Generational Challenge: To Resist, Rediscover the Constitution, Bill of Rights and Rule of Law

I loved Sen. Schumer’s recollection of the inspiring letter of Sullivan Ballou at #inauguration, reminding us of the importance of being a part of causes larger than ourselves.

Sullivan Ballou – “Dear Sarah” – A Soldier’s Farewell Letter to his Wife

As if on cue, the mass marches by hundreds of thousands of women and pro-feminist men in DC and other major cities Saturday dramatized the strength of the resistance to Trump. More marchers and protestors showed up than actual attendees to the inauguration, reinforcing the notion that the majority of Americans, 54%, opposed Trump, and that Hillary Clinton won nearly three million more votes.

“How long, oh Lord, how long?” a religious friend writes upon watching Donald Trump’s ascension to power. This “begins to give me some perspective on Scripture. I can’t imagine four years. The Jews were in exile in Babylon for 70. Unimaginable.”

My response:

Exile in Babylon for 70 years in those days meant three or four generations, almost beyond individual memory except for a few old timers. At worst “we” are in exile for four, eight or 12 years, but only if we zone out of politics and hand “our” government over to “them,” which would be a big mistake. The government belongs to all the people, which we must continually remind our representatives, even those from “the other party.” You might be surprised that they will listen, or at least pretend to listen to their constituents, and at least occasionally engage in independent thinking, not just fall in line behind their party leadership and president. We must engage our members of Congress in dialogue and hold them accountable.

A British friend noted that Brexit is irreversible, there is no going back for Brits, but Americans can kick Trump out in four years and reverse his policies. And in the meanwhile, we can contribute to and build up the resistance that could sweep the Congress in 2018. Or better yet, persuade Republican members of Congress to question, and join the resistance to Trump when necessary NOW.

And yet we must keep our minds open, and be willing to find common ground with the president and his party if they do something we can agree with without abandoning principles.

I feel like I’ve seen this movie before. History repeats itself. Richard Nixon, in 1968, according to documents recently revealed from the archives of H.R. Haldeman, instructed his aides to “put a monkey wrench” in the Paris Peace Talks in 1968, tell the South Vietnamese not to come to the negotiating table, because he would give them a better deal than President Johnson or Nixon’s opponent Hubert Humphrey once he was in the White House.

1968 was one of the few elections in which I felt, in retrospect, that the wrong guy won. Usually the presidential candidate who wins is better in tune with the times and better as leader of the government, though sometimes it takes years for partisans to recognize or acknowledge the point. But Nixon harmed the country and the world far more than Humphrey or Robert Kennedy, if he had lived, would have, in many ways.

Nixon betrayed the South Vietnamese five years later when it was in his interest to do so, after tens of thousands of Americans and Vietnamese had been killed in his little war in Vietnam that in retrospect, looks totally unnecessary.

Trump appears to be like Nixon in egomania, megalomania, venality and disrespect for the Constitution, but without Nixon’s long experience in government, knowledge of the world, attention span, legal mind, and intellectual curiosity.

Forty years ago, Americans in a bipartisan way defended their Constitution and civil liberties from a president who wanted to destroy individual rights. The House voted to impeach him; the Senate was prepared to remove him from office, but he thankfully resigned in disgrace.

A new generation will now have to rise to the same challenge to defend the Constitution again. We’ll see how bipartisan this defense will become. If it does become bipartisan, the resistance to Trump could be quite a healthy development.

Now is the time to strengthen congressional government, to challenge an over-weaning executive, to defend the Bill of Rights and Constitutional government.

Trump May Make Bipartisanship Popular Again

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