Dershowitz Folly and the Imperial Presidency

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Caesar at the edge of the Rubicon

I will be hardly the first person to condemn Allan Dershowitz over his expansive statement on the Senate. But I will put it in stark terms. His idea and he is alone on this, that the president can do whatever he deems in the public interest is crazy. It is the last step into the Rubicon. If we accept this, the imperial presidency just took the final step into a dictatorship. By his standards. Watergate was fine. By his standards, taking dirt from foreign governments in internal matters is fine. By his standards, there is nothing to constrain a president. This is not about Donald J Trump, but about the institution. What is even more amazing, is that Dershowitz made the exact contrary argument during the Bill Clinton impeachment.

He calls himself neutral, but he is not. He is a partisan and one has to wonder what he thinks he will gain from declaring the presidency nothing more or less than Caesar. The party that once stood for the constitution is taking this and embracing this argument. This is coming from no less a liberal, so we are told, than Dershowitz, who is helping to cement a new form of government.

Rome once had a senate that stood to the executive. They once were a Republic. In fact, Rome was the model for the American Republic. But once they crossed the Rubicon the Senate became a joke. This is exactly what we are undergoing. Perhaps not Caesar deciding to cross the Rubicon, in a physical way. However, Dershowitz is the one delivering the final knife to the republic that he professes to defend, by claiming to be an institutionalist.

This is not just one man though. He is making arguments that some in the far-right have pushed for in the past. Every president since 1950 has expanded his authority, with little push back from Congress. There was an attempt to rein back the presidency after the abuses of Watergate, and we know of this because of the Church Committee. What they did, and the breaks they put in place should have been the beginning, but they came to an end. They were hardly sufficient, and the Congress has seen surrendered increasing parts of their powers.

This final surrender is coming from an ironic effort to keep power in the hands of one party. It comes from the deep disdain for a more diverse society. Status loss is part of it, but so is a political party that has become even more corrupt than average, for an American party that is. Politics is by its very nature a dirty game. However, the party that both Trump and Mitch McConnell are running agrees that oligarchy, a white oligarchy so we are clear, is better than a diverse society. This is an ideological decision where the Vox populi is dangerous. They must be feared, and they must be controlled.

Dershowitz is wrong, and even his putative reference to another constitutional expert has been rejected by the same expert. This should embarrass this man, who in the twilight of his life is helping to end what he claims to defend. This is the American constitutional system of government. That he will probably go to his grave not realizing the grave mistake he has made is beside the point.

Likely the Republican Party will reject witnesses. It is not because they want to protect Trump. In fact, evidence of the conspiracy is already implicating them. So this may be self-protection as well. That the party of the constitution is turning its back on it is hardly ironic. After all, power is a powerful aphrodisiac. And at this point so is the fear of the new society that is taking shape. This is a place where white old men will not be dominant, but part of a diverse society.

Dershowitz's case is ironic, given his family history. However, this is a path that we are now well into. It is not a parliamentary system, as the defense counsel keeps deriding that is taking shape. It is a soft dictatorship where the president, any president, can do what they wish with no limits. History will not be kind.

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