Teri Kanefield @Teri_Kanefield Author, lawyer (U.C. Berkeley). My threads are here: terikanefield-blog.com/ My author website is here: www.terikanefield.com/ Feb. 21, 2019 5 min read

(Thread) Repairing the Damage

People ask “is it too late to save our Democracy?”

Spoiler: No, of course it’s not too late. The damage can be repaired. But it won’t be easy.

Some of the panic is centered around Trump packing the courts, so let's talk about that first.

1/ Through most of U.S. history, courts have been right wing.

How far to the right?

In the 1960s judges were confirmed who openly supported racial segregation.
 http://archive.boston.com/news/globe/obituaries/articles/2006/06/30/j_robert_elliott_96_judge_overturned_my_lai_decision/ 
In 1923, SCOTUS ruled minimum wage unconstitutional.

2/ In 1942 SCOTUS upheld the evacuation order putting Japanese Americans into internment camps.
 https://www.oyez.org/cases/1900-1940/261us525 

19th century courts held that man could beat his wife (as long as the injuries weren't serious):  https://la.utexas.edu/users/jmciver/357L/61NC453.html 

3/ There have been only two truly liberal courts in all of U.S. history: The Marshall court (1801-1835) and the Warren court (1953-1969).

People are worried that Trump-appointed judges will allow him to do things like pardon himself, or grab unlimited power.

4/ These are non-worries. Take, for example, the overblown worry about pardons.

For why you don't have to worry about presidential pardons, see👇


I can already hear people saying, “But he’s stacking the courts! The courts will let him do it!”

5/ A court ruling isn't about THIS case. It creates a rule whereby any future president can commit crimes and pardon himself.
It's called precedence.  https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/precedent 

Consider the possibilities in self-pardon or the ability to pardon associates and co-conspirators.

6/ Say POTUS wants to knock off a SCOTUS justice that he doesn’t like. He does it and pardons himself.

Or he's a coward, so he tells a co-conspirator to do it. Then he pardons the co-conspirator.

Any law he wants to break, he tells a co-conspirator to do it, then pardons him.

7/ I’m surprised so many commentators talk about Trump pardoning co-conspirators and associates without considering that such a pardon will be challenged in court, and if allowed, abolishes separation of powers and creates a dictator: Potus becomes judge and jury.

8/ There’s another, more cynical reason, judges won’t allow it.

Federal judges, particularly SCOTUS justices, have a lot of power.

They'd be giving up all their own power. They’d make themselves vulnerable to Trump’s whims.

This won't happen.

9/ While Trump won’t get away with self-pardon or pardon of associates, his judges will set us back.

They will make laws we won’t like.

But we’re not in uncharted territory.

We’ve gotten out from under bad laws in the past because people put in a lot of work to change them.

10/The dangerous level of income inequality we have now, we also had 91 years ago, in 1928.

You can see that from the 1940s (after the New Deal) until the 1980s, the middle class was much stronger👇

The New Deal took us from the 1928 income inequality to a healthy middle class.

11/ Legislation will do it. How do we get better legislation? By electing legislators who will enact it.

See, it’s up to us.

When people say “soon it will be too late to save our democracy” I think of Chile in the 1980s.

12/ Chile was then under the rule of a brutal dictator, Augusto Pinochet.

He became dictator when he led an attack on the presidential palace and murdered President Allende.

(Kind of a 20th century version of being installed by Putin).

13/ Today, Chile has one of the most stable democracies in the region.

Once the anti-Pinochet Chileans began working together, they were able to dislodge Pinochet and recreate a Democracy. Details in 👇

The point of this story is that it’s never “too late.”

14/ I've always viewed American history as an arc bending toward greater justice as more people came to be included in "we the people."

The civil rights and women’s movement greatly expanded who was included in “we the people."

I assumed the expansion would naturally continue.

15/ Now I think achieving true liberal democracy (I'm using that word on purpose) in the U.S. is like rolling a ball uphill.

Each inch forward requires great effort because of a force pulling it back.
Expansion isn't inevitable. (H/t @timothysnyder_ )

16/ MLK Jr., Susan B. Anthony, and others were up against that backward force. It’s been there since the start of our nation, and isn’t going away soon.

We have gotten out of complete authoritarianism (slavery, Jim Crow, women as chattel).

Unfortunately there is no quick fix.

17/ June cited Reich’s article that, if Trump was installed by Russia, his presidency & all he has done must be annulled.


There’s some fantasy in his article.

He admits his scenario requires that “Trump loyalists desert him, the GOP decides. . .

18/ . . . it’s had enough, and Fox News calls for his impeachment.” If that happens, sure. Anything is possible. I say don't hold your breath waiting for that.

About 35% of the pop. is inclined toward authoritarianism👇


Q: Can 35% rule everyone else?

19/ A: No, if the remaining 65% comes together.

Authoritarians have advantages: They tend to fall in line behind a leader. They like simplicity.
Observe the well-oiled right-wing media loop.

Those in favor of liberal democracy tend to splinter. (Observe Democrat primaries).

20/ Advocates of liberal democracy tend to like nuance, which doesn’t work as well in sound bites.

Also, it’s easier to destroy democracy than preserve it.

Our institutions are weakened from Trump’s hammering, but they're holding up, as I argue here:

21/ Putin’s attack was designed to undermine confidence in democratic institutions. "Our institutions are weakened" just means people are losing confidence.

People who say "the system is corrupt" or "there's no point trying" are helping Putin.

There’s a wonderful passage in👇

22/When the nation was younger and Americans were proud of their democracy, it was common for people (well, for white men, let's be honest) to gather and talk (and argue) politics. They believed democracy works because they knew it was up to them.

Let's make politics cool again.

23/ I shouldn't have implied that we need the entire 65% to come together, but the stronger the majorities, the quicker the repair.

We do need a strong enough majority to offset the inevitable cheating.

All of my threads are now blog posts. You can see this one here:  https://terikanefield-blog.com/repairing-the-damage/ 


You can follow @Teri_Kanefield.



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