The principle of Accountability in our Democracy is another essential value of what our country was founded upon. But before I go into more detail, please read the following two links for some relevant background:

Hopefully these provide some grounding on what I believe accountability and its possible outcomes should look like and what it should not.

The principle of accountability is a cornerstone of democratic governance. It ensures that elected officials and public servants are answerable for their actions and decisions to the electorate and other institutional checks. Accountability promotes transparency, responsiveness, and integrity within the government. Here are the key aspects of accountability in a democracy:

  • Electoral Accountability: This is the most direct form of accountability in a democracy. Elected officials are accountable to the voters who can reward or punish them through regular, free, and fair elections. If officials fail to meet the expectations of their constituents, they risk losing their positions in subsequent elections. YOUR VOTE MATTERS AND AN OBLIGATION AS CITIZENS.
  • Legal Accountability: Public officials and institutions must operate within the bounds of the law. Legal accountability ensures that officials can be held responsible for actions that violate legal standards, such as corruption, abuse of power, or misconduct. Independent judiciary systems play a crucial role in enforcing legal accountability by interpreting and applying laws impartially. (Note: See my previous blog re: ‘The Rule of Law’ and how this tenet of democracy is being ferociously attacked by Republican leadership in Trump’s current NYS criminal trial and against the Fulton County District Attorney in Georgia. These circumstances should not be taken lightly as “simple” partisan politics … they are literally attacks on our democracy by political leaders).
  • Institutional Accountability: This involves the checks and balances between different branches of government—executive, legislative, and judicial. Each branch has the authority to oversee and limit the powers of the others, preventing any single branch from becoming too powerful or acting unilaterally. For example, legislatures can hold the executive accountable through oversight functions, such as investigations and hearings.
  • Administrative Accountability: Within the public administration, there are mechanisms to ensure that civil servants and public agencies are accountable for their performance and adherence to policies and regulations. This includes internal audits, performance evaluations, and disciplinary procedures.
  • Transparency and Information Accessibility: Transparency is a key element of accountability and will be discussed further in next month’s Blog. Democratic governments are expected to operate openly, providing the public with access to information about governmental activities, decisions, and expenditures. Transparency enables citizens and the media to scrutinize government actions, fostering an informed and engaged electorate.
  • Civil Society and Media: A vibrant civil society and a free, independent media are essential for holding government accountable. Civil society organizations, advocacy groups, and watchdog organizations monitor government activities, advocate for policy changes, and hold officials accountable for their actions. The media is expected to investigate and report on government performance, corruption, and other issues, informing the public and stimulating democratic debate.
  • Ethical Standards and Codes of Conduct: Ethical standards and codes of conduct for public officials and employees help ensure that they act in the public interest and maintain integrity. Ethics commissions and ombudsman offices can investigate ethical violations and recommend appropriate sanctions.

In essence, accountability in a democracy ensures that those in power are answerable to the people and must justify their decisions and actions. This fosters a government that is more responsive, transparent, and committed to serving the public good, ultimately strengthening the legitimacy and stability of the democratic system.

In sharp contrast, Donald Trump has faced numerous allegations and criticisms regarding violations of the principle of accountability before, during, and after his time as President of the United States. Here are some key areas where he has been accused of undermining accountability:

  • Obstruction of Justice: Trump was accused of attempting to obstruct justice during the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report outlined several instances where Trump allegedly tried to interfere with the investigation, including attempts to fire Mueller and influencing witnesses.
  • Undermining the Judiciary: Trump frequently attacks judges and judicial decisions that do not align with his policies, views, as well as criminal charges he has been indicted on. By publicly disparaging judges, he undermines the independence of the judiciary and weakens the system of checks and balances crucial for governmental accountability.
  • Use of Pardons: Trump’s use of the presidential pardon power was criticized for being politically motivated and serving his personal interests. He pardoned several individuals with close personal or political connections to him, raising concerns about undermining legal accountability and the Rule of Law. And as he has unfortunately asserted throughout his current campaign, he will continue this behavior if elected President again by pardoning those criminally charged in the infamous and almost successful 2001 Insurrection against our country (see more below).
  • Refusal to Comply with Congressional Oversight: Trump and his administration often refused to comply with congressional subpoenas and obstructed investigations by Congress. This included blocking testimony from key witnesses and withholding documents, which hindered Congress’s ability to perform its oversight role and hold the executive branch accountable. His behavior continues to worsen based on his words and actions associated with the 88 criminal indictments lodged against him since he left office.
  • Emoluments Clause Violations: Trump faced allegations of violating the Emoluments Clauses of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibit the President from receiving gifts or payments from foreign governments and domestic state governments without congressional consent. Critics argued that Trump’s continued ownership of his business empire while in office created conflicts of interest and potential constitutional violations.
  • Attacks on the Media: Trump frequently attacks the media, labeling critical coverage as “fake news” and calling the press the “enemy of the people.” This rhetoric undermines the role of a free press in holding government accountable and informing the public. A current concern is how his actions and rhetoric could lead to violence against not only the media but many others who oppose him.
  • Election Disputes and Insurrection: After losing the 2020 presidential election, Trump has continued to refuse to accept the results and has made baseless claims of widespread voter fraud. His actions resulted in encouraging a rally on January 6, 2021, which led to the storming of the U.S. Capitol by his supporters. This unprecedented challenge to the peaceful transfer of power and disregard for democratic norms represented a severe violation of accountability to the democratic process. Again, his current inflammatory campaign rhetoric could result in new attacks across the country and a general insurrection, making what happened in 2021 look like a peaceful protest!

These actions and behaviors continue to raise significant concerns about Trump’s commitment to the principles of accountability and the integrity of democratic institutions. His critics argue that by undermining these principles, he is weakening the mechanisms designed to hold leaders accountable and maintain the balance of power essential for a functioning democracy. And as previously indicated, this weakening is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the horrific and autocratic outcomes if he is elected.

Now that I have (hopefully) your attention, here are two more links from Cox-Richardson and Reich:

Please strongly consider what you can do to be accountable in preserving our over 200-year-old democracy … and at the very least, please vote and encourage others to do the same.

Lastly and to connect with the antiracism theme of my memoir and this website, personal accountability is very important to me. So, here’s a quote from Deborah Cohan, a noted sociologist, author, and activist that speaks very powerfully to me:

“If I truly want to be part of the solution, I need to explore those parts of me that are most unwholesome, embarrassing, unflattering. My goal is to dismantle the insidious thoughts that reinforce a hierarchy based on race, education, and other markers of privilege that separate me from others. These thoughts, fed by implicit bias, are more common than I find easy to admit. Although I know not to believe everything I think, I also know that thoughts guide attention, and attention guides actions. Until I bring to light and hold myself accountable for my own racist tendencies, I am contributing to racism.”

Continued prayers for peace … Bill

Footnote: this post was partially adapted from research generated by AI and other resources.

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