The system wasn’t supposed to work this way. The Founding Fathers deliberately devised a structure in which someone like Donald Trump — a vain, self-centered, mendacious demagogue — could never become chief executive, and in which the legislature could never be captured by a reckless, ideologically obsessed minority bent on overriding the majority interests of Americans. Those Founders labored to create an independent judiciary that was not captive to any single ideology or party. They carefully crafted a set of checks and balances in which no single branch of government could overpower another, and in which each held its own prerogatives dearly. In doing so, they thought they had provided posterity with a wise, cautious and magnanimous governmental operation that would serve the larger public weal rather than advantage any particular group or party, and that could withstand the gusts of any given historical moment.
It actually worked surprisingly well for 250 years, which is not to say that it didn’t have plenty of hiccups or that special interests weren’t often privileged. But it doesn’t work anymore, and though I am optimistic enough to believe that we will have a new president and Congress someday who will change policies and perhaps set us back on the road to rationality and common decency (“Make America Good Again”), the Trump presidency and the Republican Congress have nevertheless exposed the flaws in the system itself.
The prognosis isn’t good: These flaws are embedded in the Constitution and cannot be repaired without wholesale change, which isn’t coming. These defects are now openly visible for the next demagogue and the next gaggle of political hypocrites and power mongers to exploit. You can forget all the alleged fail-safes. The Constitution was supposed to protect us from this. It was expressly designed to do so. It didn’t.