Who’s Afraid of the Big I?

Screen Shot 2019-04-22 at 8.24.31 PM

Over the past two weeks we have examined the reasons why Donald Trump richly deserves to be impeached (Reading Mr. Mueller, May 2, 2019) and the appalling Republican rank-closing to protect him (A Plague Among Us, May 7, 2019) a die-in-place effort that makes the fanatical deadenders of Imperial Japan look like wishy-wishy dilettantes.

But the question of whether impeachment makes strategic sense for the Democratic Party is a very different one, as are the related matters of whether there is a reasonable chance of success, and the wisdom or folly—or necessity—of pursuing it regardless .

That is the thicket of thorns into which we will delve this week.

But be advised: unlike Hirohito’s suicidal loyalists, the GOP is less likely to use its swords for hara-kiri than to julienne American democracy into beef tartare.

DO I DARE TO EAT A PEACH?

People were talking about impeaching Donald Trump from the moment it became clear he was headed to the White House. If that seemed to some like a rush to judgment (“Give the guy a chance!”—remember that?), Trump wasted little time in proving his critics prescient and giving them good reason to follow through. The question was largely abstract while the special counsel carried out his work. But with the submission of the Mueller report, it’s unavoidably now on the front burner.

That is a problem for the Democratic Party not because there is any question that Trump has committed the kind of high crimes and misdemeanors that justify ejection from office—there ain’t—but because impeachment, being a political process and not a legal one, is debilitated by the same right wing monkeywrenching that has afflicted every other aspect of governance under this kakistocracy.

The two basic schools of thought are these:

1. THE BR’ER RABBIT SCHOOL: Impeachment plays right into Trump’s hands. There is absolutely zero chance of getting a conviction in the Republican-controlled Senate, and no reason to think that will change, so it’s all for naught…… indeed, worse than naught in that Trump will use that acquittal as (another) chance to declare his innocence and exoneration, while the GOP will use the whole process to animate its base and drive right wing voter turnout in 2020.

As evidence, proponents of this school point to how the impeachment of (but failure to convict) Bill Clinton in 1998 wound up helping the Democrats and damaging the Republicans. More on that, and whether it is in fact so, in a bit.

2. THE CONSTITUTIONAL PURIST SCHOOL: Trump’s actions demand impeachment regardless of whether the Senate will convict him. For the House to ignore the appalling array of high crimes and misdemeanors laid out in the Mueller report would be to shirk its constitutional duty, and set a terrifying precedent for future demagogues, proto-authoritarians, and simple crooks who might likewise find their way into the White House.

According to this line, impeachment is the strongest form of condemnation the House can impose, even if the Senate won’t convict, and in and of itself is damning. Censure is far too mild—pathetic even—in light of what Trump has done. The mere fact of an impeachment—not to mention the televised hearings, public airing of the granular details of Trump’s sins, and the Watergate-like parade of witnesses—will inflict tremendous damage on an executive who richly deserves it, and hurt him badly through much of the 2020 campaign. (More on that, and whether it is in fact so, in a bit as well.) But even if it won’t do that, we still have to impeach just on principle, for the long term good of the country.

So let’s take these schools of thought in turn.

AN IMPEACHMENT TRAP?

Advocates of school #1 see themselves as the pragmatists, and with some justification. Writing in the conservative but anti-Trump online magazine The Bulwark, David Priess sums the realpolitik position up quite well:

Democrats are confident that Trump is beatable in 2020. Why risk even the possibility of an electoral backlash for a Senate acquittal, when the better bet appears to be removing a vulnerable, unpopular president through a vigorous 2020 campaign?

The idea here is that Trump is so bad that we need to maximize our chances of beating him at the polls, no matter how much he deserves early removal and no matter how risky the precedent in not pursuing that. This school sees his electoral defeat—not abstract long term constitutional considerations—as the greater good that must take priority. As Eric Levitz put it in New York magazine:

…..the Democrats’ overriding civic obligation is to maximize the probability of their victory in 2020. All else being equal, it is more important to actually remove a would-be autocrat from office than to formally demonstrate one’s commitment to doing so.

