Professor Russell Pearce, along with Evan Wolfson, recently published Doing Whatever He Can Get Away With, which was included in Democracy Journal‘s Symposium: Trump vs. Democracy.
Many believe, as we do, that Donald Trump is a threat to democracy and, indeed, that he is putting our democratic institutions to the ultimate test. Trump’s particular menace derives from his character as a Holmesian bad man, a character that requires us all to respond with a commitment and actions that go far beyond passive reliance on traditional norms and institutions alone to save us. Institutions, after all, are people; therefore, it is only action by we, the people, that can save our democratic institutions.
“Democracy is not a state. It is an act,” our late hero John Lewis exhorted from his deathbed. To confront and defeat authoritarianism, performative democracy requires all patriotic defenders of the republic to act—and to do so effectively. We should be mindful, as Holmes wrote, that “A man who cares nothing for an ethical rule which is believed and practiced by his neighbors is likely nevertheless to care a good deal to avoid being made to pay money, and will want to keep out of jail if he can.” The power centers at every level in our constitutional system must show they mean business by pushing back and imposing costs using the full measure of their powers under the law.