When I was a girl, if someone made a rosy prediction, my grandmother would respond with “From your mouth to God’s ears!” It was her way of saying, “I hope you are right!”
That phrase came immediately to mind when I saw this Washington Post headline –“How Trump is Helping to Save Democracy.”
Ordinarily, seeing a headline like that would signal that the piece was written by a pro-Trump apologist, but the co-authors of the column were Norman Ornstein, Thomas Mann and E.J. Dionne, all of whom I respect immensely, and the column itself made an argument that I have actually made myself, at least in my more Pollyanna moments.
The election of Donald Trump could be one of the best things that ever happened to American democracy.
We say this even though we believe that Trump poses a genuine danger to our republican institutions and has done enormous damage to our country. He has violated political norms, weakened our standing in the world and deepened the divisions of an already sharply torn nation.
But precisely because the Trump threat is so profound, he has jolted much of the country to face problems that have been slowly eroding our democracy. And he has aroused a popular mobilization that may far outlast him.
The article went on to enumerate the multiple points of resistance to the Trump Administration, and the recognition by previously apolitical Americans that apathy is no longer an option.
The election has also highlighted the importance of democratic norms of behavior.
Trump’s sheer disregard for the normal practices and principles of presidential behavior has cast a spotlight on the vital role that norms play in regulating and protecting our democracy. Only when norms disappear are we reminded of how important they were in the first place.
Trump has also brought the simmering divisions within the GOP to the fore; the defections from the party line from principled conservatives make it more likely that the party will have to face up to the reality that white supremacists and outright racists have become an important segment of its base.
A large group of influential conservative thinkers — Jennifer Rubin, Michael Gerson, Max Boot, George F. Will, Peter Wehner, William Kristol and Tom Nichols, to name just a few — has spoken out against the nativist and xenophobic strain in the Republican Party that gave rise to Trump and against his manifest disrespect for our institutions. They want a problem-solving Republican Party, a necessity for our political system to operate. Only a handful of Republican politicians have joined them, but their ranks are growing and include Gov. John Kasich of Ohio and Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona.
Meanwhile, Republicans’ failure to pass any major piece of their legislative agenda, despite their control of the presidency and both houses of Congress, is a sign that tea partyism provides no plausible path to governing.
The column approvingly notes the pushback Trump has received from corporate America and the press, especially (but certainly not exclusively) his refusal to condemn the Nazis and Klansmen who marched in Charlottesville, and his rescinding of DACA protections for undocumented children brought to the U.S. by their parents. And it applauds renewed civic activism.
The Trump jolt has done more than force the country to a necessary reckoning. It has also called forth a wave of activism, organizing and, perhaps most important, a new engagement by millions of Americans in politics at all levels.
The entire column is worth reading.
It’s probably true that, had Hillary won, the U.S. would have experienced four or eight more years of what we had under Obama–a Republican-dominated Congress determined to block any and all Administration initiatives, no matter the common good or national interest. Trump’s election has made the increasing evidence of the dysfunction of our government impossible to ignore.
I just wish I could be confident that the resistance these scholars describe will ultimately succeed in correcting our downward spiral–preferably, before the maniac in the White House triggers a nuclear war.
From their mouths and God’s ears…..