Paul Volcker called out Trump’s “nihilistic movement” before he died. “They seek to discredit our democracy and truth itself.”

“Three months before he died, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker issued a scathing critique against President Donald Trump and the “movement to undermine Americans’ faith in our government and its policies and institutions,” CNBC reported on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019.

“In an afterword to a paperback release of his autobiography, the legendary former central bank chief called out the president for his attacks on the Fed and said there is a general movement to undermine confidence in essential U.S. institutions.

“’Nihilistic forces are dismantling policies to protect our air, water, and climate,’ Volcker wrote at the end of Keeping At It: The Quest for Sound Money and Good Government. ‘And they seek to discredit the pillars of our democracy: voting rights and fair elections, the rule of law, the free press, the separation of powers, the belief in science, and the concept of truth itself.’

Read entire story here.

Those “nihilistic forces” have a name: The Republican Party. Volcker was referring to the Trump movement within the GOP, but internal party resistance to Trump has evaporated, and today the party itself is indistinguishable from his movement and what he represents.

Formerly a political party competing within a two-party democratic system, the GOP has transformed itself into something entirely different, and deeply sinister: Instead of trying to compete with candidates, policies, and ideas, it has pursued power by attacking the voting rights of our citizens, gerrymandering minority control of legislatures, smearing opponents, and trying to sway the electorate with conspiracy theories and lies.

All this was going on before Trump came along. The GOP was already a corrupt party before he seized control of it. But he has added another element of its descent into corruption: Fueled by his demagoguery, it has unmoored itself from our nation’s founding principles of democracy and representative government, left that system, and now seeks to impose a dictatorship of the right under a party leader driven by autocratic impulses and who spurns constitutional restraints on power and not only defies the rule of law but openly attacks the very legitimacy of our laws.

Not surprisingly, it’s a movement that’s also spawning armed militias and violent attacks on dissenters against it.

We ought to be frightened. If all this sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Our fathers and grandfathers fought and defeated such an ideology at great cost when it wrought havoc on the world. They thought they’d rid humanity of it forever. But now it’s back, and — speak of historical irony — their own progeny are bringing it back.

Hitler’s party never won more than about a third of the popular vote in Reichstag elections, but that’s all it took for them to seize power. When he became German chancellor — still with only a plurality party behind him — he quickly moved to suspend Germany’s civil liberties and outlaw opposition parties, and from there, there was no going back, no way out for the German people. From then on, the majority of Germans were forced at gunpoint to follow his orders and carry out his wishes. Those who didn’t were rounded up and imprisoned or killed. (See, e.g., the White Rose Society.)

What’s most frightening about Trump is not that he lies and cheats, or even that he’s solicited (and is still soliciting) foreign interference in our elections, but his contempt for constitutional checks and balances, his attacks on judges and the rule of law, and –most of all — the apparent willingness of the cowardly Republicans in Congress to go along with this, because they fear their constituents, and this is what most grassroots Republicans want.

Trump’s supporters, who include some working-class voters who formerly voted Democratic, like the idea of taking a wrecking ball to our government institutions.  They want Trump to up-end the status quo, and have turned loose a bull rampaging in the china shop. The problem is, he’s breaking things that are worth keeping, are irreplaceable, and better than anything he or anyone else is likely to create in their place.

Our constitutional system of government, with its checks and balances, has been tested before, sometimes sorely, but so far has always been resilient enough to survive the storms coming from outside and within. It might not be this time. The Constitution and our laws, which protect your rights and freedoms, are only words on paper if we allow anyone to defy them like Trump is doing.

A few days from now, Trump will be impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The Republican Senate majority is expected to prevent his removal from office; but they should and must join Democrats in stripping office and power from this rogue demagogue, because if he gets away with this abuse of power, there will be another, and another. Even though he’s trailing in most polls, we can’t count on being able to vote him out of office, because this abuse of power involves election cheating, and if he’s not stopped now, he won’t stop trying to subvert the 2020 election by any means he can.

There’s no real issue about what Trump did, or what his motives were. Nor are the articles of impeachment drafted by Democrats a “Christmas tree” of grievances against Trump and his administration. They kept it clean and simple, limiting the charges against him to his efforts to get the government of Ukraine to fabricate a smear against the Democratic frontrunner in the impending 2020 election, and his subsequent stonewalling of the congressional investigation of that subversion of our democracy.

His guilt is obvious, even to Trump; a president conducting a legitimate foreign policy, however controversial, doesn’t go around normal diplomatic channels and conduct it through private citizens, then hide the records, tell the witnesses to shut up, and lie about it. The only issue before the American people is whether the Senate Republicans will put country above party, or cast partisan votes, and to hell with the country they’re sworn to serve.

Every American needs to understand what’s at stake. It’s not about Republican vs. Democrat, conservative v. liberal, or partisan loyalties. Those are issues to thrash out in free elections in a competitive democratic political system. It’s about defending that system itself, and the Constitution, the rule of law, and our democracy. It’s about choosing between those things, which are fragile and could be lost, or allowing the “nihilistic forces” described by Volcker to take over and rule us from now on.

Assuming all 47 Democrats and independents vote for removal, it will take 20 Republican votes to remove Trump from office. The Republican senators, every one of them, understand perfectly well what Trump was up to, and know what they have to do. The only question is whether they have the integrity and courage to do it.

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  1. Mark Adams #

    For Paul Volker to come out with this is he very definition of irony.