The chorus of delegitimation

Yascha Mounk at the NYRB takes a less optimistic view, pointing out how far the Overton window has shifted in the past 11 months.

[W]hile many of the violations of basic democratic norms that President Trump and his collaborators have perpetrated over the past twelve months would not have been foreseeable before he took office, most of them had come to seem all-but-inevitable by the time he actually committed them. Trump’s unwillingness to dissociate himself from his most radical supporters was evident throughout the opening months of his presidency. The firing of FBI Director James Comey was preceded by a series of outrageous attacks. Even Trump’s endorsement of Roy Moore in the Alabama special election seemed inevitable by the time he tweeted his support.

These realities make it all the more infuriating that we are now hurtling toward yet another constitutional crisis, and that supposedly moderate Republicans are once again refusing to do anything about it.

Isn’t it though. We read stories in the Post about Republicans in Congress who are disgusted shocked appalled by Trump and yet…they never do a damn thing about it.

For the better part of a month, Fox News and other conservative media outlets have been smearing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, all but calling him an enemy of the American people. Over the past week, a series of senior Republicans have joined in the chorus of delegitimation, with a host of voices—from Mike Conaway, who leads the investigation of Trump’s campaign on the House Intelligence Committee, to John Cornyn, who heads the Senate equivalent—insinuating that it is time to wrap up the special counsel’s investigation.

In short, they’ve been clearing the path of brambles so that Trump can careen madly down it and fire Mueller at the end.

I fear that there is a simple reason for skepticism about whether Congress will defend the rule of law: over the past year, Republicans had a comparatively easy way to police this particular red line without overtly opposing Trump. “Obviously,” they could have said, “the president would never do anything as crazy as this; but if he did fire Robert Mueller, I would have to support congressional action to reinstate him.” Indeed, following that rationale, they could easily have signed onto bipartisan legislation that would have stopped Trump from being able to fire Mueller in a fit of rage in the first place.

Instead, virtually all of them refused to comment; the few who did actively conspired in undermining Mueller. (When former attorney general Eric Holder claimed to speak “on behalf of the vast majority of the American people,” when he said that “any attempt to remove Bob Mueller will not be tolerated,” for example, Senator Cornyn replied, simply, “You don’t.”)

Yes he does – but that’s not the point; the point is that Cornyn spurned Eric Holder’s warning about firing Mueller. Remember what Mueller is investigating? Russia’s interference with the election. The Overton window is out of sight somewhere over the horizon.

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