As the impeachment inquiry of President Trump evolved, the President announced he would not cooperate with the proceedings. Invoking executive privilege, he ordered his staffers, his aides and his administrators to ignore the subpoenas issued by Congress.
Political pundits, professors of law, and scholars of the Constitution proclaimed that if the President would prevail in such a maneuver, it would be a “death-blow” to our democracy. It would be the start of a move toward a one-party and one-person rule of our nation. Such a prospect is more than just frightening to me. It is too familiar, recalling memories of historic events in my childhood.
In 1933, the year of my birth, Germany’s president, Paul Von Hindenburg, appointed Adolf Hitler as Germany’s Chancellor. It was an event that ended Germany’s functioning as a democratic republic. Von Hindenburg died in 1934. Hitler seized the opportunity to elevate himself to “Fuhrer,” the leader of Germany, and suspended all democratic aspects of German government.
I cannot view President Trump’s defiant grandstanding as foolhardy comedy. It’s more than just being a scofflaw. The psychodynamic is like Hitler’s. It is a shadow, if not an outright mirror image, of a trajectory already witnessed in recent history.
In early November, an outcry rang out in America: “No man is above the law.” On Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019, the House of Representatives of the United States voted to impeach President Trump. The following night, in protest, the Donald spewed out 140-plus scathing tweets.
The atmosphere of the impending impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate is already defined. The Senate Majority Leader announced that the majority of the U.S. Senate stands united in the President’s defense, and the President will not be removed from office. Is the game already rigged?
The strategy for the defense is to distort the evidence, slander the witnesses, impugn their credibility and their testimonies, and discredit the impeachment process itself. The derision has already started. Characterizing the impeachment process as a dogfight among political parties and not a legal proceeding, the Majority Leader trivializes the constitutionally-defined procedure, and marginalizes the Constitution itself which he has sworn to uphold, support, and protect.
Leader McConnell’s belittlement of the impeachment inquiry rings familiar in my memory. In November of 1945, in Nuremberg, Germany, Nazis denounced the legitimacy of the court. They claimed that a military tribunal conducted by their enemies would not be fair and should not sit in judgment of them. Back then when I was only 12, the Nazi challenge of the court upset my sense of fairness.
Hopefully, justice will prevail in current-day Washington as it did in post-war Nuremberg. I tremble at the prospect that our Constitution may be rendered impotent. I take little solace in blind-faith assurances that our nation’s democracy can survive any tribulation. If the guidelines of the Constitution are circumvented, then what is left to assure that no man is above the law?
Fred Natkevi is a longtime resident of Oak Park.