“If pe­op­le lose faith in their go­vern­ment, the re­sult is the same whet­her or not the loss of con­fi­den­ce is jus­ti­fied.” John F. Ken­ne­dy (U.S. Pre­si­dent)

 “Pub­lic con­fi­den­ce in the in­teg­ri­ty of the go­vern­ment is in­dis­pen­sab­le to faith in de­moc­ra­cy; and when we lose faith in the sys­tem, we have lost faith in eve­ryt­hing we fight for.“ Ad­lai Ste­ven­son (U.S. Am­bas­sa­dor to the Uni­ted Na­ti­ons)

Let’s look at the cur­rent state of Ame­ri­can go­vern­ment to see if all is yet lost or not. It’s worth thin­king about the three branc­hes of go­vern­ment se­pa­ra­te­ly – exe­cu­ti­ve, le­gis­la­ti­ve and ju­di­ci­al (in ot­her words, the Pre­si­dent, the Cong­ress and the Courts).


The Trump era cer­tain­ly didn’t help the le­gi­ti­ma­cy of the Of­fi­ce of the Pre­si­dent. Ame­ri­cans watc­hed as Mr. Trump spent much of his time le­a­ding par­ti­san pep ral­lies as if his cam­paign ne­ver en­ded, vin­dic­ti­ve­ly bas­hing his per­cei­ved ene­mies, most of them ot­her Ame­ri­cans (such as Hil­la­ry Clin­ton even though he’d de­fe­a­ted her ye­ars ear­lier). He spent re­la­ti­ve­ly lit­t­le time go­ver­ning or le­a­ding the count­ry and suc­cee­ded on­ly in di­vi­ding the count­ry even furt­her rat­her than ma­king anyt­hing great again. Even af­ter he no lon­ger had the job, he took high­ly clas­si­fied go­vern­ment do­cu­ments for his unk­nown per­so­nal pur­po­ses, which can’t pos­sib­ly be in Ame­ri­ca’s in­te­rest no mat­ter how much slack he’s gi­ven by his sup­por­ters.

Wha­te­ver ho­nor the of­fi­ce of the Pre­si­dent of the Uni­ted Sta­tes on­ce held was un­ce­re­mo­ni­ous­ly dis­mant­led. Pre­si­dent Bi­den has tried to res­to­re some me­a­su­re of dig­ni­ty to the po­si­ti­on but wit­hout much suc­cess, in part be­cau­se a sig­ni­fi­cant per­cen­ta­ge of Ame­ri­cans still re­fu­se to be­lie­ve that Mr. Bi­den is the le­gi­ti­ma­te U.S. Pre­si­dent des­pi­te the lack of any evi­den­ce that he “stole” the elec­ti­on.


The U.S. Cong­ress is di­vi­ded bet­ween two par­ties, and each par­ty in­sists upon doing the exact op­po­si­te of what the ot­her one wants, with re­gard for on­ly their own po­li­ti­cal as­pi­ra­ti­ons and ne­ar­ly to­tal dis­re­gard for what pol­ls show that the ma­jo­ri­ty of the Ame­ri­can pe­op­le want. Overw­hel­ming per­cen­ta­ges of Ame­ri­cans want laws for more gun cont­rol, bet­ter he­alth care and re­a­so­nab­le self- de­ter­mi­na­ti­on re­gar­ding abor­ti­on rights, to name just a few, but many of their elec­ted rep­re­sen­ta­ti­ves ig­no­re them. A few mem­bers of Cong­ress con­ti­nue to in­sist that their col­le­a­gu­es take at le­ast some of the ac­ti­ons that Ame­ri­cans want, but they are then of­ten cal­led so­ci­a­lists.

On­ly cam­paign mo­ney cont­ri­bu­ti­ons seem to mat­ter, from spe­ci­al in­te­rests, the uber-we­alt­hy and a nar­row base of ext­re­mist vo­ters. Real is­su­es are tre­a­ted as most­ly ir­re­le­vant. Cong­res­si­o­nal par­ti­san ga­mes­mans­hip has re­ac­hed such a le­vel of ab­sur­di­ty that it’s cre­a­ted ne­ar­ly to­tal dys­func­ti­on. So Cong­ress is not a place to find very much trust­wort­hi­ness in Ame­ri­can go­vern­ment.


U.S. courts are sup­po­sed to be a place where jus­ti­ce will be ap­p­lied, in fair and non-po­li­ti­cal ways that may not ple­a­se eve­ry­o­ne but will pro­vi­de a so­lid and le­gi­ti­ma­te ba­sis for go­vern­ment and rule by law. In the­o­ry yes… in re­cent real-life prac­ti­ce, not so much.

Courts no­wa­da­ys are open­ly desc­ri­bed by Ame­ri­cans as being cont­rol­led by “Trump jud­ges” or “an­ti-Trump jud­ges”.  In some ca­ses, that’s ac­cu­ra­te, but thank­ful­ly not al­wa­ys, and for­tu­na­te­ly not in the elec­ti­on fraud law­suits. Ho­we­ver, even a few ins­tan­ces un­ders­tan­dab­ly ero­de trust in the fair­ness of the U.S. court sys­tem. La­wy­ers who open­ly abu­se the le­gal sys­tem with bo­gus ca­ses (Rudy Giu­li­a­ni is a good examp­le) re­main un­pu­nis­hed. The re­sult is that U.S. courts are inc­re­a­sing­ly seen by Ame­ri­cans as a cir­cus where big mo­ney wins and jud­ges’ per­so­nal po­li­tics rule the out­co­me.

