SCOTUS grants POTUS immunity, The Democrats’ dilemma, American media’s trust problem, and The resurgence of the Far Right

Democracy Examined

The Topline

Key news and views on democracy at home and abroad

We’d like to congratulate RDI advisor Anne Applebaum, who has been named by the German Publishers and Booksellers Association as the winner of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade for 2024.

“At a time when democratic values and achievements are increasingly being caricatured and attacked, her work embodies an eminent and indispensable contribution to the preservation of democracy and peace,” the award citation said of Applebaum. Well deserved indeed.

Now, before you dig into today’s edition, RDI CEO Uriel Epshtein offers some wisdom on how we can celebrate Independence Day when everything seems to be going wrong. Read it here.

Happy Fourth! —Melissa Amour, Managing Editor

Yes, presidents have immunity…sometimes

In the case of Donald Trump v. United States, the Supreme Court ruled this week that presidents have “absolute” immunity for clearly official acts, but no immunity for unofficial acts.

For Trump, it’s a big win. It knocked down the central allegations Special Counsel Jack Smith leveled against him, including claims that he attempted to weaponize the Justice Department to concoct or amplify false claims of voter fraud.

The decision will delay the trial—as well as sentencing for his New York felony conviction—greatly reducing the chances that it will happen before Election Day, if at all. And if he wins the election, the Justice Department has a deadline: Inauguration Day. Tick, tock.

Beyond Trump, the Court’s decision is a troubling one. It declares that presidents are presumed to be shielded from prosecution for all official acts, including policy changes, military decisions, and discussions with other administration officials, whatever the substance of those might be. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in her dissent, expressed the dangers plainly:

“Looking beyond the fate of this particular prosecution, the long-term consequences of today’s decision are stark. The Court effectively creates a law-free zone around the President, upsetting the status quo that has existed since the Founding. This new official-acts immunity now ‘lies about like a loaded weapon’ for any President that wishes to place his own interests, his own political survival, or his own financial gain, above the interests of the Nation.”

READ THIS TOO: Donald Trump skates while his flunkies take the fall —The Bulwark

Democrats face a big dilemma

The Democratic Party is facing an existential crisis as it tries to figure out a path forward after last week’s debacle of a presidential debate.

Does it replace Biden at the top of the ticket or plow ahead with its now clearly diminished leader? And if it opts to move forward with a fresh face, who? And how?

The debate was perhaps the first in history after which both participants, President Biden and Donald Trump, were urged to exit the race. But unlike the Democrats, the Republican Party appears to be facing no moral quandaries about its convicted felon candidate, who effortlessly lied throughout the debate.

Democrats are reasonably concerned, not just for the sake of the election, but for the sake of the country for the next four years.

“What goes unmentioned…in other recent calls for Biden to step down is an acknowledgment of the substantive reasons why Americans might not want to be governed for another four years by a mentally impaired octogenarian whose faculties are visibly deteriorating at a rapid pace.” —Yascha Mounk and Quico Toro in Persuasion

READ THIS TOO: Biden told ally that he is weighing whether to continue in the race —The New York Times

The media has a trust problem

Nearly 70 percent of Americans don’t trust the media—especially when it comes to politics—according to a new poll.

It was no surprise then that some political media analysts suggested that debate-viewers were only shocked by the president’s performance because the news media failed to inform them about his health status.

Equally concerning is swing-state polling from The Washington Post and the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, which found that only 3 in 10 residents of six of the most important states in this year’s presidential election trust that the media will fairly and accurately report political news. 7 in 10 indicated they don’t have much trust in that happening—or they have no trust that it will happen at all.

The sham trial of Evan Gershkovich

Thomas Jefferson once said that, given the choice, he’d pick newspapers over government. Vladimir Putin disagrees, which is why American journalist Evan Gershkovich is currently on trial for espionage in Russia—the real Russia, where newspapers are an enemy.

