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There’s no shortage of reasons to feel that our democracy is in peril. A substantial portion of the population seems to believe that our system of government is unable to cope with the pressures placed on it by changing cultural norms and evolving demographic realities. They’ve taken a reactive approach, trying to halt inevitable trends by embracing authoritarianism and anti-democratic measures meant to limit the influence of the country’s growing minority and secular communities. They are armed, ignorant, and susceptible to grifters, demogogues, and disinformation.
This week, though, offered evidence that our system is resilient. Joe Biden is correct in his assessment that the GOP is home to two different types of Republicans. MAGA may be ascendent right now, but the traditional Republicans who respect democracy and the rule of law are still largely in control. They’ve made their voices heard. While we should not ignore their seriously misguided policy choices, we should be thankful that they are stepping up, even if there’s far more work to do.
First, most of Trump’s appointees are not shielding him from responsibility for hording classified information. Two weeks ago, an unqualified Trump-appointed judge, Aileen Cannon, ruled in favor of Donald Trump and allowed a Special Master to review the documents seized at Trump’s compound, Mar-a-Largo. In her decision, she declined to allow the FBI to continue to investigate the classified and secret documents Trump took until they had been reviewed by the Special Master. Cannon then appointed Trump’s choice of a Special Master. It looked bad.
Then, the Special Master stepped up. Even though he was Trump’s choice, Judge Raymond Drearie was having none of Trump’s nonsense. While the former president claimed he could declassify anything, even by just thinking about it, Drearie called bullshit and told Trump’s legal team to declare what was de-classified or shut up.
After that, a panel that included a majority of Trump-appointed judges rebuked much of Cannon’s decision and said that the FBI had every right to investigate Trump, including searching Mar-a-Lago and that they could continue investigating the materials they seized . As the Bulwark wrote, “Clearly, the panel was acutely aware of the dangerous precedent Cannon’s ruling set, and felt the need to put to rest a number of Trump’s distortions about the case. No doubt Trump is fuming in anger after yesterday’s ruling. Cannon should be red in the face, too—out of embarrassment.”
In addition to his losses in the federal courts in the investigation of the documents he took, Trump also finds his company threatened by lawsuits in New York. The state’s attorney general is suing the Trump organization for fraud and lists Trump and his children as defendants. The years’ long investigation lays out a pattern of misrepresenting the value of properties to secure $250 million in loans and other benefits. If Trump, Inc. loses in court, the company would have to pay back the money and might be forbidden to do business in New York state.
While Trump had a very bad week, democracy is poised to have a very good one. The House passed a bill to reform the Electoral Count Act that would protect the vote in the states from being overturned in Congress. Even though Republicans in the House whipped against the bill, Republicans in the Senate support it. North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis is a co-sponsor of the Senate version and this morning, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he believes the electoral college needs to be reformed. The bill could be taken up in the Senate as soon as Tuesday. That’s good news.
There’s still a lot to be done and a lot to watch. Election denying candidates are on the ballot in states across the country. The Supreme Court is going to hear an argument made by North Carolina’s legislature that the General Assembly has the power to redraw districts without any oversight from anybody, including state courts. The bill could have huge ramifications beyond just redistricting and empower legislatures to oversee all elections in some states. MAGA is still easily riled by the lies and distortions of Fox News, the internet, and talk radio and may vote in force in November. Democrats and progressives should continue their fight to defend democracy.
The threats to our country have not been defeated, but democracy and the rule of law had a good week. Republicans stepped up to show that at least a portion of the GOP is willing to put country before party and that not all of the Trump-appointed judges are as incompetent or partisan as Aileen Cannon. Enough Senate Republicans will get on board to pass the bill to reform the Electoral Count Act, offering a little more security for our presidential elections. While nobody should rest easy, maybe we should start to have a little more confidence in our institutions to protect us . And maybe we should believe Joe Biden when he tells us there are some pro-democracy Republicans out there. When we see them, we should empower them, even if we disagree with them vehemently on other domestic policies.