• Show Notes

Dear Reader,

Last Friday night, Donald Trump met with Hungary's authoritarian leader Viktor Orban at Mar-a-Lago. Trump had nothing but praise for Orban, who has been prime minister since 2010. While invoking Christian values, Orban has crusaded against Hungary's free press and independent judiciary. He’s expanded his own power by paving over the separation between Hungary’s legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. Orban has referred to this as "illiberal democracy," also calling it a system of national cooperation. But Orban’s idea of cooperation involves diminishing the friction between the branches of government; reducing the tension that we understand in this country as the balance of power that protects our liberty. Some commentators have called what Orban is doing the death of democracy.

But Donald Trump loves him. After his meeting with Orban, Trump said there is "nobody that's better, smarter or a better leader than Viktor Orban." In praising Orban, Trump is once again telling us who he is, and we should believe him. 

Unfortunately, a big part of the country doesn’t, and it’s not just his base. It’s people who simply can’t, or won’t, contemplate the possibility of democracy slipping away. I reflected on this as I prepared to speak on a panel at the ABA's white collar crime section meeting last week. The focus of the panel was the threat to the rule of law, which is multifaceted. But cutting across it all was a thread of worry over the ways Trump has attacked our institutions and norms, and the ease with which he has gotten away with it. Panelists referred to Trump as an “existential threat” to democracy and noted there has been little or no opposition from members of his own party–the party that once prided itself on supporting law enforcement and cherishing the Constitution