Michelle Goldberg writes: A new conventional wisdom is emerging among Very Serious People in Washington, D.C. It essentially holds that while Russia intervened on Donald Trump’s behalf in America’s election, questioning Trump’s legitimacy only plays into Russian hands. Marco Rubio articulated the new line in his questioning of Mike Pompeo, Trump’s choice for CIA chief, on Thursday. Rubio began with a series of false equivalences: “A president-elect who has questioned at times the judgment of our intelligence agencies. Opponents to our president-elect who continuously question the legitimacy of his election. The shameful leak in the media regarding unsubstantiated, unsourced information designed to smear the president-elect.” Given all that, he asked, “Is Vladimir Putin looking at all this and saying, ‘We’ve done a really good job of creating chaos?’ ” With this, Rubio conflated the behavior of Putin and Trump, which raises questions about Trump’s legitimacy, with the act of merely asking those questions. It’s a way to shut down attempts to reckon with the existential crisis Trump’s elevation poses to our faltering democracy while maintaining a centrist, Trump-skeptical pose.
Democrats should be pushing against this conventional wisdom, hard. So far only a few have stepped forward. In an interview to air on Meet the Press Sunday, U.S. Rep John Lewis, legend of the civil rights movement, told Chuck Todd that he does not consider Trump a legitimate president. “I think there was a conspiracy on the part of the Russians and others to help him get elected,” Lewis said. “That’s not right. That’s not fair.” For the first time in his 30 years in Congress, Lewis said he would not be attending the inauguration. “You cannot be at home with something that you feel that is wrong,” he said.
Lewis was speaking for many of us who are aghast at the way Trump benefited from Russian hacking and now appears to be returning the favor by taking a fawning stance toward Putin. He spoke for those of us who are shocked by the role of the FBI, which improperly publicized the reopening of its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails but refuses to say whether it is investigating Trump’s ties with Russia. Trump lost the popular vote; he is president-elect only because the country values fidelity to the democratic process over popular democracy itself. (The Constitution, it turns out, may in fact be a suicide pact.) If the process itself was crooked — if Trump’s campaign colluded in any way with Russia — his legitimacy disappears. If he scorns the Constitution by, say, violating the Emoluments Clause, it disappears as well. A president who lost the popular vote, who may have cheated to win the Electoral College, and who will be contravening the Constitution the second he’s sworn in is due neither respect nor deference. [Continue reading…]