To be fair, Levitz frames this in terms of “if” Democrats believe this about Trump’s criminality and the GOP’s intransigence, not as a call to arms per se. But he makes it clear that Republicans’ refusal to do jackshit about Trump’s self-evident unfitness for office leaves the Democrats with a stark mandate.

I’m sympathetic on a purely intellectual basis, but there are two problems that jump out at me.

The first is that this theory presumes that impeachment by the House without a conviction in the Senate will hurt Democratic chances in the election. But we don’t know that that is so; in fact, as we will shortly see, it might be quite the opposite. In any case, it’s not at all clear that pursuing impeachment and winning the next election are mutually exclusive choices that require a binary calculation.

We know that many Republicans think that impeachment is a winner for them, a chance to motivate their base and portray Democrats as radicals who just hate Trump blindly. Sometimes it feels like Trump himself is trying to goad us into it. (“Oh no! Don’t throw me into the briar patch!”) I’m not suggesting that is his sole reason for behaving like a cornered sewer rat, as that’s his nature regardless. But it may be a bonus in his mind.

Proof of the GOP belief that impeachment would actually help them is to be found in the fact that Republicans raise the specter of it as much or more than Democrats do. But that belief is not proof that they are correct in their assumptions.

The second problem is that this utilitarianism, even if correct, creates an immense moral hazard. It is Congress’s sworn duty to hold a criminal president accountable, and failure to do so would be an egregious act of negligence and a terrible portent for the future, no matter what the electoral impact. This is the crux of the argument from school #2.

That said, I think we ought to make a distinction between those who are simply chickenshit about impeachment and those who are merely being tactical—for now.

Nancy Pelosi has been very canny about the Big I, which she says she does not favor at this point, much to the consternation of the hardcore anti-Trump left within her own party. But her job is to be a savvy inside-the-Beltway tactician, and she is demonstrably freaking excellent at that. She is clearly playing the long game, and it suits us on the anti-Trump team to have her in that role.

Even though the GOP’s depiction of a mindlessly bloodthirsty Democratic Party and Trump-as-martyr is a hyperbolic and dishonest portrait, I don’t think they’re wrong about its tactical advantages—and Nancy knows that very well. She is cleverly denying them that terrain, and even though they’ll try to take it anyway, she’s making it harder for them to do so.

So speaking as someone who’s been wearing an ITMFA button for two years, let’s give her a break, OK fellow firebreathers? There are plenty of ferocious would-be Trumpslayers available to lead the pro-impeachment faction in the Democratic Party; let’s be grateful that we have such a smart and seasoned resource to fight a different kind of battle on another front. Indeed, I don’t know that the Speaker truly buys into the impeachment-will only-hurt-us mindset; I suspect she is merely keeping her powder dry until the big fat orange target is in her sights at point blank range.

THEIR BRAND IS CRISIS, STILL

In a recent New York Times op-ed, former Clinton White House press secretary Joe Lockhart offered a variation on the impeachment-is-Democratic-suicide school of thought, arguing that leaving Trump in office for the rest of his term would actually do the Republican Party much more harm by letting him continue to ruin their “brand.”

Much as I share Mr. Lockhart’s desire to see the GOP go the way of Radio Shack, I have two big problems with this argument as well that bear going into.

First, it blithely ignores the massive damage being done by Trump in mean time. In that regard it feels like something that could only have been written by a privileged member of the professional political class, one consumed with 202 area code gamesmanship, and not personally threatened by things like loss of health care, or clean water, or deportation to Guatemala. (The even broader matter of long-term damage to our democracy goes without saying.) Lockhart’s argument prizes partisanship over the public interest, treating the red-blue pachyderm/donkey competition like a sport, and not the existential national emergency it is.

