The resignation of Justice Anthony Kennedy has sent shockwaves throughout America. It heralds an awakening from the conventional illusion that Donald Trump’s presidency is inevitably reversible. A 6-3 conservative majority in the United States Supreme Court could change America in hitherto unthinkable ways. Despite enjoying the support of a clear majority of the U.S. population, liberal America could soon find itself in mortal danger.
This week’s SCOTUS decisions that approved of Trump’s Muslim travel ban and eviscerated the foundations of organized labor are a harbinger of things to come. Abortion, LGBTQ rights, freedom of speech and already endangered voting rights could soon be jeopardized as well. Kennedy’s resignation dispelled the notion that the evolution of American politics is necessarily cyclical. The comforting notion that “this too shall pass” suddenly seems like nothing more than an empty slogan.
The risk to liberal America is compounded by the fact that the Republican controlled Congress has abdicated its role as a check and balance on the Trump Presidency. By ideological inclination or out of expedient opportunism, the GOP majority in Congress is nothing more than a rubber stamp for Trump’s whims and fancies. If it stands up to him, as it did in this week’s scuttling of the reform immigration bill, it is not because he goes too far but because he doesn’t go far enough, at least in the eyes of the GOP’s right-wing diehards and the Republican “base”, which is often a euphemism for mob.
The disintegration of American values and traditions is even more profound in Trump’s foreign policy. The U.S. President is actively and purposely undermining free trade and the Western alliance. He promotes authoritarianism, fawns over dictators, disdains human rights and, like in the U.S. itself, cares nothing for decency and democracy around the world. And even though Trump’s attitude strays dramatically from the professed policies of his predecessors, including Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, the Republican Party, with a few notable exceptions, has done nothing to try and hold Trump at bay. It has, incredibly, fallen in line with Trump’s fantastical courtship of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un as well as his habitual groveling before Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The upcoming July 16 summit between Trump and Putin may seem more like a meeting between handler and agent or rock star and groupie than a confrontation between the leader of the free world and its most lethal enemy, but rest assured the once proud GOP will applaud its master nonetheless.
Which is why the upcoming Congressional elections in November provide a pivotal moment not only for the future of America but of the free world itself. If Democrats fail to take over at least one House of Congress, if the GOP triumphantly returns with a clear majority in both, hopes for stopping or at least slowing down the advent of Trumpism will be dashed. Trump will be both vindicated and emboldened. Whatever self-restraint exists today in the administration’s policies will be thrown to the wind. The remaining two years before the next elections could turn out to be even worse than the first two, which were, for American liberals, nothing less than horrid.
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A Democratic victory, on the other hand, would create at least one major stumbling block in Trump’s path. It could forge a viable opposition to Trump’s policies in the domestic arena and a partial counterbalance, at the very least, in foreign affairs. It would force Trump to compromise or face paralysis and shutdown. And it might jolt GOP legislators to reconsider their blind support for the President, if not on moral grounds than at least as a matter of political survival.
Which is why the whole world, and especially democratic countries, will be watching. With the possible and unfortunate exception of Israel, most, if not all, Western leaders will be cheering on the Democrats. Like many American liberals, and perhaps even before them, the world understands that much of the damage that Trump is inflicting on the Western world cannot necessarily be undone. A GOP victory in November, which will undoubtedly and justifiably be seen as triumph for Trump, would embolden dictators, dishearten democrats, deflate the international order and mark a dark turn for the concept of human rights.
These Congressional elections will focus the attention of the world like never before. Rather than the traditional view of mid-term ballots as a contest over domestic affairs, the November 6 vote will be seen as a referendum on Trump and his policies. If Democrats win, much of the world will join liberal Americans in feeling a sense of reprieve. If Republicans triumph, fears of a new Dark Age will grow.
If Democrats stay home and hand Trump his victory, they will deserve whatever punishment they’ll get. The free world, on the other hand, will suffer through no fault of its own.
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