The Erosion of America’s Democracy

On January 21, 2020, the US Senate began the impeachment trial of Donald John Trump, 45th president of the USA. This is a trial that the senate was mandated to do by the constitution when the House impeached the president. Trump’s historic impeachment was the climax of a number of incidents he and his administration engaged in to bring the nation to this critical juncture.

Presidential elections are supposed to be conducted with the highest degree of integrity. This is not an indication that the system is perfect. However, during the past two decades there has been incidents such as voter suppression, purging of the voters list in some states, and gerrymandering that have undermined the election process. These problems, however, are not systemic and they pale in comparison to Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and Trump’s Ukraine “quid pro quo.”

In both the Russian interference scandal and the Ukraine “quid pro quo” scandal Trump was at the center of the investigations and especially the latter scandal for which he has been impeached. In essence based on the mountain of evidence related to these two scandals and Trump’s consistent undermining of Congress and institutions, America’s democracy is being eroded.

When foreign countries interfere and is solicited to interfere with our elections then that is an attack on America’s democracy. This attack and other misdeeds are an erosion of America’s democracy by Trump and his administration. It is also a symptom of the abuse of power and a lack of respect for the constitution. In the past president knew that their power had checks and balances that are enshrined in the constitution. This is what prevented them from corrupting the democratic process and the institutions of the country. Any president who dared to abuse their power could face impeachment.

The very act of soliciting or encouraging a foreign country to provide help in a presidential election is an egregious and illegal matter.

Impeachment of a president is a strong deterrent for preventing presidents from abusing their power. That is why only two presidents before Trump has been impeached – Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Richard Nixon faced impeachment for the Watergate break in, but he resigned before the House issued Articles of Impeachment against him.

Trump’s Impeachment process has been compared to Clinton and that leading up to Nixon prior to his resignation.  Much of the comparison relates to procedural matters such as how Congress handled investigations, the presence of witnesses, and the release of documents. Drawing the comparison on the basis of their misdeeds, it is clear that Trump’s misdeed (the Ukraine scandal) far out trumps (no pun intended) what Clinton and Nixon did. The same is true with the case of Andrew Johnson.

The very act of soliciting or encouraging a foreign country to provide help in a presidential election is an egregious and illegal matter. This is not something that you would expect from an ordinary citizen much less a president. The president defenders have said that he committed no crime, but this defense has been shown to be wrong by Ellen L. Weintraub, a member of the Federal Election Commission who wrote on June 13, 2019,

Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office. It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U. S. election.  This is not a novel concept. Electoral intervention from foreign governments has been considered unacceptable since the beginning of our nation. Our Founding Fathers sounded the alarm about “foreign Interference, Intrigue, and Influence.” Is a new that when foreign governments seek to influence American politics, is always to advance their own interest, not America’s. Anyone who solicits or accepts foreign assistance risk being on the wrong end of a federal investigation. Any political campaign that receives an offer of a prohibited donation from a foreign source should report that offer to the Federal Bureau of investigation.

The second sentence makes it clear that Trump committed a crime by asking the Ukraine President to do him a favor and investigate Biden. When a president does this, it is the ultimate betrayal of the trust that is inherent in the office of the presidency. It also undermines national security because if any foreign country is complicit with the president in subverting the election process, then it means that the US and the president are highly compromised. And a president who is compromised by a foreign country like Russia can be exploited to gain advantages or benefits it would not get otherwise.

President Trump’s supporters and the Republicans in Congress have resolutely defended him saying that he committed no crime, and that his phone call with Pres. Zelensky asking him for a favor was not a quid pro quo. Trump himself said the call was a perfect call. All of these arguments do not move the mountain of evidence and so they are defending the defenseless.

America needs to realize that if Putin can manipulate America’s election, he can manipulate other things to create chaos in this country.

The two Articles of Impeachment against Trump are the culmination of several instances where Trump has been undermining America’s democracy and its institutions. These include campaign violation involving hush money payment to Stormy Daniels, possible alleged violation of the emolument clause, undermining America’s institutions (media, intelligence agency, the FBI, and not conforming to Congressional investigations. These however, are not being considered in the senate trial.

Undeniably, Trump’s Ukraine “quid pro quo” that resulted in his impeachment is disturbing, but even more disturbing is that the Congress has completely ignored the erosion that has been done to America’s democracy. No measures have been put in place to deter Russia and any other country who might want to interfere in our election. The Democrats have been busy investigating the allegations against Trump and impeaching him, while the Republicans have spent all their time defending him.

The senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump has brought America to a cross roads that it has only come to once before in the history of the Republic. That cross roads was the slavery issue that led to the civil war. If the Senate removes Trump from office (and that is a long shot) then America will have a chance to correct the damage done to its democracy and its institutions. Otherwise, America’s democracy will continue to be eroded and the future will be bleak.

Should the Senate vote not to remove Donald Trump from the White House the big winners will be Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. For Trump though it will be temporary as he will face an election in November and failing that he will get another term. For Putin his country Russia will go on to build on their global dominance and possible more interference in America’s affairs. In that regard, the American people will be the big loser.

It may seem odd to say that Putin will be a winner if Trump is acquitted by the Senate. This is not far-fetched though when you take into consideration that he orchestrated the interference of the 2016 presidential election. Putin wants to restore Russia to the glory days of the Soviet Union and to gain global dominance.

With Trump being beholden to him, America should be very concerned about their relationship. Trump seems to think that Putin is a good man, a strong leader, and that is friendly relationship with Putin is good for America. These things are not true. Dictatorial leaders like Putin care about their interest. This is why it is so mind-boggling that no measures are being taken to prevent Putin from interfering with the internal affairs of America.

America needs to wake up and take measures to stop Putin from interfering with our democracy. America needs to realize that if Putin can manipulate America’s election, he can manipulate other things to create chaos in this country. For example, he could create racial conflicts like America has never seen before, and compromise the national grid. Should any of these things happen it would weaken America and allow Putin to gain a distinct advantage in global strategies.