ELECTIONS HAVE consequences. It’s a phrase we hear all the time, generally from whichever party won a recent election and is claiming a mandate to fulfill campaign promises.

Sometimes, for those observing Washington from the outside, the truth of this statement can get lost. People see partisan gridlock and say to themselves, “Nothing ever gets done in Washington. Both parties have all sorts of problems. Why should I even bother to vote?” Yet the truth is that all elections—local, state, national—matter. They all have consequences. And in 2017, we are seeing this play out in particularly dramatic and alarming ways.

There are countless examples, but I want to focus on the Department of Justice. While most employees there are career civil servants who stay in their positions regardless of who is president, new presidents get to fill many of the top positions with political appointees. Presidents can pick whoever they want to fill these posts (some must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate), and they can be fired by the president at any time, for any reason. FBI directors serve 10-year terms to insulate them from political pressure, but as we saw in May with James Comey, they can also be fired by the president at any time.

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