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On the Republican Assault On the Rule of Law: Time for Counter-Attacking, Not Hand-Wringing


It has been a dispiriting time the past couple of weeks– dispiriting because of the one-sidedness of the battle.

As the Republicans are making themselves accessories to the crime of “obstruction of justice,” the truly American side of the battle has been…- how should it be described? — “watching with alarm.”

I could barely bring myself to watch last night as the talking heads who have previously been doing an excellent job of describing the relentless unfolding of the investigation into the crimes of the Trump Team seemingly could only observe that the Trump-GOP effort to besmirch the FBI and discredit the Mueller investigation was “working” and proving “successful.”

As if there were nothing that can be done. Where’s the spirit of Churchill when we need it?

The ongoing Republican assault on the rule of law is not only the grave threat to our democracy that these talking heads recognize and decry. It is also a moment of vulnerability for the Republicans– if only our side will exploit it.

To see what should be the point of counter-attack, consider the various forces on the field in the political arena.

First, there is President Trump. His conduct of late is nothing really new. Countering Trump can continue as before. (Senator Mark Warner’s speech last week warning him against firing Mueller scored well on that front.)

Second, there are the Republicans who have picked up Trump’s trumped up attacks on the FBI. What’s called for with them is to ignore the individuals, while loudly and clearly exposing how bogus the arguments are– loudly enough that the American people generally will hear what they need to hear to see what a sham and disgrace this Republican campaign is.

Third, there is the rest of the Republican Party in the Congress– the people who are leaving the field to their disgraceful colleagues and relying on their staying silent to protect themselves.

These are the people to go afterCall upon them to repudiate these bogus attacks…. Or else.

As for who should mount the attack, that should be the fourth political force on the field: the Democrats in Congress should go after their complicit colleagues with everything in their arsenal.

  • Everything must be founded on the clear presentation of what’s at stake– the survival in America of the rule of law.
  • The counter-attacks should draw sharply the utter contrast between an investigation being carried out with integrity (the Rs have shown no improprieties in the actual conduct of the investigation) and the attacks on Mueller and the FBI, attacks that every expert says have no validity whatever.
  • The unacceptability of Republicans being silent, while their people are aiding and abetting an obstruction of justice right before our eyes, should be prosecuted firmly. As the old saying has it,”Qui tacit consentit” (Silence gives consent).
  • Expose both the opportunism of the Republicans in Congress, and the non-partisan nature of the defense of the rule of law, by brandishing the recent letters by 22 former U.S. Attorneys and by 22 Republican and conservative former members of Congress defending Mueller’s investigation against the dangerous attacks by Trump and his allies.
  • Hammer the Republicans on their violation of their oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. (Indeed, that oath — which calls for members of Congress to “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” — obligates the Democrats to go after these Republican “domestic enemies” of the Constitution with all their might.)

The Democratic counter-attacks against the Republicans should be specific and explicit. Not vague gestures about “threats,” but “threats from this Republican Party of Donald Trump.”

The Democratic counter-attack should have two phases. The first should take the form of entreaties and exhortation: “We call upon you to do the right thing.” Failing that, the next phase should be going after the complicit with both barrels.

Names should be named. Call upon the leaders explicitly: “We call upon you, Speaker Ryan, Majority Leader McConnell, to call off this disgraceful assault on the rule of law.” Call upon those Republicans, by name, from whom we have reason, based on their past statements, to expect more (e.g. people like Corker and Flake, and McCain when he returns).

I mentioned some of this to a friend this morning– a good liberal who is suitably appalled by Trump and all ways he and his allies are degrading our America. My friend was concerned that my approach was too aggressive– after all, these are the people we need to work with, we don’t want to alienate them, it is important to maintain good relations….

This is the reflexive instinct of liberals, and it is laudable as an approach for dealing with people who, in return, will deal in good faith. But it is precisely the wrong approach to take with today’s Republican Party. It has not worked with them for years (and continuing to try it, after all the times it has failed, brings to mind Einstein’s famous definition of “insanity.”)

If these Rs will do the right thing, it will only be if they are bludgeoned into it, only if they see more to fear from doing the wrong thing than from cleaning up their act.

A well-mounted attack offers a win-win set of possibilities. If the Republicans are successfully bludgeoned into repudiating these baseless attacks on Mueller and the FBI — and thus on the rule of law — that will be good for democracy.

Chances are, however, they will not change directions. In which case, the counter-attack will serve to highlight the deepening depravity of this Republican Party. And that will heighten the Democratic wave that seems to be coming in the 2018 elections.

