Former Congressman David Skaggs Says U.S. is on the “Cusp” of a Constitutional Crisis

A former U.S. Congressman says the current political climate in Washington, D.C. lacks basic courtesy, and notes that compromise among politicians has all but disappeared. As KGNU’s Roz Brown reports, David Skaggs shared his concerns about the future of politics and a potential constitutional crisis at a Boulder Democratic luncheon last week.

 

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    Former Congressman David Skaggs Says U.S. is on the “Cusp” of a Constitutional Crisis KGNU News

 

Skaggs believes compromise is at the heart of democracy, but notes that compromise requires trust, and in the nation’s capitol, relationships that inspire trust are in decline after what he calls a crude and profane political climate set-in more than 20 years ago.

 

“The breakdown was incremental, but the push came when Newt Gingrich became Speaker of the House,” said Skaggs. “Gingrich believed the way to take power in the House was to burn the place down, so he denigrated the House of Representatives to convince districts around the country to elect Republicans.”

 

Skaggs also says the media plays a role in elevating animosity.

 

“The media tends to accentuate divisions in politics and ignore serious policy debates that are boring to the average person and therefore ignored by the media,” said Skaggs. “The nastiness has also occasionally reached new highs because the men and women in Congress don’t know each other.”

 

They don’t know each other, according to Skaggs because unlike 30 years ago, legislators don’t move their families to Washington, and instead travel back to their home state on weekends and during recess, limiting the time they can interact with colleagues.

 

After serving six years the Colorado state capitol and then six years in U.S. Congress, Skaggs now Chairs the Office of Congressional Ethics in Washington, D.C.

 

“Many of the submissions we get are mistakenly going after the President. But our jurisdiction is exclusively the House of Representatives, so we are attentive to them following the rules,” noted Skaggs.

 

Skaggs told the audience he believes the inducements and incentives of President Trump are largely serving to divide Americans.

 

“I think the combination of elevating economic well-being over anything else and individual success over common enterprise, along with the digital environment that isolates individuals and doesn’t encourage personal relationships – all of that tends to atomize the society,” said Skaggs.

 

He admits the current state of affairs is unlike anything he’s ever seen, but adds that historically the country has faced other difficult times.

 

“If look at the history of the Congress preceding the Civil War, it’s happened before, and there were certainly hints of this during the early days of the Civil Rights Movement and during the Vietnam War.”

 

Skaggs believes the flowering of Democracy seen after the Cold War, is in decline worldwide. But until the election of Donald Trump the idea that democracy in America was fragile or at risk, was an abstract concept.

 

“There seems to be a parallel in the West generally, with less attention being paid in the education system about this terribly difficult business of self-government,” said Skaggs. “It’s so easy to slide into being angry and disruptive when the only way it works is if you’re concerned, but involved.”

 

In recent weeks President Donald Trump has increasingly shown contempt for Congress by thwarting the historical process of checks and balances most Americans take for granted. As a result, some have declared the U.S. to be in the midst of a constitutional crisis. Does Skaggs think it’s reached that level?

 

“Not yet, although I think we’re on the cusp of one,” said Skaggs. “I don’t think we will be there unless the President would defy a decision by the courts to enforce one of the pending requirements for the production of information or witnesses.”

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    Former Congressman David Skaggs Says U.S. is on the “Cusp” of a Constitutional Crisis KGNU News

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