Secondly, in my view, this argument vastly underestimates the resilience of reactionaryism. Yeah, the old white male demographic is dwindling in its political power, but to imagine that five and a half more years of Trump is going to destroy the Republican Party from within is the worst kind of naiveté. It is more likely to destroy American democracy as we know it but leave the Republican Party intact, cockroach-like, and indeed more far-right wing than ever, blaming Democrats, immigrants, women, and people of color for the mess that the country is in.

And plenty of people tuned to Fox will believe that and still pull the GOP lever.

ITMFA ALREADY ALREADY

So let’s move on to school of thought #2. A number of pundits have laid this out better than I can, so let’s hear from them.

Writing in The Atlantic, Lawfare editor-in-chief Ben Wittes describes Trump’s actions on obstruction—his repeated public appeals for witnesses to defy the special counsel and Congress, his talk of “rats” and exhortations to people like Cohen, Manafort, and Stone to “stay strong”—as “a grotesque abuse of power” that demands impeachment, irrespective of other political considerations:

The spectacle of the president of the United States publicly and repeatedly urging witnesses not to cooperate with federal law enforcement and entertaining the notion of using his Article II powers to relieve them of criminal jeopardy or consequences if they do not cooperate is one of the most singular abuses of the entire Trump presidency. Again, one has to ask of Congress what is unacceptable in a president’s interaction with an investigation if this conduct is tolerable? 

New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg seconds his argument:

Whether or not this is politically wise, failing to impeach would be a grave abdication. If you want people to believe that the misdeeds enumerated in the Mueller report are serious, you have to act like it. To not even try to impeach Trump is to collaborate in the Trumpian fiction that he has done nothing impeachable.

But what of the fact that Mitch McConnell’s clown car of a GOP-controlled Senate is almost sure to acquit? Well, Goldberg’s fellow Times columnist Charles Blow makes a passionate case for impeachment as a worthwhile end in itself:

I say that there is no such thing as a failed impeachment. Impeachment exists separately from removal. Impeachment in the House is akin to an indictment, with the trial, which could convict and remove, taking place in the Senate. The Senate has never once voted to convict. So, an impeachment vote in the House has, to this point, been the strongest rebuke America is willing to give a president. I can think of no president who has earned this rebuke more than the current one. And, once a president is impeached, he is forever marked. It is a chastisement unto itself. It is the People’s House making a stand for its people.

But what if it costs us the election in 2020? The veteran reporter Elizabeth Drew, whose career includes covering Watergate, wrote in the Times:

Madison and Hamilton didn’t say anything about holding off on impeachment because it would be politically risky. It’s hard to imagine they’d put political convenience on the same footing as the security of the Constitution. And the Democrats who prefer to substitute the 2020 election for an impeachment fight don’t appear to have considered the implications if Mr. Trump were to win: Would that not condone his constitutional abuses and encourage his authoritarian instincts?

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson is even more succinct:

(Democrats’) focus has to be on their constitutional duty—and nowhere in the Constitution does it say “never mind about presidential obstruction of justice or abuse of power if there’s an election next year.”

It must also be asked if the received wisdom that pursuing impeachment will hurt the odds of unseating Trump at the polls in 2020 is even true.

Although David Priess laid out that position very well in The Bulwark (see above), he was not in fact endorsing it. For starters, he argues that the punishment meted out to Republicans for impeaching Clinton was less than is conventionally assumed, especially since they won the White House in the next presidential election. Robinson makes that same point, noting that “If impeachment was a mistake, it wasn’t a very costly one.”

Will Trump fans see him as a martyr and turn out to vote for him because of it? Of course.  But they’re going to do that regardless.

Priess even questions the presumption that, for all its venality, the Senate will never vote to convict. Unlikely as it seems right now, he argues that, in essence, fortune favors the bold, as “political actors make their own reality.”

Think about Barack Obama in 2008: A first-term senator just four years removed from the Illinois Senate not only defeated Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries but won the presidency. Think about Pete Buttigieg now: A 37 year old mayor of the fourth largest city in Indiana has surged into the top tier of a crowded Democratic field. Think, of course, about Trump himself. Political reality is made by action, not by saying what can’t be done.

