The president swings wildly but the people will stay true: the way to beat him is to defend the institutions he would smash
Americans have sharply different views about what government should do, whether on abortion, guns, immigration or any number of hot-button issues. But we broadly agree about how government should go about resolving our differences.
This distinction between what we disagree about and how we settle those disagreements is crucial. As long as we continue to agree on the how , the processes and institutions of governance, we can accept what is decided even if we're unhappy about it.
To state it another way, Americans don't always like what government does but they overwhelmingly support the American system of government. They want to improve it, not destroy it.
Enter Donald Trump, who has turned this how-what distinction on its head. In order to get what he wants, Trump rides roughshod over how we decide. He is the great destroyer.
His directive to his lapdog attorney general William Barr to find evidence of "treason" against specific people who investigated him threatens the neutrality of our entire system of justice, as does Barr's assertion of "no limit" on the president's authority to direct law enforcement investigations, including those he's personally interested in.
Trump's blanket refusal to comply with House subpoenas and investigations flies in the face of how Congress is supposed to oversee the executive branch.
Trump's 2016 campaign aides' eagerness to get dirt on his opponent from Russia, and Trump's efforts to suppress evidence about those dealings, undermine how the American electoral system is supposed to run.
Trump's declaration of a national emergency to justify using funds to build his wall
that Congress refused to appropriate, obliterates how spending decisions are supposed to be made.
Trump's angry references to "
Obama judges" who rule against him calls into question the independence and legitimacy of the judiciary.
Trump's hints at violence if he doesn't get his way such as
his March insinuation that "I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump I have the tough people, but they don't play it tough until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad" -- threatens the democratic foundations of our society.
Taken as a whole, these attacks on our basic agreement about how to resolve our disagreements constitute the most profound challenge to our system of government since Richard Nixon went rogue.
Thankfully, most Americans oppose them. Even with record low unemployment, Trump's approval ratings remain in the cellar. Some 35%, Trump's hardcore base, continue to stick by him, but independents and even some
Republicans are deserting him in droves.
Although impeachment is the appropriate remedy for a president who assaults our system of government,
most of the public opposes this move as well. I think that's because in these especially perilous times, impeachment threatens to pull the system further apart, possibly to the breaking point. Next Page 1 | 2
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Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has a new film, "Inequality for All," to be released September 27. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.