Au·toc·ra·cy  noun

  1. a system of government by one person with absolute power.

We have arrived at the point many knew was coming: President Trump is openly signaling his intent to stop Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation.  Now that the indictments, guilty pleas and cooperating witnesses point inexorably to Trump’s involvement in collusion with a foreign power and obstruction of justice, the President is directing his base’s vitriol to his own Department of Justice, the FBI, and Mueller himself.  Promising to “clean house”, the implication is clear.  Trump is going to fire the officers who are investigating his crimes.   

We are also at a moment in which the reality is sinking in that Congressional Republicans are going to protect this President no matter what outrages or dangers he brings to our doorstep.  Until this week there was enough sense of a shared moral compass amongst us as Americans that even with the accumulated rancor of two decades of partisanship we could expect Republicans, voters and Congressional leaders alike, would reject a candidate with a documented history of sexual predation of children. But we were wrong.  I think many of us assumed that, whatever else divided us, some meaningful portion of Senate Republicans would act to protect this country from escalating threats of nuclear destruction.  But that was also wrong.   

It’s worth paying attention to how we crossed the line in both of those cases.  These were lines a lot of Republican leaders actually thought they wouldn’t cross either.  At first Republicans spoke out against Roy Moore and stopped funding his candidacy.  But then President Trump indicated his support, the right wing media took up the cause, Republican voters indicated they might accept a serial child sexual abuser as a Senator from Alabama, and in the space of two weeks Moore has regained the endorsement and financial backing of the Republican party.  Trump’s reckless escalation of the North Korean conflict tells the same story.  Threats on twitter, combined with a willing base of primary voters will overcome just about anything.  

The truth is that standing up to Trump is not something Republican elected officials have much experience doing.  The examples of Senators Corker and Flake were crystal clear: speak out about the incompetence or misdeeds of this administration and your career will be over.  

Private assurances from Republicans that they would support impeachment if Trump were to fire Mueller should be seen in this light.  Republicans making those statements probably think they mean it in the moment.  But having a residual understanding of right and wrong is not the same as having the courage to stand up to Trump.  And we can no longer count on them to defend the rule of law in this country.

Our strategy of waiting until Trump fires Mueller to start working to defend him is based on these private assurances.  It is based on taking seriously the Republican message of, “sit tight now, we’ll help you later.” It is a strategy grounded in a time when we trusted that when we really needed them Republicans would step to defend our country from pedophiles, from nuclear war with North Korea, or from a President pledging his true allegiance to Vladimir Putin.

Allowing our President to break the law with impunity takes us around the corner from constitutional democracy to autocracy.  The laws apply to everyone equally or they are simply a tool for the exercise of the President’s unchecked power.

The stakes could not be higher.  

Reacting on a large scale after Mueller is fired would be too late.  We do not have secret friends amongst Republicans who, once this line is crossed will emerge as partners in pressing a devastating investigation of Trump through to its end.  Once Mueller is fired we will not be able to fix what is broken.  We must act before Trump upends our judicial system in a way that likely cannot be repaired.  

While we need to continue to prepare to march in the streets if Mueller is fired, a major national action is needed immediately to demonstrate the magnitude of the support for Mueller’s investigation and the rule of law in this country.  We need to give him a reason to not fire Mueller.  Congressional Republicans who can be moved to possibly stand up for our country need to see where the broadest majority stands now, before they concede to Trump’s demands in the hours following the destruction of the judicial probe against Trump.  

We need to mobilize every node of the resistance and every citizen who has not already thrown out their commitment to a democratic republic to stand, sit, walk or otherwise join in peaceful public witness that we intend to continue to be a nation of laws.  Instead of hinting at what our response would be should Trump attempt to derail Mueller’s work, we must show NOW what we intend the consequences to be should Trump decide to take an axe to our independent judiciary.