If the people of the Washington DC metro area were to suddenly surround the White House and not let anyone in or out until Donald Trump agreed to resign, that would create a big crisis. The DC police, the Secret Service, the National Guard, and perhaps even the military would have to decide how far they were willing to go to preserve the constitutional order of the country. How much violence would they be prepared to use, and how much time would they let elapse before they used it?
That’s the kind of thing that might happen if Congress won’t fulfill their role in the constitutional order and lets an outlaw administration stay in power after receiving a criminal referral from the Office of the Special Counsel recommending impeachment. But we’re not at that kind of crisis point yet.
Nonetheless, a growing number of people feel that the Trump administration has crossed an invisible line, especially with their child separation policy at the border. They no longer see opposition as a political dispute. It has become a moral battle. And anyone who is still working to promulgate, rationalize, or promote Trump’s policies has therefore been deemed outside of the traditional political realm.
This is what happens when our system of checks and balances breaks down. The less faith people have in the courts and in Congress to sustain bare minimum standards of human decency, the more they’re willing to take matters into their own hands. Chasing administration officials and their close allies out of restaurants and movie theaters is still a fairly mild version of what may come. For now, a lot of hope and energy is still being placed in the political process, and much of the left is working to solve our problems in a traditional and constitutional way, by winning elections in November.
If those elections do not translate into actual political power for the left, and particularly if people feel that widespread shenanigans are to blame, that’s when we should anticipate a breakdown in law and order. That’s when you might see the White House surrounded.
I don’t make these observations as some kind of threat. I’m simply issuing a warning based on observing human nature. If people believe they have a fair shot to throw an immoral government out of power by constitutional means, then they will pursue those means. If they are stymied in that effort, they will not simply give up. They will explore the avenues that are still left to them, and those will not be traditional political tactics. They will not all be legal tactics. The participants will not recognize the legitimacy of the arms of law enforcement responsible for suppressing their dissent.
People who are lamenting the breakdown in civility and the fact that Trump officials can’t eat in peace should be mindful of how fragile our system becomes when it begins to transgress with impunity. Uneventful lunches and dinners are the least of what they stand to lose, and soon.