David Frum Profile picture
19 Nov, 18 tweets, 4 min read
No more happy talk about the "uniquely American transition of power." Trump presidency and this post-election period confirm that the US is *less* committed to democratic norms - and has *weaker* institutional safeguards for democracy - than peer wealthy democracies.
I asked a German diplomat friend to detail the safeguards against, say, a German chancellor trying to extend her tenure despite losing an election. He replied that such a thing was utterly impossible, he couldn't begin to enumerate the reasons why. And he was right of course.
Nobody wondered, "Will Gordon Brown or Theresa May leave office if defeated?" Ditto the Netherlands, New Zealand, and newer democracies like Portugal or South Korea. Democratic culture is deep, and election law is administered impartially. For all the boasting, not true in USA
Normally, inauguration day is a day of self-congratulation. This next one should be a day of self-reflection - and commitment to self-improvement. The US not only lags other democracies - it has regressed even by its own standards. Time for a new era of reform.
And reform begins with acceptance of some grim and unwanted realities.

The problems are not "on both sides."

The illiberal authoritarianism of some dean of students somewhere is not equivalent to illiberal authoritarianism by the Attorney General of the United States.
Renewal of democratic institutions in the United States should be *non*-partisan - outside the everyday work of government - but cannot be *bi*-partisan when one party is so committed to (or frightened of) the individual leading the attack on democratic institutions.
And of course it's not just Trump.

As I detail in these 3 related articles

theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/…

theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/…

theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/…

even the non-Trump Republican party has committed itself to a program of minority rule
It's hard thus to imagine that Congress can effectively conduct an investigation into Trump-era abuses by itself - since so many Republicans in Congress accepted, protected, and even connived in those abuses - and since so many Republicans in the states are now adding to the list
An independent commission with subpoena power is what is needed instead - tasked to recommend reform measures - and supported by a citizen movement outside the party system to pressure for state and federal reforms for voting rights, fair elections, and an honest Executive branch
A reader registers the below objection to the foregoing. (Answer coming) Image
Now counter-question

How does "liberty" - or more exactly the democratic idea of regulating state power by impartial law - get into the hearts of men and women in the first place?

It's not innate! By nature, we prefer that our tribe dominate. The democratic idea is learned.
Learned how?

Learned by practice, and practice based upon laws and institutions.

(Remember Tocqueville's astute remarks on the importance of jury duty to self-government?)

So we have to build our institutions fair and strong to foster individual commitment to democracy
The Republican thralldom to Trump followed 20 years of undoing voting rights and civil rights. Republicans became acculturated gradually first to minority rule, then to authoritarian rule. Trump's false allegations of fraud rest on carefully nurtured prejudices.
I'm going on too long. But if anybody is still bearing with me, one last point ...
If I've had any one message in everything I've written about Trump and Trumpism since 2015 ... it's that the direct involvement of the people in elections is democracy's LAST line of defense, not its first.

Joe Biden summoned 80 million Americans to defend democracy. Great, but
that massive collective undertaking only followed the internal failure of the checks and balances erected to protect democracy in the long intervals between elections. And as we saw in 2020, malign actors can corrode voting rights during those long intervals between elections
80 million people voted to eject Trump and replace him. One official at the General Services Administration has successfully defied that vote for some 2 weeks. In a more democratic culture, she'd say No. The story of the Trump years is how many like her have said Yes.
Ok the (belated) end. For now.

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More from @davidfrum

30 Nov
Retreading these, I realize I omitted to give due praise to another HW Bush achievement: successful management of the collapse of the savings and loan industry
I meant “rereading” but typo “retreading” also works!
Read 4 tweets
28 Nov
If this story is true, it's funny to imagine the thoughts and feelings of Pence and Pompeo as O'Brien pledged their support for a Trump 2024 run. "Oh sure, how great, with you every step of the way as you crush all my plans ... " thedailybeast.com/trumps-already…
The Biden coalition stretches from ex-Romney voters to ex-Sanders voters. It's huge, therefore potentially unstable. One bond can hold the mass together: Donald Trump insisting that everybody keep thinking about HIM for the next 4 years. What a gift to Biden!
In 2016 I suggested a comparison of Trump to William Jennings Bryan. Take a look, it stands up. And now there's maybe one more way they may resemble each other: Bryan kept tempting Democrats to renominate him again and again - and to lose again and again. wsj.com/articles/the-t…
Read 4 tweets
25 Nov
The Nixon pardon did not specify crimes. A Trump self-pardon may be vague too. But now imagine how that reads: "I, Donald John Trump, do pardon myself for any and all crimes I may have committed against the United States, during my presidency and before my presidency."
Whether or not acceptance of a pardon is a technical acceptance of guilt, the act of signing such a statement forms one hell of a self accusation!
Given the uncertainty of the validity of the act, its uselessness versus New York State and other sovereigns, and its excruciatingly self-accusing language - I seriously wonder whether Trump will do it. He may prefer to rely on terrorizing the Biden DOJ to leave him alone-or else
Read 4 tweets
24 Nov
You know what made America great? Sending taxpayer-paid staff in taxpayer-paid vehicles to Ritz Carltons to buy speciality moisturizers for you. THAT's what made America great. Biden's team may have fancy-pants educations, but look at their dry skin! washingtonpost.com/news/energy-en…
You know what made America great? Fake academic credentials, that's what made America great. foreignpolicy.com/2017/03/17/dr-…
This Biden team may be polite and orderly. But do any of them have the heart, guts, and sheer BALLS it takes to earn a federal criminal indictment for conspiracy to kidnap? cnbc.com/2018/12/17/ex-…
Read 7 tweets
22 Nov
On October 20 @WSJopinion editorialized that Biden must answer Trump campaign questions. wsj.com/articles/the-b… Now the same Trump sources are accusing Georgia Gov. Kemp of being bribed by Venezuelan communism. Should Kemp not answer? And if the answer is, THOSE PEOPLE ARE CRAZY
... does that not suggest that perhaps the accusations they were flinging 30 days ago were at least equally crazy?
Will the super-principled conservative talking heads who amplified accusations on Flynn + Hunter Biden just *pretend not to hear* these damning accusations about the Georgia Republican party from the same so-very-credible sources?
Read 4 tweets
21 Nov
Whoah, this opinion in Trump v. Boockvar:

"Plaintiffs ask this Court to disenfranchise
almost seven million voters."
"This Court has been presented with ... speculative accusation ... unsupported by evidence. In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its
sixth most populated state."
"Plaintiffs have made multiple
attempts at amending the pleadings, and have had attorneys both appear and
withdraw in a matter of seventy-two hours."
Read 20 tweets

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