By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders
Two hundred and thirty-two years ago, the American Democracy was founded with the approval of our Constitution. In the centuries that have passed, it is easy for some to forget how inspired and revolutionary that document was. Sadly, others choose to ignore it.
For the first time, a nation was to be a Republic, governed not by a monarchy or other form of dictatorship or autocracy, but rather by the will of its citizens with important checks and balances among three co-equal branches of government.
That was the enduring genius of our founders. Every president of the United States takes an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution” rather than to preserve his own power.
Like me, you may be wondering whatever happened to those principles and that oath that guided this nation and its presidents for over two centuries.
No matter what happens in these next 50 weeks before the presidential election, that election outcome will be about much more than the character of the president. It will also be a referendum on our Constitution and of the character of the American people.
But before that, the House of Representatives will almost certainly impeach President Donald Trump next month. It will only be the third time in our history that such an action was taken as our Constitution provides. He will be charged with abusing his office for personal, political gain. The trial in the Senate will take place in January with a predictable outcome. Trump will escape removal from office after a mostly party line vote falls far short of the two-thirds majority needed for expulsion.
President Trump will claim vindication of any wrongdoing and continue to assert that it was all a failed “witch-hunt” and a “deep-state conspiracy” aided by the press, which he calls the “enemy of the people.” His base will cheer but most others will continue to be appalled at the president’s behavior, his disregard for facts and his assault on truth.
Next November, according to current polling, at least four out of ten voters will cast their ballots for Donald Trump. He seemingly has their support, no matter what outlandish thing he says or does. But will that again be enough for a victory in the Electoral College?
Therein lies the big picture and the big question.
In 2016, Donald Trump was elected president with 46% of the popular vote to Hillary Clinton’s 48%. But despite trailing Hillary Clinton by nearly three million votes nationally, he narrowly won some swing states, which gave him an Electoral College win. It could happen again.
The Democrats will portray this administration as being one of the most corrupt and lawless in American history. They have a lot of ammunition in that regard. The Republicans will contend that President Trump has broken no laws and the allegations against him are either unproven or exaggerated. Moreover, if the economy is good who cares what else Trump says or does?
His defenders will downplay the stonewalling of Congressional subpoenas. They will dismiss his personal attacks on the press and on the judiciary. They will excuse the racism, xenophobia and may actually tout his white nationalism where it resonates in some corners of America. They will say that Trump’s attempts to solicit foreign government interference in our election process is a matter of opinion and not fact, although the evidence of that is in plain sight for all to see.
As the Constitutional Convention drew to a close in September of 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked by an onlooker, “What kind of government shall we have?” He answered, “A Republic… if we can keep it!” That warning will also be on the ballot in 2020.