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My College Did Not Teach A Trump Senator To Trash America's Stature In The Americas

Julio Cortez
UNHINGED HORDE Pro-Trump protesters, some armed, storm the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. Wednesday afternoon as Congress gathers inside to certify President-elect Joe Biden's electoral college victory.

COMMENTARY Trump toadies like Sen. Mike Braun have steered the U.S.'s constitutional standing closer to hemispheric horror shows like Venezuela's.

It’s hard to imagine now – when President Trump and his unhinged horde are acting out like banana-republic coup mongers – that there was a moment when he did uphold the integrity of a constitution.

It just wasn’t the U.S. Constitution.

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It was Venezuela’s. Two years ago this month, Trump recognized Venezuelan National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó as his country’s legitimate president. It was a rare instance when Trump did something both politically heads-up, since the move ingratiated him to hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan and other Latino voters in Florida; and civically high-minded, since dictatorial Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro had indeed shredded his country’s constitution into carne mechada en route to his fraudulent 2018 re-election.

Now Trump and his reactionary cult are undoing all that constitutional karma as they try – futilely, thank God, but nonetheless destructively – to torch U.S. democracy and reverse his irreversible 2020 re-election defeat. As Trump goes full mafioso on his way out of the White House this month, he’s essentially putting himself in league with Maduro. Worse, he’s helping to re-legitimize Maduro by validating the Venezuelan’s brand of constitutional thuggery.

READ MORE: Trump's Expat Followers Were Right! The U.S. Looks Like Socialist Venezuela Now!

But, perhaps because this is what we expected from Trump all along, here’s what bothers me even more. Among the cynical sect of U.S. Senators aiding and abetting him right now is someone who was educated in the same Socratic classrooms I frequented. Someone who should know a lot better – not just about the U.S. Constitution but about the dangers of aping constitutional horror shows like Venezuela’s.

Republican Indiana Senator Mike Braun and I both graduated from Wabash College, a small but highly respected liberal arts school in Crawfordsville, Indiana. It’s the sort of oasis of rigorous inquiry that prods undergrads to ask questions like: Why does the U.S. enjoy constitutional justice and rule of law while its hemispheric neighbor, Latin America, has so often seen that social contract torn up by brutos trying (and often succeeding, sometimes with U.S. help, sadly) to overthrow valid election outcomes?

Somehow a U.S. senator who received the same, pro-civilization education I did has helped blur the most fundamental line that separates America from the constitutional thuggery of Venezuela or Turkey.

By signing on to this week’s appalling stunt to reject the duly legalized electoral college votes sent to Congress, Braun has turned that question on its ear. By shamelessly asserting the bald-faced lie that “allegations of fraud and irregularities in the 2020 election exceed any in our lifetimes,” as he said last weekend, Braun himself has helped reduce America’s constitutional standing closer to Latin America’s historical level.


To a Wabash alum and Latin America correspondent like myself, that’s beyond distressing. This isn’t about conservatism and liberalism. It’s not about taxes or abortion or issues we can honestly debate. It’s about the most fundamental line that separates the U.S. from Venezuela. From Cuba, from Turkey, from Iran, any place where demagogues and their sycophantic parties have declared constitutional rule is for chumps. Where one faction – like Maduro’s socialists or the delusional GOP camp Braun belongs to – genuinely believes it owns an exclusive right to rule.

Susan Walsh
Republican U.S. Senator Mike Braun of Indiana

Braun and the rest of Trump’s kowtowing posse are devaluing the U.S. model at the worst possible moment when it comes to Venezuela. Almost 60 other nations joined the U.S. in recognizing Guaidó; but the Trump Administration unsurprisingly blew that diplomatic hand. Maduro looks more entrenched in power today than he did two years ago, especially after swiping Venezuela’s National Assembly from Guaidó last month in sham parliamentary elections – and especially since his murderous military enforcers remain squarely behind him.

Soon it’ll be the Biden Administration’s job to somehow convince Maduro to restore U.S-style democracy. That’s a lecture he’ll likely, perhaps justifiably, find laughable and hypocritical. Especially now that he knows 10 former U.S. defense secretaries felt they had to pen an op-ed last weekend urging a sitting U.S. president to refrain from using military intervention in an election transition – that is, intervention meant to keep him in power.

The fact that a sitting U.S. senator who studied the same pro-constitutional curriculum I did would help stoke those anxieties – would help egg on the armed and enraged Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol and halted Wednesday’s electoral college certification – has some Wabash alumni calling for Braun’s degree to be revoked.

I disagree. It should stand as a reminder that the toxic cocktail of ideology, ambition and cowardice can foul the best of educations. And threaten the best of constitutions.

UPDATE: Hours after this commentary was published, Senator Braun reversed course and did not vote to block certification of Biden's victory.

Tim Padgett is the Americas editor for Miami NPR affiliate WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.