America is moving ever more quickly and alarmingly toward Banana Republican-ism. This might sound melodramatic or an exaggeration, but it’s not. Just consider for a second what’s happened in the past week.
New polling suggests that the presidential election has tightened. Why? In large measure, because FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to Congress insinuating potential wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton in regard to her private e-mail server. This was done in direct violation of longstanding Department of Justice rules against releasing information that could cast undue suspicion on a political candidate 60 days before an election.
Since then, multiple leaks have come out, intimating that the FBI is investigating the Clinton Foundation and is being held back by the Justice Department. Other leaks from the FBI have supplied a steady drumbeat of information about the Clinton e-mail investigation, which ensures that the issue stays in the news between now and Election Day.
Top Trump surrogate Rudolph Giuliani is even claiming that he has been receiving regular information from angry FBI agents and was aware of the found e-mails that sparked the current controversy days before Comey sent his letter to Congress. All of this is happening less than a week before the US presidential election.
Quite simply, agents of the country’s most powerful law enforcement agency — including its director — appear to be putting their collective fingers on the scale to help Donald Trump get elected president. This is an unprecedented politicization of the FBI.
But there’s even worse. We know, according to US intelligence agencies, that the Russian government is actively seeking to interfere in a US presidential election. Astoundingly, they are being cheered along by the Republican party and its presidential nominee, both of whom are using e-mails hacked by the Russian government and leaked by WikiLeaks to attack Clinton.
Just imagine for a second what were to happen if Trump were to win, in part, because of the involvement of a foreign government hostile to the United States and the FBI’s direct meddling in a US presidential election? How would Americans, particularly Democratic voters, retain any confidence in the nation’s governing institutions and its political leaders if Trump were to become president under these circumstances? For all the talk about an allegedly rigged election, this would be the ultimate example.
And what if Clinton wins? Democracy is likely to find itself under continued assault. Republicans in the Senate are now making clear that they have no intention of even allowing a vote on a Supreme Court justice pick made by Hillary Clinton. The GOP has gone from saying they won’t allow a vote on Merrick Garland before this election to saying they won’t fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court until a Republican is in the White House. Some Republicans are floating the idea of impeaching Clinton before she’s even been elected president. Others are talking about trying her for treason and executing her. These are stunning, never before seen attacks on our democracy. And, increasingly, they are barely getting covered by major media news outlets, which seem more inclined to chase their own tails on the Clinton e-mail story.
I’m not sure what more evidence one needs to see that we have entered a very dark and dangerous place in this country, in which one political party has now repeatedly demonstrated that it has no interest in maintaining even a fig leaf of adherence to long-standing political norms or ensuring the functioning of democratic governance.
If you’re not scared to death about what’s happening in America right now, you’re not paying attention. Like no other time in modern history, this country and its most basic political institutions are at risk. And like no other time in history, the will of the American people is the only thing standing in the way of a dark and undemocratic future for this country.
Michael A. Cohen’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.