Likewise, it’s true that right now polls don’t show support for impeachment among a majority of Americans…..but neither did polls in early 1974. It was a different story by August, after months of televised hearings laying bare Nixon’s misdeeds. Priess again:

Public hearings are powerful tools to move public opinion. The majority of Americans haven’t read the nearly 500-page redacted Mueller report and haven’t seen the bulk of the revelations within it. Putting people in televised hearings to answer questions about what happened could create iconic moments, such as those that emerged during Watergate. It’s worth remembering that those hearings, which started under an overwhelming consensus that the Senate would never convict Richard Nixon, led to the president’s resignation.

SLOW WALKING TO THE GALLOWS

A variation on the aggressively pro-impeachment position is the idea of investigating Trump seven ways to Sunday without yet drawing up actual articles impeachment that might invite a bigger backlash. Hillary, who knows a thing or two about impeachment, wrote a widely read and very savvy op-ed about that very idea, and how to pursue right and proper investigations of Trump that might or might not lead to impeachment without sacrificing political capital in what looks like a rush to judgment. Very Clintonian—and more than a little ironic.

But as someone who was highly critical of the partisanship of the Republicans’ endless Benghazi investigations, I am loath to think about an investigation of Trump in those kind of tactical terms. Yes, we might be able to inflict maximum damage by trying to drag out these House investigations without bringing articles of impeachment until the matter is forced. But I would feel like a hypocrite suggesting that after repeatedly raking people like Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) over the coals for admitting—in a slip-of-the tongue—what was patently obvious: that the whole point of the Benghazi hearings was to inflict political damage on Hillary.

Is that a matter of our side foolishly playing by Marquess of Queensbury rules while our opponent operates under the ROE of a Panzer division rolling into Poland? Or is that the kind of adherence to principle that prevents us from becoming no better than them?

Frankly, I’m not sure.

What it comes down to is whether this “slowwalking” strategy, or Clinton’s measured approach, or whatever you want to call it, is really just a synonym for the timid belief that pursuing impeachment will hurt us, or whether it’s a version of Pelosi’s long game. If the latter, I am more open to it. The New York Times’ Carl Hulse writes:

For the moment, Democrats will try to finesse the matter. They will push for the evidence underlying the report and demand that Mr. Mueller and others central to his inquiry appear on Capitol Hill while stopping short of any impeachment discussion. That strategy has the advantage of keeping the inquiry and Mr. Trump’s conduct in the spotlight without getting into the charged impeachment talk. But Republicans will do whatever they can to portray Democrats as overreaching and maliciously harassing Mr. Trump out of political spite, riling up Republican voters in the process.

In other words, the GOP is going to cry “overreach!” regardless, so why employ half-measures? Again Eugene Robinson hits the nail even more directly on the head:

Here is the important thing: Trump will mount this attack no matter what Democrats do. And strictly as a matter of practical politics, the best defense against Trump has to be a powerful offense. I fail to see the benefit for Democrats, heading into the 2020 election, of being seen as such fraidy-cats that they shirk their constitutional duty.

Right on, as the kids say. (Well, they used to say it, around the time the Doors’ first album came out.) Who exactly are we afraid of pissing off anyway? The battle lines in American life are so hardened at the moment that there is little “undecided” middle to worry about losing. Witness the negligible movement in the polls even after the Mueller report dropped.

Let’s motivate our base. Let’s get them energized and out to the polls in November 2020. Likewise, maybe the way to win that small but crucial segment of “undecideds” is to bank on boldness and show the courage of our convictions rather than making namby pamby calculations about how it will play. Let’s embrace impeachment with both arms and shout, “Hell yeah we’re gonna impeach this miserable bastard. He deserves it and here’s why.” That might actually help, not hurt. (I’m sure someone like Nate Silver—or Kent Davison—could help us track that.)

Robinson yet again:

Does it “play into Trump’s hands” to speak of impeachment? I think it plays into the president’s hands to disappoint the Democratic base and come across as weak and frightened. Voters who saw the need to hold Trump accountable decided to give Democrats some power—and now expect them to use it.

