Budowsky: Democracy on trial, under attack

In one of the most extraordinary moments in modern American history, 44 former United States senators, including 10 Republicans who deserve the admiration of a grateful nation, published an open letter in The Washington Post warning the current Senate about “serious challenges to the rule of law, the Constitution, our governing institutions and our national security.”

In another extraordinary moment in modern American history, Chief Justice John Roberts recently rose to rebuke attacks against the judiciary by the president of the United States and call on the nation to defend the independence and integrity of the judicial branch of government. The president responded to the chief justice in a tweet, describing his views, sadly and literally, as “bullshit.”


At this moment in history there is a crisis of leadership throughout the Western democracies being debated not only in Washington but in great democratic capitals of Great Britain, France, Germany and the European Union. These matters are so momentous and the consequences so profound that I may discuss them early next year in a full page ad in The New York Times.

In an extraordinary and unprecedented deviation from the entirety of American history, our current president has waged an aggressive war against the free press of the nation, suggesting leading members of the press are the enemy of the people. He has suggested, sounding like dictators over time immemorial, that his Democratic opponent in the last election should be prosecuted, convicted and incarcerated.

In another deviation from the entirety of American history, our current acting attorney general opined in 2014 about his legally ignorant and appalling view that the Supreme Court is an “inferior” branch of government and attacked the legal authority of the courts to judicially review the constitutionality of legislative and executive acts.

I may legally disagree with many of his judicial decisions but applaud the chief justice for speaking out as he did. It was his finest hour. His defense of judicial independence was a memorable moment in the history of jurisprudence of democratic nations. I pray he will continue to protect the court from being infected by the partisanship that bitterly divides our nation.

I applaud the open letter from the 44 former senators, imploring current senators to rise to the occasion because they believe, correctly, that foundations of our democracy and security are now under threat, as the chief justice believes, correctly, that the independence of the judiciary must be preserved, protected and defended.

American and Western democracy are under attack by a Russian dictator, whose nemesis is the devout patriot and legal authority Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE, the special counsel who was widely admired by almost all Senate Republicans until recent months. His search for truth and
justice — wherever it may or may not lead — must be preserved, protected and defended by Congress and courts.

With American and Western democracy on trial and under attack, we must vigilantly defend fundamental truths at the core of American democracy. We must never surrender the civic truth that America is a nation of diverse people united by shared values, mutual respect and the rule of law that must be defended by three coequal branches of government that protect America and defend democracy from dangers and threats, foreign or domestic.

In America we do not threaten political opponents with prison simply because they are opponents. We may regard the press as annoying; we never regard the press as the enemy. We believe that one person should have one vote and that foreign dictators should not be allowed to select our leaders. We believe the rule of law is paramount, that every American is equal under that law, that no person is above that law and that all three branches of government have critical and equal roles protecting our freedom and defending our democracy.

My hope is that every member of the Senate and House, and every Supreme Court justice, will rise to the occasion at this dangerous moment.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.