La­te­ly the U.S. Sup­re­me Court has stop­ped even trying to ap­pe­ar to be non-po­li­ti­cal. The de­ci­si­on in 2000 where the court han­ded the U.S. Pre­si­den­cy to Re­pub­li­can Ge­or­ge Bush rat­her than to De­moc­rat Al Gore was al­re­a­dy a huge crack in the fa­ça­de of the court’s im­par­ti­a­li­ty, but the court has now open­ly re­ver­sed it­self on de­ca­des-old abor­ti­on rights and si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly sig­na­led that ot­her pri­va­cy rights (same-sex mar­ri­a­ge and ot­hers) are next in line to be aban­do­ned.

Some of the le­gal exp­la­na­ti­ons for their chan­ges in ap­p­ro­ach were pro­per, even if un­po­pu­lar, but ot­her ra­ti­o­na­les of­fe­red in the court’s ru­ling were old con­cepts that should have been re­le­ga­ted to his­to­ry, but ins­te­ad were re­vi­ved for sup­po­sed sup­port of wo­men’s lack of rights in the 21st cen­tu­ry. The re­sult was anot­her high-pro­fi­le loss of the court’s le­gi­ti­ma­cy in the ey­es of the Ame­ri­can pub­lic, and an ad­di­ti­o­nal ero­si­on of Ame­ri­can’s trust in their go­vern­ment.

“Ex­pe­rien­ce has shown, that even un­der the best forms of go­vern­ment those ent­rus­ted with po­wer have, in time, and by slow ope­ra­ti­ons, per­ver­ted it in­to ty­ran­ny.” Tho­mas Jef­fer­son (ori­gi­nal aut­hor of the Dec­la­ra­ti­on of In­de­pen­den­ce and U.S. Pre­si­dent)

At the same time as all three branc­hes of the U.S. go­vern­ment have been self-dest­ruc­ting in these ways, the Re­pub­li­can par­ty has si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly wor­ked to un­der­mi­ne the un­der­lying pro­cess for a de­moc­ra­ti­cal­ly elec­ted sys­tem of go­vern­ment in the USA. They have al­re­a­dy suc­cee­ded in rest­ric­ting vo­ting rights in many pla­ces, and they are now poi­sed in the mid-term elec­ti­ons this co­ming No­vem­ber to furt­her eli­mi­na­te vo­ting by many more Ame­ri­cans.

Their vo­ter sup­p­res­si­on tac­tics are as­toun­ding: they first lie about 2020 elec­ti­on fraud that didn’t exist, then put laws in­to place to chan­ge fu­tu­re elec­ti­on prac­ti­ces in ways that of­fi­ci­als will be ab­le to al­ter the ac­tu­al elec­ti­on re­sults, the­re­by cre­a­ting the elec­ti­on fraud that was ori­gi­nal­ly pro­ven not to exist… but then will exist. Des­pi­te that ir­ra­ti­o­na­li­ty -- or per­haps be­cau­se of it – these very real steps are being ta­ken to ero­de and ul­ti­ma­te­ly end the de­moc­ra­tic form of go­vern­ment in the Uni­ted Sta­tes. Some Ame­ri­cans are un­ders­tan­dab­ly ap­pal­led, some are inexp­li­cab­ly ple­a­sed.

The end re­sult, like it or not, is that the U.S. sys­tem of go­vern­ment is ra­pid­ly lo­sing its le­gi­ti­ma­cy in the ey­es of the vast ma­jo­ri­ty of the ci­ti­zens who live un­der it. The rest of the world sees it too, and the sta­tu­re of the Uni­ted Sta­tes ab­ro­ad con­ti­nu­es to slide ac­cor­ding­ly.

Does this mean it’s al­re­a­dy over? Will “Ame­ri­can de­moc­ra­cy” be a chap­ter in fu­tu­re his­to­ry books from 1776 to 2022? Some mo­dern po­pu­lar thin­kers say it best….

“Eve­ryt­hing go­vern­ment touc­hes turns to crap.” Rin­go Starr (rock star)

“To res­to­re the trust of the pe­op­le, we must re­form the way the go­vern­ment ope­ra­tes.” Ar­nold Schwar­ze­neg­ger (for­mer Ca­li­for­nia go­ver­nor and ac­tor)


Tom A. Lip­po is a Fin­nish-spe­a­king Ame­ri­can la­wy­er. Edu­ca­ted at Ya­le, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Jy­väs­ky­lä and Stan­ford Law School, he is the foun­der of FACT LAW, an in­ter­na­ti­o­nal law firm es­tab­lis­hed in 1985. FACT is the first law firm with of­fi­ces in both Fin­land and the Uni­ted Sta­tes. Tom has been a la­wy­er in Was­hing­ton, DC ba­sed on Ca­pi­tol Hill for 40 ye­ars.