We speak with Joshua Keating, senior editor at Slate, about his article: “Whatever Trump Is Doing, It Isn’t a ‘Coup.’ But the Long-Term Effect Could Be Similarly Damaging.” Our guest explains that what we call a coup normally relies on violence to keep someone in power who was not chosen by the people in a fair election. Trump is not (yet) using violent means to achieve his goals. At least for now, he is trying to use legal means to hold onto the White House — lawsuits, recounts, and the like.
We won’t learn for a couple of months whether Trump will relinquish his office or instead fight to retain power even if he has to use extra-constitutional means: Violence, the threat of violence, intimidation, or some other illegal method.
Whether or not we call we have seen so far a coup, to what extent have Trump’s actions eroded our political and other institutions? How deeply have his corrosive effects penetrated the democratic norms and sense of united purpose that are necessary to lubricate the wheels of constitutional government?
Trump has normalized violence, bullying, intimidation, and a sense of grievance and entitlement. In the end, how permanent will Trump’s destruction turn out to be on the United States? How long will the dark after-effects last? How much damage have his actions already caused to the American public’s faith that our democratic processes will ensure our freedom in the future? Will a loss of that faith undermine public participation in elections or encourage illegal disruption of elections, which could enable authoritarian mobs to seize power by force, as occurred during the 1930s and at other times in history? What costs will we have to pay in order to restore trust in our democracy?
Our guest is Matt Ford, a staff writer at The New Republic. We discuss his article: “The Case for Prosecuting Trump and His Cronies : How Biden Treats His Predecessor Could Determine the Fate of American Democracy.”
President-elect Joe Biden has talked about not wanting to “look backwards,” not wanting to focus on investigating and prosecuting Donald Trump for the illegal actions he committed while in office (or before).
Understandably, Biden prefers to look to the future, to exert all his energy and political capital to develop, pass, and implement the best policies he can, in order to solve the many serious problems facing our nation.
On the other hand, will our country be better off if Biden’s administration fails to investigate what Trump and his cronies were up to while they held all the reins of power? Isn’t it important for the public to know about any illegalities and/or any unethical behavior by the Trump administration, including illegalities that may have gravely harmed groups of American people, the economy (including people’s job prospects), and American standing in the world?
What weight should Biden’s government put on ferreting out prior non-compliance with law, holding government officials and business entities accountable for their actions, whether they broke the law, abused the public trust, unjustly enriched themselves, or any other wrongdoing? To put it another way, what message will be sent if law-breakers or abusers get to cheat the American people and then go scot-free? What deterrence will we be able to rely on, to insure against similar acts in the future?
Biden’s appointment of a new Attorney General will tell us a lot about what his answers to these questions are.