Norm-busting presidents with authoritarian impulses

David French argues that a “cycle of partisanship  has truly corroded our institutions.”  It’s not just another case of “whataboutism.”

As a Republican, I have always felt as though our greater affection for the small-r republican circuit breakers built into the system placed us at a disadvantage in the hand-to-hand battles.  On many occasions I can recall the choice:  we could stop what was happening but it would cost us one of our cherished small-r principles.

Feels different now, with President Trump.  Like we too have slipped that leash.  Here’s French:

Fact is, we’ve had (at least) two norms-busting presidents with authoritarian impulses in a row. Both believe in ruling with a pen and a personality, and disregarding process whenever it suits their political purposes. One was a thoughtful-sounding charismatic force and a talented fibber, a virtuoso at erecting strawmen and offering false choices. He pushed his party farther to the left than it has ever been. The other is a clumsy and transparent fibber, an incompetent novice pushing his party into whatever ideologically untethered position is catching his fancy at the moment. Only one of these men, however, was given a free pass by most people in the institutional media because his progressive ideological outlook pleases their sensibilities. Democrats’ newfound adoration of checks and balances simply isn’t credible.

You don’t trust Donald Trump to name an FBI director, even though it’s within his purview to do so? Well, I don’t trust Barack Obama to enter into faux treaties with a bunch of nations without Senate approval, or to unilaterally legalize millions of people without Congress. I understand that you find those unilateral decisions morally comforting, but if process and norms matter, they should always matter.

While there is plenty of hypocrisy to go around, Democrats’ newfound adoration of checks and balances simply isn’t credible. And once that trust has been eroded, it’s difficult to regain. Most Americans aren’t impressed by procedure. So why would they surrender power when they’re certain you will abuse it again four years from now?

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