I don’t know how you say slam dunk in Polish, but it looked like one last week when Poland’ s strongman leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski proposed two laws that would have given the right-wing governing party direct control of the judiciary. The only person standing in the way was Kaczynski’s hand-picked president Andrzej Duda.
How bad were these laws? One would have forced the resignation of all Supreme Court justices, after which the justice minister would refill the seats. Maybe a justice would be re-seated, but not if he espoused any progressive or liberal tendencies. That proposal has been vaporized. The other would have given government-appointed members veto power in the judiciary council. That proposal will be sent back to Parliament, per order of (wait for it) Andrzej Duda. (Blocking a slam dunk is even harder than making one, but Mr. Duda somehow got up over the rim.)
Remember two weeks back it was our own authoritarian leader Donald Trump extolling the Polish government for slowly but inexorably moving away from Western democratic values. In fact those two draconian proposals might very well have been lifted from the Bannon-Trump playbook. But it turns out that Trump was wrong. Imagine.
The tide in Poland seems to have turned on street protests and warnings from the EU, but also from a name from the past, Lech Walesa, who led the Solidarity movement in the 1980s and who served as the first president after communism. He spoke out strongly both against the proposals and Kaczynski. After Duda’s surprising rejection, Walesa said that Duda, was apparently “beginning to feel like a president.”
We probably won’t be able to say that until we elect a new one, but it’s good to know that a democratic nation can respond to the wishes of the people who believe in democracy. It could even happen here if we keep pounding away. Of course we can relish the little victories, but they mean nothing if the big battles like health care, tax reform, immigration, the environment, et al. are lost.
In Poland, as in this country, the protesters cannot merely relax and toast their good fortune—though there might have been a few vodkas tipped back over the weekend. But in the sober dawn of Monday, right-wing, authoritarian, often tyrannical, sometimes fascist proposals will continue to emanate from a government bent on usurping all power for itself and then pardoning its own crimes. You’re right—I wasn’t talking about Poland just then, but now I am: the Polish citizens apparently have a leader to intercede, and for that they should be grateful and we should be inspired. The problem in America, quite obviously, is that the man who poses as our leader is not the buffer, but the catalyst.