I’ve tried in a few different ways to coax Donald Trump out of public service, but I also wrote, just before his elevation to the presidency, that the country can survive any election result, even if worse for wear, because of the strength of its institutions.
It’s a view similar to that advanced by former Vice President Joe Biden in his recently launched 2020 bid for the White House — that Trump is an aberration, and that voters can restore the country’s well-being by electing a leader of integrity, namely Joe Biden. (I’d argue that such a person could step up from either of the parties that dominate our politics, though at present there’s little sign of that happening commensurately.)
Confidence in the status of the nation’s institutions, however, is not commonly felt. On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi went so far as to declare that the nation has entered a “constitutional crisis.” In believing so, she merely joined a small multitude.
A constitutional crisis, really? Since this is not a question about which the average person is likely to have a deeply developed position, it can help to ask — the horror of this — experts.
That’s what Dahlia Lithwick does in an article posted Thursday afternoon at Slate. Lithwick has been covering the legal system for a long time, and for this inquiry she taps people with experience in government and academia. Their answers break down into categories of “no,” “yes” and “wrong question.”
I fall in the category exemplified by Jed Shugerman, a Fordham Law professor who notes that “the Constitution is still functioning as designed, in terms of separation of powers. The key question to me is whether either party bypasses the courts or defies the courts.”
But I’m also moved by Lithwick’s concluding admonition to “take note of how many of our experts are talking in reference to metaphorical frogs in hypothetical pots.”
Are we boiling? I recommend reading Lithwick’s full article. Meanwhile, keep checking startribune.com/opinion for a range of commentaries that we on the opinion staff find of value whether or not we share the specific viewpoints. We also hope periodically to use the online-only feature you’re reading now — indicated in headlines by the phrase “Forwarded with comment” — to direct your attention to useful content we don’t have the rights to republish in full.