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The Next Civil War?

Summary:
Although US President Donald Trump has long hid his tax records and history of business failings, he has never made any secret of his willingness to destroy the US constitutional order if doing so will give him a political advantage. Not since the eve of the Civil War has America been so on edge. WASHINGTON, DC – America’s capital is more on edge now than at perhaps any other time since the eve of the Civil War in 1860. The city was tense during Watergate, of course. But as much as Richard Nixon tested the constitutional system, as a lawyer who had served in government for decades, he recognized that there are limits that even a president dares not transgress. And now, with President Donald Trump, the First Lady, and

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Although US President Donald Trump has long hid his tax records and history of business failings, he has never made any secret of his willingness to destroy the US constitutional order if doing so will give him a political advantage. Not since the eve of the Civil War has America been so on edge.

WASHINGTON, DC – America’s capital is more on edge now than at perhaps any other time since the eve of the Civil War in 1860. The city was tense during Watergate, of course. But as much as Richard Nixon tested the constitutional system, as a lawyer who had served in government for decades, he recognized that there are limits that even a president dares not transgress. And now, with President Donald Trump, the First Lady, and a top aide all testing positive for COVID-19, there is more uncertainty in Washington, DC that at any time in living memory.

The non-medical crisis now facing the United States is that Trump doesn’t recognize limits. There is scant indication that he even understands, let alone respects, America’s constitutional order, the survival of which depends on whether those to whom power has been entrusted exercise restraint.

Trump, recklessly breaking precedents and norms, has consistently attempted to disable any checks on his behavior. He insists that Article II of the Constitution “gives me the right to do whatever I want to do.” And he is buttressed in his view by Attorney General William Barr, who is the kind of fealty-first law-enforcement chief that Trump has craved.

A critical part of Trump’s effort to undermine confidence in the election outcome, if it goes against him, is his attempt to discredit millions of ballots preemptively. The assumption is that, because of the COVID-19 pandemic that Trump has allowed to get out of hand, more Americans than ever before will vote by mail, and that most of those who do will be Democrats.

Earlier, misreading public opinion as he so often does, Trump sought to slow mail...

Elizabeth Drew
Contributor to New Republic, Daily Beast, Project Syndicate, Nation (book reviews). Fifteen books, including reissue of Washington Journal, Nixon & Watergate.

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