Twelve Weeks With Our Democracy In The Balance

Yesterday, the jury in the Paul Manafort trial received their final instructions from the judge and should begin their deliberations today. Three weeks from now, we will reach the traditional sixty-day “blackout period” before the November election where Mueller will be, (theoretically, as we found out from James Comey in 2016), prohibited from any new indictments or reports on his investigation. Sixty days after that, we will have the midterm elections on November 6th. All of these will be potentially important markers in determining the future state of our democracy.

The evidence in the Manafort trial is overwhelming and dispositive. But it appears there is some sort of issue with the jury, although the defense seems more concerned about that than the prosecution. Most observers believe that the best Manafort can hope for is a hung jury but it is important to note that Manafort has already been accused of witness tampering in the other case against him in DC. Accordingly, the fact that this jury wasn’t sequestered is baffling.

But think if the unimaginable happens, (again), and Manafort is acquitted or even gets a hung jury. How long do you think it will be before Trump fires Mueller, declaring his whole investigation a failed sham. With an election just weeks away, will the Republicans stand up to Trump. We all know the answer to that.

Even if Manafort is convicted, if Mueller doesn’t drop any new indictments or produce a report, interim or otherwise, before the blackout period begins, the American public will still have no definitive idea of what went on between the Trump campaign and the Russians in 2016 before the 2018 election. At the same time, Trump will continue to commit crimes in broad daylight, obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and still continue to be held unaccountable. That is hardly healthy for the rule of law and our democracy.

On the other hand, if Mueller takes either of those actions, he will be accused by Trump and the Republicans of trying to influence the election. Whatever happens, Trump and his sycophants in Congress will continue and probably increase their attacks the credibility of the investigation and their attempts to interfere or end it.

The most important marker, of course, are the midterm elections. If Democrats can gain control of the House, there may finally be a check on Trump and the crime and corruption that pervades his administration. If the Republicans hold the Senate, however, the packing of the federal court system with right-wing ideologues will continue and will effect American government and democracy for decades to come.

But, again, imagine if the unthinkable happens. Democrats win the popular vote in the House by 6 or 8 points but just came up short of having a majority and the GOP holds the Senate. The Republicans and Trump will be fully empowered to continue their march toward authoritarian, one party rule for another two years. We will revert back to the days when pre-existing conditions could keep you from getting health insurance. Obamacare and Medicaid expansion would be repealed. Social Security and Medicare, not just Medicaid, would be at risk. Immigrants and minorities would be under constant assault and the rich will be given even more of the nation’s income. Trump’s corruption and authoritarianism will become even more brazen. Gerrymandering and restrictions on voting rights will get even worse, further entrenching the power of Trump and the GOP.

Disturbingly, there are already signs of interference in the upcoming election. Claire McCaskill’s campaign was the subject of an attempted hack. Both Senators Rubio and Nelson have stated that Florida’s election systems have been breached and just the other day and 11-year old hacked into a duplicate Florida system and managed to change vote totals, all in the span of ten minutes. Bizarrely, considering the influx of essentially refugee Puerto Ricans into the state and the concerted drive to register them as well as the success of Democrats in special elections in the state, the percentage of active registered Democrats in the state seems to have fallen by 2% since 2016. The Democratic opponent of the Kremlin’s paid Congressman (according to Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy), Dana Rohrabacher, has also apparently been hacked. And we still have twelve weeks to go before the elections.

Of all three of these markers, only the midterms offer citizens who still believe in our democracy to effect the outcome. It is up to all of us to create such a massive blue wave that overwhelms the extreme partisan gerrymandering, voting restrictions, and election interference that is determined to undermine the outcome. Our democracy may depend on it.

Originally published at on August 16, 2018.