A Bright Side

Donald Trump, without a doubt has answered the centuries old question of the worst president in American history. His standing as the biggest moron lends Harding, Buchanan, Pierce, and other lackluster presidents a step up from the cellar. 

Is there a bright side to the bedlam unleashed by 45’s insanity? I believe so. Americans have witnessed how not to preside over our democracy in real time. Now that’s a powerful civics lesson. 

Once misunderstood, most American’s were reminded how the Electoral College functioned—a big deal demonstrating how a candidate can win the Electoral College, but not the popular vote. From irregularities identified in the 2016 race, shocked citizens across the country wonder if this election procedure has a purpose in the 21st Century. 

The legal tradition of checks and balances took a rough bruising with Congressmen and Senators scurrying to the Oval Office to kiss the ring of their messiah. Two clearly illegal actions by the President; pressing Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to open an inquiry on Hunter Biden, and Trump would offer an invitation to Washington.The second came after the January 6th insurrection using violence to disrupt the ceremonial certification of Electoral College. The House impeached both times, and the Senate refused to convict. The moral of that story? The Executive Branch went rogue and the upper chamber of the Legislative Branch failed in their duty. However, both branches somehow remained intact and horrified voters learned what they didn’t want. 

That elections and voting truly matter may be the most profound lesson of the Trump years. The right to vote is power, and denying citizens of that power became the GOP’s endgame. Even now, the far right longs to deprive many of us, especially minorities from exercising that power. The lawsuits are still flying to undermine our most sacred right under the law.

Another teachable moment touched on the Supreme Court. The 2020 death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the retirement of Anthony Kennedy in 2018 shed light on manipulating the Judiciary. Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell lobbed the first volley through the customary practice of filling Supreme Court vacancies. Before 2016 the sitting president had the privilege to put forth judicial nominees. That had been a long tradition. But the sitting President happened to be Barack Obama. So of course McConnell blew that up. Obama’s choice for the court was Merrick Garland, and McConnell would not hear of it.

Following the 2016 election that tradition resumed. Trump put forth Amy Coney Barrett, and later Brett Kavanaugh. Both lied in hearings to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barrett testified she would allow Roe to remain, and Kavanaugh was a reputed date raper. The clause allowing lifetime terms for judges added gravity to Trump and McConnell’s shenanigans. 

Perhaps the Trump fiasco holds a silver lining. Americans have become more aware of the workings of our democracy, what functions under the hood, so to speak. Perhaps democracy is indeed fragile, but our near collapse into tyranny has forced us all to wake up and pay attention.

PS contact your Representative in Congress. Request a hand pamphlet of the Constitution like the one above. They have them in their DC office or their home office. We’ll show ’em.

Gail Chumbley is the author of the two-part memoir River of January, and River of January: Figure Eight. Chumbley has written two plays, Clay about 19th Century Statesman Henry Clay, and Wolf By The Ears exploring the genesis of racism and slavery in America.

The only thing new in the world is the history you don’t know

Harry Truman

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