Paul Krugman: Why John Lewis Has Committed a Great Act of Patriotism

Election '16

John Lewis is a hero and a patriot plain and simple, Paul Krugman writes in Monday's column. He was a brave hero when he literally put his life on the line to pursue justice for African Americans, getting his skull cracked by state troopers on what came to be known as Bloody Sunday, and helping pave the way for the Voting Rights Act.

And he is a hero and a patriot for boycotting Trump's inauguration and calling him an illegitimate president. "As you might expect, this statement provoked a hysterical, slanderous reaction from the president-elect – who, of course, got his start in national politics by repeatedly, falsely questioning President Obama’s right to hold office," Krugman writes. "But Mr. Trump — who has never sacrificed anything or taken a risk to help others — seems to have a special animus toward genuine heroes. Maybe he prefers demonstrators who don’t get beaten?"


Lewis's statement is neither random, nor typical partisan politics. In Krugman's and many other people's view, the 2016 election was deeply tainted by both Russian intervention and the F.B.I. This was grotesque, delegitimizing malfeasance, especially in contrast with the agency’s refusal to discuss the Russia connection, Krugman says. These facts are known, but there are still questions about whether the taint goes far deeper:

Was there even more to it? Did the Trump campaign actively coordinate with a foreign power? Did a cabal within the F.B.I. deliberately slow-walk investigations into that possibility? Are the lurid tales about adventures in Moscow true? We don’t know, although Mr. Trump’s creepy obsequiousness to Vladimir Putin makes it hard to dismiss these allegations. Even given what we do know, however, no previous U.S. president-elect has had less right to the title. So why shouldn’t we question his legitimacy?

The tweeter-in-chief has shown not one morsel of humility since his deeply suspect win, but it'll be a snowy day in a globally warmed hell before that happens given Trump's bankrupt character. He won't even admit he lost the popular vote and is surrounding himself with people who have equal disregard for the truth. "What we’re looking at, all too obviously, is an American kakistocracy — rule by the worst," Krugman writes.

The only way to put any restraints on this rule is to speak out, as John Lewis did and we all must. Doing so just might stiffen Congress' spine, per Krugman.

Congress still has a lot of power to rein the president in. And it would be nice to imagine that there are enough public-spirited legislators to play that role. In particular, just three Republican senators with consciences could do a lot to protect American values.

But Congress will be much more likely to stand up to a rogue, would-be authoritarian executive if its members realize that they will face a political price if they act as his enablers.

Delegitimizing a president should not be a habit every time we object to the results of an election. This time is truly different, and one hopes, exceptional.


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