Democracy just died in the Senate. So if Trump loses in November, don't expect a peaceful transition

From now on the Founding Fathers' checks and balances are null and void

US Senate acquits President Trump on Article I: Abuse of Power, 48-52

The last time I was in Paris, I met an American woman who worked at one of the famous bookstalls along the Seine. It was December, gloomy and drizzly, and not many tourists were browsing the titles.

“Some days I only make one euro,” she lamented. “But that’s OK. I’m living in Paris and I’m never going back.”

She had left the United States the day after the 2016 election; fled her home and a lucrative book-buying job in sunny Los Angeles in protest of the Trump presidency.

In the wake of this week’s sham trial of Donald J Trump, I’ve been thinking about the bookseller and regretting that I did not ask her more questions about her decision. I suspect we would have shared the same nightmare of what might happen when an unqualified (and unread) huckster is elected by an angry mob. What has come to pass is worse than I or perhaps the bookseller could have imagined.

Today, as I write this on February 5th 2020, American democracy as we have known it for more than 200 years has officially died.

What we’ve taken for granted for two centuries is no longer workable. Democracy’s fragility has been exposed, and not by secret cabals or an armed insurrection. No, the demise of democracy and our government’s transformation to autocracy was carried out in full transparency in prime time and with the full endorsement of Republican House members and 53 members of the United States Senate. “Democracy dies in darkness?” Not this time.

With the Republican Senate marching in step behind its aged leader Mitch McConnell, and in fear of experiencing the whiplash of both President Trump’s wrathful vengeance and Fox News’ 24/7 venality, the fix was in from the moment Speaker Pelosi handed over the two articles of impeachment.

Given the behavior of the last three years in Congress, who did we expect to step up and call for witnesses in this so-called trial?

Would it be the principled Senator McCain’s friend and protégé South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, whose flip-flops on everything from Trump’s character to what constitutes an impeachable crime are legendary? Fat chance. He clings to his golf buddy like a leech clings to an ankle.

Who, then, would raise the alarm that shaking down an ally not for the good of our country, but for the good of a president’s re-election chances, just might open the door to another jerry-rigged election this November? Would it be retiring Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, who had nothing to lose if he voted for fairness in the form of testimony by John Bolton and others? Evidently not.

Finally, who would look toward the future and wonder whether, if President Trump and his de facto Secretary of State Rudy Giuliani get away with this sleazy, backdoor “diplomacy” scheme in Ukraine, they would continue to act with total impunity in the year(s) to come? Would it be Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn, who has repeatedly insulted and sullied the service and good name of Purple Heart recipient Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman? Not when Hannity has her on speed-dial.

Senator Ted Cruz? Senator Marco Rubio? Please, let’s get real. That dynamic do-nothing duo wouldn’t know valor if it stuck to the bottom of their shoes in a dog park.

In the end, everyone in that chamber failed America — except for one surprise McCain-esque thumbs-down moment from Senator Mitt Romney.

No matter what illegal scheme President Trump hatches between now and November, the chances of impeaching him a second time are slim to none. We now know that as long as McConnell and his posse have the numbers, there are no stopgaps to the executive branch. Trump is now free to do whatever he wishes to whomever he wants without consequences.

Face it — from this day forward the Founding Fathers’ checks and balances are null and void.

Where does that leave us? Nowhere, really, unless you count helplessness as an outcome. Belly up to the booth and duly cast your vote in November. It’s the right thing and the only thing to do. But do realize this isn’t a normal election, surrounded as it is by the bot-populated cyber world we now dabble in. That’s without even going into the inexact measure of the Electoral College. How well did that reflect the majority’s wishes in 2016?

If Trump loses this November, do not expect a graceful exit and transition. He will claim fraud, a recount, an independent prosecutor (Rudy?) and perhaps even more.

Hopefully, by that time I’ll be living hand-to-mouth in Paris pedaling books. Please come by and visit.

Stephen J. Lyons is the author of four books of essays and journalism. His most recent book is "Going Driftless: Life Lessons from the Heartland for Unraveling Times."

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