© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Will lessons learned lead to action?

Bill Everhart
Josh Landes/WAMC
Bill Everhart

Americans learned on Jan. 6 when Trump-inspired insurrectionists attempted to prevent a duly elected president from taking office that our democracy was far more fragile than we knew. In recent weeks Americans found to their horror that the threat posed by Trump far exceeded their worst imaginings.

The question now is what can those who cherish our democracy do to preserve it when one party has turned against democracy and refused to challenge a tyrant who engaged in corruption while in office and contrived to subvert the will of the people and stay in office following his election defeat.

In the new book “Peril,” authors Bob Woodward and Robert Costa assert that Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had felt obligated to assure his Chinese counterpart that the U.S. would not launch a nuclear attack as an excuse to keep defeated President Trump in office. A White House lawyer’s 6-point plan to keep Trump in office by having Mike Pence reject the electoral votes in seven key states won by Joe Biden fell through, but Pence apparently considered doing so until talked out of it by former Vice President Dan Quayle, who was turned out of office along with George H.W. Bush by Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

A memo unearthed by CNN revealed that Trump aides knew the accusations that Dominion Voting Systems had rigged the election for Biden were false but remained silent when Trump mouthpieces like Sydney Powell and Mike “The My Pillow Guy” Lindell continued to defame the company. Most recently, the Arizona election audit farce ended with the Cyber Ninjas finding that Biden received more votes and Trump fewer in Maricopa County than originally credited to them on Election Day. This didn’t put an end to the “Stop The Steal” lies of Trump and his acolytes.

Reforms are necessary, and House Democrats are offering a law that will to at least some degree rein in a rogue chief executive. Some of the proposals have been championed in the past by Republicans, but the party isn’t the same as it was before it caved in to Trump.

One provision of the Protection For Democracy Act would restrict a president’s ability to declare a national emergency without congressional backing. Washington Republicans supported this concept back when they saw President Obama as a tyrant but may not now because Trumpists could see it as a slap at their leader. Which it of course is, and well-deserved.

The legislation would financially penalize presidents who refuse to respond to subpoenas, enable Congress to block pardons of presidential cronies found guilty of crimes and prevent presidents from retaliating against or firing bothersome inspector generals. These measures are all inspired by actions or attempted actions by Trump.

A provision would add enforcement powers to the Hatch Act prohibiting White House aides from engaging in campaign politics in the course of their work. The “emoluments” clause banning presidents from taking payments would be extended to commercial transactions, addressing the practice of lobbyists and foreign governments renting rooms at Trump hotels and resorts that they frequently didn’t use to gain the president’s favor. Presidents would be required to release the last 10 years of tax returns, eliminating a way in which Trump dodged accountability to the American people.

President Biden has expressed concern about a provision giving Congress enforcement power for its subpoenas of the executive branch, figuring, with good reason, that Republicans would abuse this power if they regain control of the House and/or Senate in 2022. Biden could still fight fishing expeditions through the courts, however, and the president must take the longer view of what is best for our fragile democracy.

It is of course impossible to anticipate every nightmare scenario. It was hard to envision a president urging a violent assault on the Capitol or trying to persuade his Vice President to overturn an election because he couldn’t deal with losing. But we witnessed both this year.

It is clear that Trump will run for president in 2024, and would be favored to win the nomination. Should he regain office, fairly or perhaps unfairly considering the recent defiling of election laws by red state officials, our democracy must be strengthened in anticipation, and passage of the Protection For Democracy Act would make our system of government safer from assault by totalitarians.

Bill Everhart is the former editorial page editor of The Berkshire Eagle and is an occasional Eagle contributor. 

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

Related Content