Now, even the UN has seen enough, with a panel of independent experts convened by its top human rights body accusing Russia of violating international law by imprisoning Gershkovich.

The panel said Gershkovich should be released “immediately” due to a “striking lack of any factual or legal substantiation” for spying charges. Hear, hear.

Strange bedfellows

Why is the US working with Saudi Arabia toward a potential security pact? Simple: to help stabilize the Middle East.

According to Ali Shihabi, founder of the Arabia Foundation:

“Saudi Arabia and its partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have a vested interest in a well-functioning global economic and political order. Strengthening this anchor with a formal US-Saudi security alliance would serve to keep the GCC solidly in the US orbit in an increasingly multipolar world. These are, after all, states with the resources and the will to actively support the United States in upholding a US-led regional order.”

But working with Saudi Arabia is a far throw from President Biden’s promise to “make them the pariah that they are,” after the brutal murder of Saudi dissident and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the behest of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.


READ THIS TOO: The enemy of my enemy: Biden admin weighs working with the Taliban to combat ISIS-K —NBC News

‘The extreme right is at the gates of power’

The Far Right could win control of the French government for the first time since the Nazi occupation during World War II.

Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally party swept to victory in the first round of legislative elections on Monday, putting centrist President Emmanuel Macron in a troubling position.

Rival French parties are now scrambling to build an anti-far right front to prevent that outcome—a necessity, according to some analysts.

“France is on the brink. It is a deeply torn and anxious nation approaching an epochal vote. For all the problems of a hung Parliament, it is essential to deny National Rally a passage to power. Either France rejects the far right to remain an outward-looking country, true to the liberal values of the French Revolution, or it succumbs to xenophobia and bitter nationalism.” —Philippe Marlière, professor of French and European politics at University College London

Next up: the UK

As the US celebrates 248 years of independence from Great Britain today, the mother country is heading to the polls.

But the results in the UK are expected to be quite different from those in France. Polls show the center-left Labour Party leading over Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives.

If the polling is accurate, the election would topple 14 years in power for the Conservative Party. Labour will have its work cut out for it—the British economy is stagnant, public services are strained, and the government has failed to meet housing and immigration targets.

READ THIS TOO: Midway through the ultimate election year: How the world has voted so far —TIME

  • Confronting the Axis of Resistance —The Atlantic
  • A democracy in motion —IPS Journal
  • Commentary: Time to pay democracy her rent —Orlando Sentinel
  • To preserve the election integrity, language matters —The Hill
  • Democracy advocates alarmed as Jan. 6 takes backseat during debate —AP News
  • Lost faith: Why supporting democracy is hard for some Americans who feel the economy fails them —Milwaukee Independent
  • The surprising psychology behind extremism, and how politics is driving it —The Guardian
  • My unsettling interview with Steve Bannon —The New York Times
  • When will Americans tire of hardball politics? —National Review
  • Is Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly the solution to the West’s culture wars? —The UnPopulist

Why does Bret Stephens think all of the things he listed in his column are Joe Biden’s fault? When you have no support from the other party, what can one expect?

Donald Trump told the Republicans to deep-six the bipartisan immigration bill, and the result is all the president’s fault? Ukraine aid was consistently blocked by Republicans, and for a moment, Speaker Johnson manned-up; why is this Biden’s fault?

He’s done his best under the most trying conditions. He has gotten the infrastructure bill passed with the barest minimum of help from the Republicans, who now take credit for the work being done in their areas.

What more can a man do with consistent opposition—and with that opposition being controlled by an out-of-office, out-of-control despot who desperately wants to regain that chair in the Oval Office? —James L.

The views expressed in “What’s Your Take?” are submitted by readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff or the Renew Democracy Initiative.

Hey Topline readers, you remember the drill. We want to hear your reactions to today’s stories. We’ll include some of your replies in this space in our next issue of The Topline.

Click here to share your take, and don’t forget to include your name and state. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!