Former Obama administration solicitor general Don Verrilli gave a commencement address this week. His topic was President Trump. He has it exactly right, and all those conservatives who’ve (as I characterized it at length several months ago) “sold their souls” should take heed. An excerpt of the address is below and this link is to the full text. As we look to Memorial Day and remember those who have died to defend America’s exceptional system of government, let us resolve to do better.
Let’s not mince words. Our civic faith is undergoing an extreme test. I am not talking about disagreements over policy. In our democratic system we will always debate and disagree about policy, and we should. That is how we learn and grow and prosper as a nation. Something much more important is at stake. We have a President who tries every day to undermine the public’s confidence in the rule of law – who sows doubt about the integrity of the women and men of the Department of Justice and the FBI (women and men whose integrity and commitment to public service I saw up close every day for the better part of eight years when I was in the government), a President who demands that his political adversaries be thrown in prison, who attacks the integrity of judges when they rule against him. We have racists and Nazis marching with torches in Charlottesville Virginia chanting “blood and soil” like they did in Germany in the 1930s, and a President who refuses to call them what they are. We have unprecedented attacks on the free press, criticism dismissed as “fake news” and critics threatened with financial ruin. And some version of this occurs virtually every day, to the point that it is now defines what is normal in our political discourse. And it’s not just the President. Our political leaders routinely forsake compromise, demonize opponents, and sell out the long term health of our constitutional system in order to gain maximum short-term partisan advantage. This is taking an enormous toll. More and more people believe that the system is rigged, that our institutions are corrupt, that our Constitution and laws are just words on a page – just tools to be manipulated in the service of selfish interests. This is a test of faith.