. Certainly, that is not the only cause of the deep chasm between right and left, but it is part of it. Apparently, there is a large contingent for whom money is more important than humanity, profit over people. But, I wonder … does it also say that the white supremacists, those who believe their Caucasian ancestry makes them somehow ‘better’ than the rest of us, are gaining momentum? Are their numbers growing, and if so … why? What has changed?
And where does this lead us? Are those who support Trump, not in spite of but because of his bluster, his arrogance, his racism, willing to hand him the keys to the kingdom, willing to allow him complete power to rule with impunity? For it seems to me that is the direction this country is headed. Those of us who are not without conscience are demeaned and mocked, told “if you don’t like it, leave”. Trump has taken the law into his own hands and dared any to challenge him.
The democrats in Congress are divided, not because any are enamoured of Trump, but simply because this situation is without precedent and they are not sure which way to turn. It’s understandable, but unfortunate, for we need them to be unified in the fight to keep this nation from becoming an authoritarian regime. They are the last, best hope to force accountability, but instead they sit on their thumbs because they cannot agree on how best to proceed.
It disturbs me to see what is happening in this country today. It makes me sad that not only do we have more corruption in the upper echelons of our government than perhaps ever before, but that the people of this nation are willing to turn a blind eye. I don’t understand it, but it flies in the face of the premises on which the nation was founded. Where do we go from here?