PANIC IN THE STREETS OF LONDON—ER, I MEAN WASHINGTON

All that said, the events of the past few weeks have dramatically changed the context in which we consider the very idea of impeachment.

As noted in the last several posts in this blog, Bill Barr’s initial summary/non-summary on March 24 sure made it feel—to Republicans and Democrats alike—that the peril of Russiagate to the Trump presidency was over. Barr and his tangerine-hued boss and the rest of the GOP gangsterocracy obviously want us to think so. “Case closed,” as Mitch McConnell said firmly before the Senate the other day, adding: “Case closed.”

He said it twice, so I guess that’s that.

Oh, wait: we’re not all fucking simpletons.

Nevertheless this is the mantra the GOP intends to use, and it’s a powerful one, despite being a big fat lie, particularly if they’re willing to dissemble about the underlying truth. And—spoiler alert—they are.

But recent events have proven quite the opposite, in part because the actual facts that emerged from the report itself painted a portrait very much to the contrary, and in part because Trump has gone even more full bull goose loony than usual. If anything Trump’s behavior since the release of the Mueller report has become even more fuel to the impeachment fire, which is odd for a document that in his telling “completely and totally” exonerates him.

Gee, it’s almost as if that wasn’t true.

Trump has in effect declared all-out war on Congressional oversight. He has said his administration will fight every attempt to hold it to account, “ordered” Don McGahn not to testify before Congress or turn over his notes (NB: he can’t order a private citizen to do shit), instructed White House staffers to defy subpoenas, filed suit to stop Deutsche Bank from turning over banking records and the IRS and Treasury Department from releasing his tax returns as demanded by the House Ways and Means Committee, not to mention the usual batshit all caps tweets, rambling speeches to red-hatted mobs, and attendant propaganda campaign on Fox and the rest of the right wing alternative universe.

That behavior in itself militates for impeachment even as it impedes it…..in fact, precisely because it impedes it. In any reasonable country with a citizenry that is not comatose, such behavior alone would be sufficient to bring down the government. We ought to be out in the streets in outrage . But I guess a nous la liberté. We Americans tend to be happy puppets who love our strings.

But the bunker mentality madness described above makes it plain that the Trump administration is in a tailspin. The House is about to hold the Attorney General of the United States in contempt of Congress for only the second time in history, the Secretary of the Treasury is in danger of being arrested and thrown in Congress-jail for refusing to release the president’s tax returns, and Donald Trump Jr. has been subpoenaed by the Senate Intelligence Committee (and remember, that’s a Republican-controlled body, proving that at least one GOP senator not running for re-election in 2020, Richard Burr of North Carolina, has at least a modicum of integrity). On top of that, North Korea is testing missiles again, Iran announced that it’s resuming its quest for the atomic bomb, and we’re in a trade war with China that has the stock market making like Greg Louganis.

But topping them all last week was Trump’s worst nightmare: the New York Times’ blockbuster story by Susanne Craig and Russ Buettner about his taxes, which suggests that he is the worst businessman in modern American history. Fox & Friends, of course, were quick to announce that this was actually proof that Trump is the best businessman ever. (Also, that the Buffalo Bills meant to lose four Super Bowls, OJ wanted to go to prison, and Spike Lee was thrilled to lose to Driving Miss Daisy twice.)

Not that I think that Times story will sway even one guy in a red hat to reconsider his support for Donald. But I do think that, as the revelation of his darkest secret, it is the ultimate public humiliation that Trump fears above all things. (Craig and Buettner, along with David Barstow, also wrote the Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning story of last October on the outrageous and long-running tax fraud engaged in by the entire Trump family.)

Trump appears to be in a dead panic, and rightly so. This week Speaker Pelosi memorably said that he is becoming “self-impeachable,” which is a lovely turn of phrase even if—or perhaps precisely because—it is poetic but vague. (Kind of like “collusion.”) What we can infer it to mean, of course, is that he is behaving in such an erratic, alarming, and blatantly unconstitutional way that he is forcing the issue of his removal from office, even if the GOP remains inexcusably unwilling to act on the matter.

