It’s not just the Academy Awards out with its nominations today.
Here comes the second installment of Trumpy nominations – highlighting the worst of the worst of the Trump administration.
Today’s category: Worst Anti-Democratic Action.
Trump’s assault on democracy is no accident. Not only does Trump not respect traditional democratic norms, his core notion of presidential powers is fundamentally authoritarian. Trump himself sabotages his authoritarian instincts by incompetence, laziness and self-contradictory pronouncements; he does not bring to the project the committed focus of a Vladmir Putin. Nonetheless, he’s doing considerable damage to democratic institutions and resultingly to identifiable communities. If the country faces a real or concocted terrorist attack or military confrontation, there is no telling how our democracy will fare. And, while Trump’s disregard for polite behavior separates him from other politicians, he disdain for democratic process does not. As commentators such as E.J. Dionne, Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann and Nancy MacLean argue, corporate extremists and the extremist Republican Congress have paved the way for the current moment through a steady undermining of democratic practice and institutions.
The judges had a lot to consider in selecting today’s nominees. They decided against a nomination combining all of Trump’s tweets and expressed hostility to democratic principles, choosing instead to focus on more discrete actions. There was a strong case for inclusion of the nomination and confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, one of the most outlandish power grabs in memory and one which will haunt the nation for decades; but the judges determined that the worst democratic abuse in this regard was the Mitch McConnell-led block on Merrick Garland, which occurred prior to Trump taking office.
The nominees that rose above the pack and were selected as finalists for Worst Anti-Democratic Action are:
Tax Scam: No Deliberation Here. Remember Schoolhouse Rock’s “I’m Just a Bill?” Well, that has nothing to do with how Congress handled the tax bill. It was rammed through committees without any serious consideration or time for careful debate. Then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made massive changes that were never considered through regular order. And, of course, the Senate used “reconciliation” to circumvent a Democratic filibuster. Forget the fundamental nefariousness of the exercise – the rushed process meant mistakes were rampant. Here’s how Norm Ornstein sums up what happened: “There has never been a more outrageous, revolting, unfair process to pass a corrupted bill in the history of Congress.”
Firing Comey: Obstructing Justice. Whatever the role of the Russian government in the 2016 election, whatever the coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, it is axiomatic that the investigation of potential wrongdoing must be permitted to proceed. And although the administration at first offered the preposterous rationale that Trump fired FBI Director James Comey over how Comey mistreated Hillary Clinton, Trump himself quickly stated that he ordered Comey fired over the Russia investigation. There’s no need to romanticize the FBI or Comey, but the president firing the FBI director in an attempt to quash an investigation concerning his campaign, those close to him and potentially the president himself is a profound offense against democratic accountability.
Suppressing the Votes of People of Color. Trump created the Pence-Kobach Commission on Election Integrity – now disbanded thanks to pressure and lawsuits – to intimidate voters of color and develop a national system of voter suppression. The Justice Department has reversed its prior position in ongoing voting rights litigation, just recently urging the Supreme Court to uphold an Ohio law that had the plain intent of knocking people of color off the voting rolls, part of an ongoing series of reversals that now put the Justice Department on the wrong side of voting rights. Think about that for a moment: The Trump administration is defending and promoting schemes to intimidate and make it harder for people of color to vote.
Overturning the Johnson Amendment: Citizens United 2.0. Early in his term, speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast, Trump promised to “totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment. Few Americans had a clue what he was talking about, but his audience did. The idea is to eliminate the restriction on churches (and charities) engaging in political, electioneering activity. This has long been an objective of evangelical churches that would like to participate directly in elections. In practical terms, it threatens to permit churches and charities to function as new, tax-deductible Dark Money organizations. It is completely realistic to anticipate that the move would lead to hundreds of millions of dollars of new Dark Money flooding into elections. That’s why many advocates are calling it Citizens United 2.0. A Republican effort to include the provision in the tax bill was derailed for procedural reason, but Trump and his allies are still pushing.