Dan Balz Gets Shrill — But Still Misses the Point

The normally calm Dan Balz is becoming shrill:

America’s democratic system, the world’s oldest, is said to be resilient, with institutions strong enough to defend against runaway actors and with checks and balances designed to prevent too much power from building up in any one place or with any one person. Earlier in Trump’s presidency, that appeared to be the case. Right now, however, that is in question.

….Three years into his presidency, Trump has helped to reveal the weaknesses of the system. In the executive branch, and especially in the White House, there are few if any officials willing to challenge and check the president. To the extent that administration officials could do that, those who tried are gone. He has also demonstrated the degree to which Congress is dependent on a president who operates with some respect for the norms of the system created by the Founding Fathers.

I understand that Balz probably wants to appear nonpartisan here, but this is simply wrong. What allows Trump to get away with this behavior is neither a supine executive branch nor a Congress that’s overwhelmed by the blinding light of Trump’s audacity. It is one thing, and one thing only: a Republican Party that has literally decided to allow Trump to do anything he wants as long as he keeps sending them plenty of conservative judges to confirm. That’s it. None of this could have happened if the Republican Party had even a few dozen members willing to do the right thing and rein him in.

But it doesn’t. Even now, when Trump has been credibly accused of pressuring a foreign country to smear a political opponent, Republicans are either defending Trump or remaining silent. No one is demanding that the whistleblower complaint be turned over to Congress. No one is demanding to see a transcript of the damning phone call. No one is willing to do anything.

That’s why the resilience of American democracy is now in question.


In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones, a special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.