Saturday, February 1, 2020

This Is How Democracy Dies...

"So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause."
Padme Amidala, Revenge of the Sith

The Star Wars prequels at least gave us one good quote.  In the previous film, Senator Palpatine was given autonomous emergency powers in light of a coming war.  In Revenge of the Sith, the senator uses those powers to great the Empire, for security and safety of the republic, of course.  So the senator becomes the Emperor, to the delight of the galactic senate.  Senator Amidala recognizes it for what it is, a power grab that means the end of the republic.

Yesterday, we witnessed two blows to democracy as we know it in two of its previously staunchest defenders.  But what Star Wars couldn't predict is that the thunderous applause will come from only a fraction of the population.  In Star Wars, the resistance was small; most everyone sided with the Empire, until it was too late.  What we are seeing across the globe today is such division that whatever group can get a small majority can inflict potentially irreparable harm.

First, the United States Senate, led by the Republican Party, voted against calling witnesses or presenting evidence in the trial of President Donald J. Trump.  It's not surprising, it's what they told us they would do from the beginning.  But it is disheartening.

It reflects their loyalty to party, or should I say to Trump, above country.  They are too afraid of Trump's 30% base across the country to do anything against him.  We knew that the word came out that any Republican who voted inconsistently with Trump's position would have their head on a pike.   We know GOP leadership had coordinated the entire trial with the White House.   "We'll be working through this process, hopefully in a fairly short period of time, in total coordination with the White House counsel's office and the people who are representing the president in the well of the Senate," McConnell said.    We know they are still coordinating now.
We also know the Republicans conceded the evidence already presented.  The deciding vote, Senator Lamar Alexander acknowledged "mountains of evidence" against Trump.

And yet, here we are.

It's not as if Republicans believed Trump was innocent.  The argument largely shifted into either the false argument that the offense wasn't a crime so it can't be impeachable, which has never been the standard, or to the argument that even if it's impeachable, he shouldn't be removed.
So, we've had an impeachment from the House, though driven by Democrats, supplied with ample evidence of "high crimes and misdemeanors," leading to a trial in the Senate, in which the defendant and the judge and jury have colluded on the ultimate acquittal.  Foreign leadership is already pointing out how we are conceding our position in the world as a bastion of liberty and democracy.
 Ilves is the former president of Estonia.

If all of the posturing surrounding the impeachment trial were not enough, the United Kingdom finally stumbled out of the European Union yesterday.  After a deal was finally drafted and approved in the United Kingdom in December, and agreed upon by the European Union on January 23, 2020, the Brexit was finally accomplished at 11:00 pm GMT on January 31, 2020.

Not one day removed, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is planning to ramp up and implement full customs and border checks on all European goods entering the United Kingdom.   This is a vast departure from pre-election discussion of the goals of Brexit, which previously emphasized the ease of trade with the EU.

So, we have xenophobic and nationalistic sentiment winning the day again.  The ideal that differing parties could work together through dialog and debate, that we can do better together, has been dealt a serious blow.

The good news is that democracy is not dead, it is dormant.  It lies to us to remember where the true power lies.  With the vote.

It's up to us to remind our elected officials who they are to answer to.  Who they are responsible to.  Who puts them in power in the first place.  They are to represent us. They are to look out for the best interests of the country, even when we may not recognize it.  And they are to respond to all of their constituents.

It's a reminder that your vote matters, now more than ever.

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