Herein we see Nancy’s genius. By refusing to go to eleven right out of the gate, Pelosi has created room to maneuver and build toward the moment of impeachment, (rightly) seeming reasonable all along the way. If and when the time comes when even the most patient voices in the Democratic Party like Pelosi and Nadler say,” OK, America, there’s no avoiding it now,” the impact will be all the more powerful for her current cautiousness, and the careful cultivation of a (quite correct) image as a cool head who was reluctant to go that route but finally had no choice.

Because Donald played right into her hands.

TANNED, RESTED, AND READY: THE SEQUEL

Some of the approximately 2,457 Democratic presidential candidates have already overtly come out in favor of impeachment: the always brave Elizabeth Warren was first out of the gate, with Kamala Harris shortly behind her. Others are more squeamish about being subjected to this litmus test, preferring a Pelosian approach. But what’s appropriate for the Speaker of the House, in whose realm impeachment would occur, is not necessarily appropriate for the person who wants to be the party’s standard bearer and go toe to toe with the Pussy-Grabber-in-Chief in the general election.

But it is worth noting how the entire responsibility for saving the republic is being laid at the door of the Democrats, because not a single sentient American that I know of believes that the Republicans will lift even a pinkie finger to do the right thing.

Of course, some on the right side of the aisle argue that there is no problem that needs addressing at all. The speciousness of that claim speaks for itself, in obscenities mostly. Even more contemptible are the cynics and opportunists in the GOP who know how bad Trump is but are willing to profit from it anyway, making them even more culpable than the dummies and the winguts because they are smart enough to know better, yet still do nothing. And of course, in their charade they risk beginning to believe their own bullshit, if only so they can sleep at night, until they are just as deep in the Kool-Aid as the rest.

But they might come to their senses, right?

Right?

Blow again:

Democrats are operating from the Richard Nixon impeachment playbook, only this isn’t the 1970s, before cable news, the internet and social media. They think it’s somehow possible to overwhelm the public with evidence, to turn Trump’s devout base against him, to pressure the president himself into submission.

On that point, let’s simply dispense with the fantasy that the calculus on Republican loyalty to Trump is ever going to change.

For three years, going all the way back to the campaign, we have been hearing that Trump would finally cross a line that would alienate sufficient numbers of GOP leaders or voters. But nothing he has done has yet constituted that line, including the most outrageous revelations of entanglements with foreign powers, national security nightmares, hush money payments to porn stars, tariffs that violate what was once sacrosanct conservative dogma, outrageous attacks on our NATO allies and shoulder-shrugging over state-sponsored murders by Middle Eastern theocracies, the surgical attachment of his lips to Vladimir Putin’s white Russian butt……and on and on.

Nothing.

The only thing that would plausibly do it is if Trump suddenly proposed a return to an Eisenhower era 90% tax rate on the rich.

Don’t hold your breath on that.

It’s worth remembering that Richard Nixon was not in fact impeached: he was forced to resign because of the imminent threat of impeachment….that is, when senior GOP leaders finally went to him and said, “It’s over, Dick.” That is never going to happen with Mitch McConnell, the living embodiment of the spinelessness, venality, and utter lack of integrity that distinguishes the Republican Party of 2019 from that of 1974.

Trump also benefits from a vastly different media environment. It’s become trite to observe that Nixon might well have survived if he’d had Fox News back in his day, but that doesn’t make it any less true. (Indeed, in her towering New Yorker piece on Fox, Jane Mayer observes that the creation of that kind of force field around a Republican president was a specific goal of Roger Ailes when he founded the network.) Needless to say, Trump also has the toxic bullhorn of Twitter, a medium tailor-made for the kind of low-information, nuance-free schoolyard insults that are his stock-in-trade.

