Dahlia Lithwick writes: In our ongoing national nightmare of creeping authoritarianism, we talk a good amount about normalization and the numbing effects of a barrage of shocking daily news. But I have also tried to be vigilant about all the ways in which magical thinking about law and lawyers—this is a nation of laws, not men, we’re told—can also numb us, and lead to a declining sense of agency or ownership.
Democrats don’t like giving up on their institutions easily, and the Mueller investigation has served as both the best and the worst manifestation of that alluring Democratic reasonableness. So long as he is working away, filing documents and convening grand juries, nobody needs to take to the streets. But as the year has progressed, it’s become clear that absolutely nothing will persuade Trump supporters and Republicans in Congress that it’s time to disavow the president—not lying, not spilling state secrets, not abject failure in crisis management, and not openly performed corruption. Given that reality, it often feels like it wouldn’t be enough for Mueller to hand us a smoking gun and an indictment. What if they threw a conviction and nobody came?
It seems as though truth and law are forever losing ground in the footrace against open looting and overt totalitarianism. The more abjectly deranged Trump’s behavior and the more Republicans in Congress cover for him, the less likely it is that anything Mueller can magic up in his underground hall of justice will matter. Trump’s legal antagonists like to think that the next legal “tick, tick, tick, boom” will be the one that ends all this chaos. But with every passing day, as Trump escapes consequences and attacks the courts and the press, the chances that a “tick, tick, tick, boom” will be played off as #fakenews also increase. [Continue reading…]