Are we a government of laws, or of men? That’s the central question famously posed by Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox in 1973, and raised anew by Trump’s firing of Jeff Sessions this week.
Our modern-day Watergate moment is here.
Robert Mueller’s sprawling investigation into possible collusion between the President’s 2016 campaign and the Russian government has quietly shadowed American democracy for the past two years. Never in my lifetime has the fabric of our Constitution, our values, our collective conscience, and our humanity been placed under the kind of relentless stress we have seen since Trump assumed office.
Each day seems to bring a new outrage and affront to our ideals. Children in cages. Doctored propaganda from the White House. Mail bombs to political opponents. Media banned from accessing the government and called the people’s enemy. Dictatorial rallies. White supremacist dog whistles. Brainwashed friends and family. Lie upon lie upon provable lie. And if we are paying even the slightest bit of attention at all, we are overwhelmed, disoriented, despairing and more divided than ever.
But we as a nation have to keep our eye on the ball. We must use our time and our voices to assert that we are Americans who care about and will insist upon application of the rule of law.
As Trump replaces Sessions—perhaps unconstitutionally—with a loyalist who like the President has called Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt,” we must again return to that central question of the Watergate era. People in power come and go but we remain Americans regardless. Are we a nation of laws, or of people?
The answer to that question is the true test of our patriotism.