In a country where even the vacuous have a voice, the “Resistance” is what the anti-Trump movement flatters calling itself. “As if this is Vichy France. It’s not. It’s 21st-century America. And the good news is that the checks and balances are working just fine,” Charles Krauthammer reminds us.
One reason for Donald Trump’s White House victory was voters’ deep distrust of the seriously flawed candidate who ran against him. Middle America was also drawn to Trump’s no-holds-barred attack on the Washington “establishment”— the elitist D.C. “cartel” (as Ted Cruz called it) that left much of the country feeling locked and lost in the cartel’s grasp.
Yet the establishment proved to be Potemkin empty. In 2016, it folded pitifully, surrendering with barely a fight to a lightweight outsider.
At which point, fear of the vaunted behemoth turned to contempt for its now-exposed lassitude and decadence. Compounding the confusion were Trump’s intimations of authoritarianism. He declared “I alone can fix it” and “I am your voice,” the classic tropes of the demagogue.
Trump had just cut through the grandees like a hot knife through butter. Who would now prevent him from trampling over a Washington grown weak and decadent? A Washington, moreover, that had declined markedly in public esteem, as confidence in our traditional institutions fell to new lows.
The fear, even among those who voted for Trump with trepidation, was—who would stop this “strongman,” this candidate who made us uneasy with his unabashed admiration of Vladimir Putin? Well, consider how our country’s checks and balances are vibrantly working, as Charles points out to readers:
- The courts. Trump rolls out not one but two immigration bans, and is stopped dead in his tracks by the courts. However you feel about the merits of the policy itself (in my view, execrable and useless but legal) or the merits of the constitutional reasoning of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (embarrassingly weak, transparently political), the fact remains: The President proposed and the courts disposed.
- The states. Federalism lives. The first immigration challenge to Trump was brought by the attorneys general of two states (Washington and Minnesota) picking up on a trend begun during the Barack Obama years, when state attorneys general banded together to kill his immigration overreach and egregious trespasses of his Environmental Protection Agency.
- The Republican-controlled House and Senate are putting up epic resistance to a Republican administration’s health care reform. True, that’s because of ideological and tactical disagreements rather than any particular desire to hem in Trump. But it does demonstrate that Congress is no rubber stamp.
- The media. Trump is right. It is the opposition party. Indeed, furiously so, often indulging in appalling overkill. It’s sometimes embarrassing to read the front pages of the major newspapers, festooned as they are with anti-Trump editorializing masquerading as news.
“James Madison’s genius was to understand that the best bulwark against tyranny was not virtue — virtue helps, but should never be relied upon — but ambition counteracting ambition, faction counteracting faction.”
Read more from Charles Krauthammer here.