This past week, the Mueller investigation’s preliminary findings sprung across American news outlets, indicating that neither President Trump, nor any of his aides conspired or coordinated with the Russian government’s 2016 election interference. Although investigators are seeking further actions[, the Mueller report, at least for the moment, reaffirms Trump’s legitimacy amidst stark criticisms against his administration. That is, just many other unsuccessful democratic policing campaigns, Mueller’s inability to indict Trump validates his criticisms of America’s weak democratic institutions, perhaps even normalize his violations of her democratic norms. In this case, Mueller’s case lays the foundation for democratic erosion.
In specific, the Mueller report allows Trump to now weaponize any and all investigations against him to further erode voters’ confidence in our democratic institutions. After all, from the outset of his campaign, Trump has criticized our democratic checks-and-balances in a nakedly public manner. From calling the New York Times ‘enemies of the people’ to undermining competitive elections, Trump’s constitutional hardballs are clear violations of justice. Simply put, rather than accepting the media, the legislative, and the judiciary branches as tools by which he, leader of the American democracy, is accountable to, he considers them as elitist threats against his presidency and the limited support base he deems ‘the people.’ As Jan Müller would argue, Trump’s anti-pluralist, anti-elitist nature makes him a populist, one who is willing to violate democratic norms to achieve his political ends. Without holding him accountable for obstructing justice during his presidency and the investigation process, especially as he publicly admitted to having fired Comey for investigating his ties and attacked cooperative witnesses as rats[, the Mueller report has failed to truly serve its purposes.
Even more, by giving Trump immunity, Mueller’s preliminary conclusions present an expansive view of the president’s power, to whom the entire executive branch is both accountable and subservient. Such a president can commit crimes and avoid prosecution unless a supermajority of Congress agrees on impeachment. As such, Mueller sets a precedent for Trump, or any of his anti-democratic successors, to order the Justice Department to close any investigations he does not like, perhaps even employ the FBI and other democratic checks-and-balances to achieve his political ends. After all, rather than policing his anti-democratic practices, Mueller’s failure only strengthens Trump’s mafia tendencies.
Beyond his technical fallibility, Mueller’s report, or more specifically, the Democrats’ reluctance to act upon any of his findings, points to a greater issue-that polarization is preventing us from enforcing institutional forbearance. In fact, without Attorney General Barr even releasing a lenient interpretation of Mueller’s report, Nancy Pelosi, a high-ranking Democrat, stated that “impeachment is divisive to the country and Trump may just not be worth it.”Considering her rhetoric, one can argue that, fearing their inability to raise Republican support for impeachment, the Democrats are waiting until the 2020 elections. Such an argument would be perfectly justifiable; yet it is exactly not the case. Rather, they are more concerned with losing face if their impeachment attempt fails.
Their failure to address Trump’s lack of institutional forbearance even if there is sufficient evidence, whether with further examination of Mueller’s report or of any other ongoing investigations, suggests that they value their party’s image more than our democratic institutions. Such forms of polarization, as one may argue, “benefits democracy as it strengthens political parties.” However, Pelosi and the Democratic party’s refusal to act upon the evidence for impeachment erodes their own check on the executive branch of government, lessening Trump’s accountability to democracy and the people as a whole. In other words, polarization, at least in this case, leads not to a stronger party that is capable of upholding democratic norms, but rather, to a general indifference towards anti-democratic actors.
However, the Democrats are not entirely at fault. Their Republican counterparts, as one may also argue, are equally to blame. In fact, without the collective will, nor a coalition against Trump’s violations of justice (given that there is sufficient evidence), as Levitsky and Ziblatt would put, democratic erosion is inevitable. After all, so long that the Democrats continue to believe that they are too noble to take Trump down the ‘impeachment’ road, they lose a democratic check. Likewise, so long that the Republicans are unwilling to make political compromises, America’s democracy will falter. As such, the collective system’s unwillingness to confront Trump, best demonstrated by their failure to, at least for the moment, take the Mueller report beyond its supposedly harmless realm, is more conducive for democratic erosion than for the preservation of democracy.
Despite the weary
political scene, we must look on in a hopeful manner. In fact, as we await
further releases about Mueller’s report, we must refrain from allowing Barr’s
preliminary conclusions to dictate our verdict. Instead, we must allow Congress
and perhaps too, the people, to examine such a document with great care, with
the understanding that it is essential to our democracy. If we don’t find any
grounds for prosecution, perhaps we must readjust our means of conducting
future investigations and democratic policing acts, for any more mistakes will
allow Trump to further ridicule our democratic institutions. In other words, we
must not allow our inadequacy to slow us down; we must develop more a nuanced system
to protect our democracy. If we do find the grounds for impeachment, rather
than overlooking our valuable opportunity, we must take immediate actions to
hold Trump accountable. Whatever the outcome, let’s use this occasion as a
learning experience to better prevent democratic erosion.
 Müller, Jan-Werner. 2016. What is Populism? Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
 McCoy, Jennifer, Tahima Rahman, and Murat Somer. 2018. “Polarization and the Global Crisis of Democracy: Common Patterns, Dynamics and Pernicious Consequences for Democratic Polities” in Special Issues on Polarization and Democracy: A Janus-faced Relationship with Pernicious Consequences. American Behavioral Scientist (62)1: pp. 16-42.
 Levitsky, S., & Ziblatt, Daniel. (2018). How democracies die (First ed.). New York: Crown Publishing.