The Don's enablers

 Donald Trump.
Donald Trump.

So much for the guardrails. The first time Donald Trump assumed the powers of the presidency, apologists assured us that our democratic institutions would curb his most unhinged impulses. Trump was, in fact, impeached twice for egregious abuses of power, including an attempted coup and inciting a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol, but acquitted each time by Senate Republicans plainly disinterested in the evidence. As Trump seeks a return to power, the U.S. Supreme Court made it clear last week that any remaining guardrails are gone, when it joined in his efforts to delay his federal criminal trials beyond the November election. Rather than laugh off Trump's monarchal claim of total presidential immunity, court conservatives gravely said Trump's actions to prevent the peaceful transfer of power needed to be carefully parsed, so a president's "official acts" could be protected. "I'm not discussing the particular facts of this case," Justice Samuel Alito said dismissively.

How wonderfully convenient for the Don. In a GOP he dominates like a mob boss, even Republicans who denounced Trump in disgust after Jan. 6 are kissing the ring. Former Attorney General Bill Barr, who last year called Trump a "consummate narcissist" who "will always put his interests ahead of the country's," now says Trump will get his vote. "I think the real threat to democracy is the progressive movement," Barr explained. It's a commonly held view on the Right, as Americans wage a fierce cultural civil war over religion, abortion, feminism, race, and immigration. Many people — including Supreme Court justices — find urban, multicultural progressives so abhorrent that anything, even the lawless authoritarianism of a second Trump term, is preferable. In a recent interview with Time, Trump scoffed at the suggestion that his promise of autocratic rule would frighten voters away. "I think a lot of people like it," he said. About that, at least, he's not wrong.

This is the editor's letter in the current issue of The Week magazine.