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Editorial: Protect Our Government

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Article Written by: Art Abyss

When America was founded the goal was to build a government and constitution that was built to last centuries regardless of who was in office. And if you ask any American politician they would say their job is to protect this country, and its institutions above even their party. However, I think our institutions may be weakened and this has been painfully obvious in the opening days of the Trump Administration. Let me be clear, this phenomenon is not caused by President Trump; however, he is unequivocally a product of the breakdown of modern American political institutions. There are several examples that seem to underscore this point.

The first is the failed confirmation of Merrick Garland, and the lack of any hearings on his candidacy. The Republicans denied, for 11 months, President Obama the right to appoint his candidate. When asked about this, Clarence Thomas, conservative justice, said he worried we might be seeing our political institutions erode as the executive and legislative branch were unable to resolve a situation in which the President clearly had the authority to name a justice, but Congress simply declined to acknowledge it. They didn’t ask for another nominee, they did not vet Garland, they denied that President Obama had the right to nominate a justice at all. This, is a clear breakdown of institutions and exposes a flaw within our system that may reverberate for years.

Second is the nomination of Betsy Devos. By any measurable standard, Betsy Devos is unqualified to run the Department of Education, but unlike Garland she could get a hearing and the opportunity to sell herself to the American public. She flunked that test. Secretary Devos fails to understand basic education policy and had clearly not taken the time to prepare herself in any meaningful way for the hearing. However, the breakdown here is not the hearings, but the reason Devos was confirmed.

The Devos family has given money to nearly every Republican senator either through direct contributions, Super PACS, nonprofits, lobbying firms, and a dizzying array of tax shelters. This breakdown of our institution comes not at the hands of partisanship but of money, of which both political parties remain vulnerable. Money allowed Devos to flunk the benchmarks we set before her, and become Secretary of Education. Partisanship played a role, but two Republican senators broke ranks to oppose her nomination. Mitch McConnell was un-swayed as he had approximately 2.25 million reasons to see Secretary Devos confirmed.

The final breakdown began this Tuesday and is still occurring. This of course is the departure of President Trump’s National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, who resigned under the specter that he violated federal law and colluded with the Russian Ambassador on U.S. foreign policy during the waning days of the Obama Administration. No matter what party is involved, or which egotistical man occupies the White House, there ought to be a congressional investigation.

House Oversight Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz thinks otherwise. In his mind the matter is closed. Never mind that we have conflicting stories from the Trump administration, we do not know the actual details of Flynn’s phone conversation, and we do not know how long President Trump knew about this. Some reports indicate the President has known for 30 days, when Acting Attorney General Sally Yates briefed the White House Counsel. None of this may be true, but it is worth investigating. It is why Congress has subpoena power.

The American people deserve answers, and if we can spend 800 days investigating Benghazi surely House Republicans can spend a few weeks having members of the administration testify under oath. This isn’t about party. It is about institutions. For when we value protecting the president, party, or billionaire donor more than we care about protecting our institutions then we are sowing the seeds of our eventual destruction.

Therefore, I beseech you, call your congressmen. Tell them you demand an investigation, if only to prove the Trump administration can continue undisturbed by allegations of scandal. If Congress won’t protect our institutions, then we must do it ourselves. These actions aren’t without consequence, and as Clarence Thomas said, at some point we may have to confront the reality that we have weakened our institutions to where they can no longer protect us.