In the area constitutional politics and law, Sujit Choudhry is an internationally recognized scholar who covers a plethora of issues. From his soon to be released book Constitutional Democracies in Crisis, he has released a chapter with some examples of how some democracies in the world are experiencing an erosion of their systems (works.bepress.com).
He begins the chapter outlining a particular case in which Eric Holder, the former Attorney General under President Obama, sent out a tweet recently in response to President Trump possibly firing Robert Muller as the head of the FBI (medium.com). In the tweet, Holder said that Muller’s firing would constitute a red line that the people could not let be crossed. If crossed, then the people should gather and peacefully protest an infraction that violates the spirit of our democracy. For Holder’s tweet, Choudhry focuses on first the notion of a constitutional red line. This is a basic assumption that there are certain constitutional standards that everybody agrees upon. Second is the idea that if the people are not tolerant of Trump’s firing that they should protest in order to force either his reversal or perhaps his removal from office.
Sujit Choudhry notes that it is interesting that Holder does not seem to recognize what it is that he is advocating from a constitutional standpoint, and then moves on to the case of an autocrat using laws and other methods to subvert the term limit restrictions placed upon the president. These two scenarios are part of a broader theme of ‘democratic backsliding’ whereby the constitutional laws in place are subverted in lieu of either popular sentiment or some other autocratic desire. Choudhry uses an example from Poland to make his point. In 2015 the extremely right-wing nationalist PiS party won power and immediately set about changing laws, modifying the courts, and implanting an interim president all to further their agenda. Another example can be found in the Weimar Republic where Hitler and the Nazis secured their power not through physical altercation or coup d’état, but through getting enough of their party members elected to the Reichstag to change laws restricting dictatorial power.
Connect with Sujit at https://www.linkedin.com/in/sujit-choudhry