Democracy Continuing Under Stress

Democracy Continuing Under Stress


Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

Democracy Continuing Under Stress

On both sides of the Atlantic democracy is being severely challenged. In the United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson appears not to be getting the Parliament to permit his Government to proceed with the negotiations which he has forged with the EU. The object appears to be that he will not carry the day until all the details of the agreement are put forth before a final vote. At the moment, that appears unlikely to happen before the October 31st deadline. Johnson may well need to kick the can down the road and ask for an extension—which he has declared he will not do–call for an election or consider a second public referendum over Brexit.

From the perspective of functioning democracies, the Brits seem to have their American family beaten by a longshot. As an operating representative democracy, the Cameron Government over four years ago should never have gone to the people to vote on whether to leave the EU or remain. Legislative authority was vested by the people in the Parliament. The Government takes its lumps there or in the polls. Following the uproar over the results of the referendum, the last years have been a political tragedy which will have long-term consequences for Britain, especially economically.


In the United States, it is beginning to look as if some of the political rats are starting to come out of their holes. Most lawyers and especially trained criminal prosecutors, familiar with complex and voluminous cases, know that it usually only takes one piece of evidence or one individual amongst a morass of witnesses and evidence to begin to unravel in a case for the entire case to start to swing one way or the other. As potential suspects start to sing or cop a pleas, it generally does not take long for a difficult case to blow-open. This is exactly what Gordon Sondland’s testimony last week may well have delivered for the impeachment process.  This is also what Trump’s Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney’s press conference also might have triggered for the President.

It was not alone that Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, and all the other individuals who have been exposed or found guilty at one level or other of illegalities or dubious conduct by Robert Mueller, as related to the 2016 campaign and the first 1000 days of the Trump Administration.  Now in quick order in Turkey and the Ukraine we have seen Donald Trump’s explicit obstruction of justice, misuse of presidential power, and being intimately involved in making foreign policy decisions based on political and personal considerations; not based on national security guidance or recommendations.

Sonderland’s publicly released statement alone—before his closed-door meeting with the House Intelligence Committee–presents enough evidence on its face concerning the White House’s efforts to manipulate the Ukraine aid package for Trump’s electoral purposes to impeach.  Considering that Sonderland’s appointment to be U.S. Ambassador the EU was based on his being a significant Trump contributor not his national security background, this may signal to GOP office holders and seekers that within the ranks of the Republican Party some softness may be developing in some of the allegiances to Trump. This ultimately could even impact some vulnerable Senators’ consideration of an impeachment conviction.

Mick Mulvaney’s statement that the President’s instruction as how he was to address the Ukraine aid package, left little room to suggest that President was implying an actual “quid pro quo”. The fact that Mulvaney tried to walk back his remarks–after he realized what he had accused the President of having done—only underscores the fact that it was a “quid pro quo.”

The sad reality for Americans is that Boris Johnson accepts the rules and works within the laws. Every action is not a confrontation and all rules and laws are not there merely to be tested and broken whenever possible. While Trump and Johnson may have similar narcissistic personalities, Johnson recognizes he can lose and that is the nature of politics; Donald Trump does not. This is why the American democratic system is in such genuine crisis and the future of democracy in the U.S. is so genuinely threatened.



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