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Douglas Brinkley: Congress is to blame for an imperious presidency

Douglas Brinkley on the Senate's impeachment failure
Douglas Brinkley on the Senate's impeachment failure 02:36

Our democracy has always been tenuous, but on most days and nights I can feel the beauty and the power and the promise of the United States the way the founders imagined it. 

But with the impending acquittal of President Donald Trump in a Senate impeachment trial – one which disallowed witnesses and documents – my heart has sunk. 

The day of John F. Kennedy's "Profiles in Courage," at least temporarily, is over.

The governing ethos of 2020, which the Republican-led Senate made good on this past week, is Richard Nixon's 1977 assertion to British journalist David Frost, that "when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal."

FILE PHOTO: President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Lexington, Kentucky
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hugs President Donald Trump at a campaign at the Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky, November 4, 2019. In December McConnell said he was taking cues from the White House in how to address articles of impeachment brought by the House. Senate Republicans would ultimately block witnesses and documentary evidence from being included in their deliberations. Yuri Gripas/REUTERS

How did our nation get to such a place, that many citizens think our president is a king, instead of a servant to the Constitution? I blame Congress, on both sides of the aisle, for placing the long-term integrity of the legislative branch as a lower priority than the fast-lane windfall of political party self-interest. 

Bipartisanism has, for the time being, gone the way of the dodo: extinct.

With the White House perfecting the dark art of stonewalling and Democrats unable to accept Donald Trump as a real president, America sits at the crossroads of utter governmental dysfunction. 

I have to take some responsibility for the mess in Washington myself. Today, for example, I am much more interested in watching the Chiefs-49ers game in the Super Bowl than micro-following the rollercoaster ride of impeachment politics.

Both political parties today seem more interested in fighting each other than fighting for the American people. I worry that the crack on the Liberty Bell no longer represents American perseverance, but is instead an omen that our union is falling apart.

However, the good news is, the roots of our democratic traditions are deep, and we will survive this period of bad-faith government.

This is the proper time for us all to recall the harrowing days of Pearl Harbor and McCarthyism, the Vietnam War and Watergate, and realize, in the end, the United States has a deep and rich history of prevailing in times of adversity.

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Story produced by Young Kim. 

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