Goodbye, American Democracy, You Had a Good Run.

In 1838, Abraham Lincoln spoke to the Young Men’s Lyceum. In it, he warned that the United States’ fall would not come from abroad, as many feared, but from within. He said,

“Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.”

The actions this week, taken by President Trump, Congressman Devon Nunes (R-CA), Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and others may be just the latest indication of how right Lincoln was and how close we are to the end of the American experiment.

People often conflate politics, government and campaigning. That is understandable. The differences seem to become more without distinction every day. Here’s the thing: the agencies in the Executive Branch exist to promote the policy agenda of whatever administration is in power. Trump’s Department of Justice (DOJ) has different policy objectives than Obama’s. For example, the federal government’s thoughts on legalized pot have changed completely.

These agencies are not there to promote candidates or the political objectives of any administrations, as they seem to expected to do now. Trump has openly asked, why “the Trump DOJ” can’t do what he wants in terms of the investigation into any Russia connection. The reason is that they have a job to protect the Constitution and the rule of law, not Donald J. Trump.

This last year has seen unprecedented attacks on the American rule of law. So many times have people had to use “unprecedented” that its meaning has all been lost. By firing James Comey, forcing out Andrew McCabe and launching an endless attack on the FBI and DOJ, our president is effectively dismantling one of the things that is so special about our country. Our belief in the rule of law.

Now it appears, the Legislative Branch has become complicit. In years past, the Intelligence Committees in the U.S. House and Senate were considered to be “bastions of bi-partisanship.” In both, no investigations were to be started without both sides weighing in. Nunes, who had recused himself from the Russian investigation last spring, ended that fine tradition by starting an investigation into how the FBI handled their Russian investigation without consulting Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA). Once again, that move was unprecedented, but does that mean anything today?

Apparently not because Ryan has said he is “letting the process play out.” No, this is not doing that at all. Now, Nunes’ committee will release a memo, he wrote about the Russian investigation (you know, the one he “recused” himself from) without putting out the other side of the story. PS. It is worth noting that Russian bots have been pushing for the Nunes’ memo to be released. It is also worth noting that changing the rules for how the committee conducts investigations without input from the minority should get Nunes booted from his chairmanship. Ryan is abdicating his main responsibilities as Speaker of the House.

Many believe that the Deputy Attorney General, Rob Rosenstein, will be the next to go (he was hied by Trump but ok’ed the extension of the Carson Page FISA warrant). His replacement may either fire Robert Mueller or just make it impossible for him to do his job.

When we start destroying the foundations of our government (the DOJ is not alone, the State Department is also being decimated from within), we are participating in a kind of cannibalism. When our government acts only to get one side ahead of the other politically and we live in a time when each side lives by a different reality, how can anything positive come from that?

For decades, during the Cold War, the Soviet Union sought to weaken, if not destroy, the United States. Lincoln was right. They should have saved their money. We are going to do it for them.


Featured image by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images