When I was a young FBI Special Agent, a federal shutdown occurred on December 17, 1982, a Friday. My supervisor told me I’d be among the new agents to be furloughed if the shutdown continued to Monday. Ronald Reagan, a Republican president, a Republican Senate and a Democratic House came to an agreement in three days and no federal employees were furloughed. No one would dream of taking us hostage to compel the other side to cave. It wasn’t how things were done in America.
Things are different now. The Party of Lincoln has turned on our Constitutional Democracy and, therefore, turned on the American people. All legal fingers point to our autocratic president, but without Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republican Party enabling and protecting him, Trump’s power would be checked as the Constitution requires. Without McConnell’s manipulation with the tacit consent of the Republican Party we would indeed enjoy the protection of three equal branches of government that guaranteed our democracy until now.
The partial shutdown of the federal government went on for nearly five weeks and McConnell did nothing. The senator is rendering the results of the 2018 midterms moot; he's deaf to the will of the people and enables our incompetent president who has little knowledge or concern about how our Constitutional government works. Nancy Pelosi might control the House as Speaker, but she can’t move McConnell. That’s the real lesson in the shutdown. Every federal employee will know their livelihood can be held hostage whenever the Republican Party wants something. Can our federal workers withstand another shutdown after this one? Well, no.
The Senate Republicans recently voted to allow the Trump administration to lift sanctions against the companies of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska for no reason that makes much sense. Deripaska’s old buddy is Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign manager/convicted felon. Some Republican Senators did balk, but the bill to lift sanctions passed and they were lifted.
The very real doubt that the Republican Senate will ever convict Trump should the Democratic House bring Articles of Impeachment against him has rendered that remedy questionable. Back in August 2016 our intelligence community became aware of Russian involvement in our presidential election. Jeh Johnson, Obama’s Homeland Security Secretary, approached state officials about strengthening their voting systems. Brian Kemp, the Republican Secretary of State for Georgia brushed back hard, claiming he didn’t believe Russia was involved in efforts to interfere in the presidential election and saw the Obama administration’s request as an attack on states’ rights. In 2018 Kemp would become Georgia’s governor after an extremely contentious and close contest with Stacey Abrams.
Obama turned to Congress hoping for a bipartisan statement to the public about Russian election interference only to be blocked by McConnell, ostensibly because of the Majority Leader's doubts over the intelligence and his claims of federal encroachment on states’ rights. A weak statement was released with no mention of Russia due to McConnell’s threats to make a partisan issue of the matter. Republicans have subsequently defended or ignored Trump’s favoritism of Putin and all evidence that points to a puppet president.
Obstruction of justice and violations of the emoluments clause don’t seem to concern McConnell and the Congressional Republicans. The Constitution is just a piece of paper meant to be ignored if it becomes troublesome.
McConnell began his erosion of the Constitution when he shrugged his shoulders at Article II which required the consent of the Senate to our truly duly elected president’s nomination of a Supreme Court Justice. President Obama put Merrick Garland up for the Supreme Court seat on March 16, 2016 with 11 months to go in his second term. McConnell refused Garland the hearings required to move his nomination forward over the objections of Constitutional Law scholars, law professors, and lawyers, weakening the Constitution in the process.
The Republicans, the minority party when it comes to actual population, were not about to endure a two-term black Democratic president only to have him followed by a Democratic woman. If the Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness of the American people has to be thrown overboard, if the Russians have to be appeased because they were needed to get the ignorant president in office, well, so be it. The Republicans are getting their conservative judicial appointments, climate change is on the back burner, the Republican donor class got those tax breaks, pesky regulations are lifted by executive orders and crazy promises about a wall must be kept because of an election chant. Trump’s ban on transgender Americans serving in the military gets new life from the conservative Supreme Court of McConnell’s making; 5-to-4 again going the conservatives’ way. Now the ball is in the court of the majority of the American people. Perhaps it is time to tell the Republicans and their minority a flat out “no more.”