Ever since the rise of Trump, I’ve been hoping for Trump to be the poison that destroys the Republican Party in its present incarnation. Since Trump became President, I have wavered about what to hope for.

Would it be best for the Republicans to help solve America’s Trump problem, but with that Party escaping relatively unscathed from their disgrace in giving us such an abomination as President? Or should I hope that the Republican Party would so tightly tie itself to Trump that when he goes down, this morally bankrupt Party goes down with it?

With this profoundly dangerous Republican assault on the Mueller investigation — a thoroughly dishonest attempt to shield the Presdent from the consequences of his high crimes and misdemeanors — the Republican Party seems to have chosen which way it can go.

But it can go that way only if Trump is truly brought down. And we can see that this requires that the Democrats fight with the fury the occasion calls for.

Not hand-wringing, but all-out counter-attack.

Does the Democratic Party have it within its character, its spirit, to rise to this occasion? Can it muster something like the spirit of Churchill, which Britain eschewed until it was very nearly too late to save the nation?

In the dark days near the beginning of World War II, as the menace of Hitler’s forces lay poised just across the English Channel, the new Prime Minister Winson Churchill delivered one of his famous speeches, infusing his countrymen with the spirit required for the battle that their dark enemy had foisted upon them:

“We shall fight them on the beaches, we shall fight them on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender….”

  • James McCarthy

    I believe your friend has a point in that Trump and Trumpism is fatiguing both the GOP and all voters. Not only is this their worst enemy but you are correct that it greatly benefits Dems – all Dems and dems. I further believe that, as in Alabama and Virginia, the electorate is surely shifting away from Trump, having recognized that the malevolence he represents and espouses is not the character to emulate. This view seems to be borne out by recent Gallup polling.

    The better tack, it seems to this observer, is to weigh this shift and formulate the platform to attract its voters and present credible candidates to represent those views. A recent Vox article citing research studies concluded that Trump’s election had deep roots in racial resentment. While that resentment may not have fully run its course, its spokespersons it appears have shot their wads and the electorate is anxious to recover from the hangover.

  • Andy Schmookler

    No need to choose between the two approaches.

    Have an attractive platform to campaign on.

    Meanwhile, protect the Constitution and the rule of law.

  • RobertColgan

    Thanks for writing that, Andy. The country is going down a very dangerous rabbit hole….one that it might take a very long time to claw out of. If it can be done, that is.
    The nuclear option is still very much on the table in front of DJT.

    More than anything else about “the Trump Administration” (clearly a verbal insult to ANYTHING resembling ‘democracy’ or ‘intelligence’) is their flagrant dismantling of ANYTHING enacted by or reflective of the administrations of Barack Obama . . . .it is not too far absurd an analogy to look at the pogroms in Germany and Poland that attempted to erase ANYTHING to do with the Juden.
    Wiping the slate clean of the stain.
    Sanitizing the stink.
    Expunging the historical record.
    . . . .as if he never existed.

    It’s more than apparent that everything the Rs in Congress, both Houses, are doing is to benefit their backers, corporate America, and reverseRobinHood give from the poor to the rich, including themselves. The number of Congresspersons and administration officials whose incomes are in the 1% of wage earners >50%…..thus, self-aggrandizement, about as obscene as can be imagined, unspokenly part of their mission. Having and supporting a greed-infected narcissist becomes even easier when one has very similar characterological trappings….
    . . . .along with their extreme RACISM . . . .to undo ANYTHING Obama.

    The extent to which this racist hatred pervades their actions and those of the Trump Administration rivals what was seen in Germany against the Jews….with the exception that that scapegoating served to distract the German people while rampant fascist militarism took over. While the racism and scapegoating in the US is less focused, more diffuse (blacks, browns, Hispanics, AfroAmericans, Muslims, other ethnicities, other nationalities) ——yet still serves the same function of distraction while rampant looting and pillaging and growing militarism occur.

    But– the obvious and extremely overt racism underneath ANYTHING this Republican Congress and their prodding leader Drumpf are doing is not going unnoticed: witness the votes against Roy Moore in AL.

    I have a feeling that ultimately it will be this (not-unnoticed Republican racism while the demographic is growing proportionally larger in ethnic peoples NOT caucasian) backlash that will be the final undoing of the Republican party……unless the Rs find a new effective way to reduce the ethnic votes (which they have tried to virtually every election I can recall) and the caucasians re-elect their incumbents.
    As it is, the actions of ICE have already not endeared this gov’t to the Hispanics.
    They WILL have a say in coming elections.