Schwab: Rule of law protects us from tyranny; if we follow it

Do Republicans still respect it, see its value? Or was it traded for their guy in the Oval Office?

By Sid Schwab

Herald columnist

It’s time for the Republican Party and its members who continue to support Trump to decide if they believe in America. Seriously. That’s the question, right now, as Trump, Barr and Congressional Republicans are declaring the Constitution of The United States of America inoperative, a meaningless piece of parchment. Is there any Trumpist who can look in the mirror and claim the person smirking back at them would make excuses, were it Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton?

That venerable document explicitly gives to Congress the authority, the duty, to oversee the Executive Branch. In a country founded by people who fled tyrannical monarchy, this is easily understood; a concept to be defended at all costs, lest we find ourselves back in the 17th century, with no way home.

Donald Trump, a duplicitous egoist who’s bullied, cheated and ignored the law throughout his career and who’s demonstrated not an ounce of patriotism beyond that which enriches him, is, without resistance from his party, claiming he’s above the law. He’s demanding his hired help do the same. And he’s getting away with it.

The thing about the rule of law is that, alone, it doesn’t exist. Citizens need to buy into the concept, see it as worth defending, even if doing so might lessen their personal power. Even if it requires sacrificing part of the present to protect all of the future. If it ever did, the Republican Party no longer accepts that premise. We see now how the system fails if people, particularly our elected officials, don’t respect it.

When a “president” refuses to comply with constitutionally mandated congressional oversight requests, when his attorney general unreservedly lies to Congress, while making farcical excuses for Trump’s lawlessness — “It wasn’t obstruction because he considered the investigation unfair.” — how will subpoenas or contempt orders issued by Congress be enforced? Absent belief in the most basic American premises, namely separation of powers, and checks and balances; absent willingness to accede to its requirements, it breaks down. Rules become unenforceable. Which is what, precisely, is happening.

We love seeing him stick it to liberals, say Trumpists. Forget the Constitution! As long as it’s our guy, take the rule of law, the lifeblood of our republic, everything that has, till now, preserved and protected our form of government, and shove it. We. Don’t. Care.

When the Republican Party was producing decent people, like Dan Evans, Mark Hatfield, Margaret Chase Smith, Jacob Javits, Barry Goldwater, Everett Dirksen, Dwight Eisenhower, this would have been impossible. Even in recent memory, before whatever got to them got to them, Lapdog Lindsey Graham considered Trump a “race-baiting, xenophobic bigot; Trump’s now-chief of staff called him “a horrible human being,” Rick Perry called him “a cancer on conservatism.” What happened? Power — and money — happened. Cowardice happened. Foxification happened.

Trump calls a Constitutionally-authorized inquiry into certain of his activities an “attempted coup,” and, predictable as acidifying oceans, his blind followers buy it, repeat the phrase like quoting the Bible. Write outraged letters to the editor. The potential end of democracy doesn’t occur to them. The history of our founding doesn’t, either.

We’ve known for a while that today’s Republicans have discarded, like used tissues, the idea of fair elections, the importance to democracy of public education and an aggresive, inquisitive press. Have they now decided that, as long as he’s theirs, an unrestrained, autocratic “president” is OK, too? What do they think has, until now, made America great? Are those brilliantly rendered, permanently embedded checks and balances merely empty words, disposable on a whim? If you don’t see Trump’s dictatorial stonewalling of Congress as a danger, you neither understand nor accept the essence of America. You’re a false patriot. You reject the very concept of “a nation of laws.” This, of all things, shouldn’t be defined by party allegience.

Bill Clinton embarrassed himself and his supporters. I found Lindsey Graham’s self-righteous, lip-quivering outrage, back then, phony (where is it now?) But I never thought Congress hadn’t the right to impeach. It’s codified. It deodorizes the stink of corruption. Do Trump supporters love America for its uniquely brilliant and successful constitutional governance, or not? If so, will they vote Trump and his Congressional co-dependents out of office, to restore the Republic? Given Republican Congressional dereliction, they’re our last hope.

Nope. Not likely. It’d take acts of actual, selfless patriotism, not easy declarations. That ship has sunk.

Email Sid Schwab at

Talk to us

More in Opinion

Phlebotomist Heather Evans preps JaNeen Aagaard a donation at Bloodworks NW Friday afternoon in Everett at July 3o, 2021.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Editorial: Get back in (or start) your habit of giving blood

The pandemic’s effects and fewer younger donors too often leave blood supplies dangerously low.

Editorial cartoons for Thursday, June 8

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Lummi Tribal members Ellie Kinley, left, and Raynell Morris, president and vice president of the non-profit Sacred Lands Conservancy known as Sacred Sea, lead a prayer for the repatriation of southern resident orca Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut — who has lived and performed at the Miami Seaquarium for over 50 years — to her home waters of the Salish Sea at a gathering Sunday, March 20, 2022, at the sacred site of Cherry Point in Whatcom County, Wash.

The Bellingham Herald
Editorial: What it will require to bring Tokitae home

Bringing home the last captive orca requires expanded efforts to restore the killer whales’ habitat.

A map of the I-5/SR 529 Interchange project on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Editorial: Set your muscle memory for work zone speed cameras

Starting next summer, not slowing down in highway work zones can result in a $500 fine.

File - A teenager holds her phone as she sits for a portrait near her home in Illinois, on Friday, March 24, 2023. The U.S. Surgeon General is warning there is not enough evidence to show that social media is safe for young people — and is calling on tech companies, parents and caregivers to take "immediate action to protect kids now." (AP Photo Erin Hooley, File)
Editorial: Warning label on social media not enough for kids

The U.S. surgeon general has outlined tasks for parents, officials and social media companies.

Comment: After LIV-PGA merger, Saudis are just getting started

The money from their wealth fund may prove irresistible to other sports organizations in the U.S.

Comment: Feuding Russian forces point to problems for Putin

Infighting among Russia units, mercenaries and irregulars raises doubts amid Ukraine’s counteroffensive.

Comment: We should worry more about AI’s creators than AI itself

Their warnings of an ‘extinction threat’ are part marketing tool and part effort to avoid scrutiny.

Comment: Expect battles as Oklahoma lowers church-state wall

State funding of a Catholic school may require the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the establishment clause.

Most Read