Paul Krugman recently wrote about the moral self-destruction of American conservatism in an epic column called “The Great Republican Abdication,” a phrase taken from Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt’s book How Democracies Die:

The truth is that the GOP faced its decisive test in 2016, when almost everyone in the Republican establishment lined up behind a man fully known to be a would-be authoritarian who was unfit morally, temperamentally and intellectually for high office….The party’s willingness to back behavior it would have called treasonous if a Democrat did it is just more of the same.

That column was so scorching that Trump went nuts and tweeted all about it, sending it viral. So there, don’t say I never said he did anything good.

KILLING AN ELEPHANT

Ultimately, this Republican abdication is central to the whole discussion of impeachment and of how to deal with Trump full stop.

Eric Levitz’s aforementioned piece for New York magazine is called “If Impeaching Trump Is Pointless, Then Bipartisanship Is Worthless.” Setting aside electoral gamesmanship, his main point amounts to a radical proposal in which “commitment to small-r republican values requires prioritizing the GOP’s disempowerment over the preservation of institutional norms.”

If the Republican Party can’t be trusted to even consider putting its allegiance to lawfulness above its fealty to Donald Trump, then the GOP is a cancer on the body politic. And if our Constitution has brought us to the point where a non-democratically elected president can promise “Get Out of Jail Free” cards to anyone who violates laws he does not like—without facing any serious threat of removal from office—then our Constitution is obsolete and there is no cause for treating that document, or the established norms of our institutions, with reflexive reverence…..

That is a bold conclusion, but it’s getting increasingly hard to dispute.

The Republican Party is broken. You can’t have a functioning democracy when one of the two political parties refuses to act in good faith, and barring a sudden burst of integrity (ha ha just kidding), it’s hard to imagine the GOP returning to anything resembling principled participation in the American political process anytime soon. Two years ago Noam Chomsky called it “the most dangerous organization in human history,” which might seem like a stretch (and a real insult to the Nazis) until you think about the Republican stance on climate change.

So I must say that I am with Mr. Levitz in supporting a no-holds-barred campaign to destroy the Republican Party by any peaceful and principled means necessary and salt the ground from which it sprang.

But there are heavy moral risks associated with the endeavor Levitz proposes.

Obviously, one could employ that same “they’re so bad” logic to any foe, making this a very slippery slope. As soon as we decide that the other side is so bad that anything and everything is justified in order to defeat it, we will have entered a dark, dark place. What’s to stop the Republicans from concluding that the Democrats are such a threat to the American experiment that anything and everything is justified in order to eradicate them as a substantive political entity?

As it happens, the GOP decided that long ago. (I’ll peg it to 1994. Thanks Newt Gingrich!)

But not every demonization of the enemy is equally valid. Sometimes you really are fighting the devil, and when you are, the facts are there to support it. In this case, they’re in black & white running to over 448 pages.

Another way to look at is that the impeachment process itself has been rendered useless because the Republican Party is valuing its own chokehold on power over the Constitution that it claims to honor—a prospect that the Founders never imagined or planned for. As Jeffrey Toobin wrote this week in The New Yorker, “The Constitutional system is not built to resist Trump’s defiance of Congress”…….and I would add that he is only able to carry out that defiance because the Republican half of Congress is acting as his accomplice.

Which brings us back to Levitz’s original point. If the GOP is no longer a good faith partner willing to participate in a legitimate representative democracy, the Democrats’ path forward is a fait accompli. It’s not a matter of whether we are in a streetfight with a neo-autocratic white nationalist crime syndicate. That battle is already joined. The only question is how best to win it.

Krugman one more time:

First, anyone expecting bipartisanship in dealing with the aftermath of the Mueller report—in particular, anyone suggesting that Democrats should wait for GOP support before proceeding with investigations that might lead to impeachment—is being deluded. Trump is giving the Republican establishment what it wants, and it will stick with him no matter what.

Second, it’s later than you think for American democracy. Before 2016 you could have wondered whether Republicans would, in extremis, be willing to take a stand in defense of freedom and rule of law. At this point, however, they’ve already taken that test, and failed with flying colors.

The simple fact is that one of our two major parties—the one that likes to wrap itself in the flag—no longer believes in American values. And it’s very much up in the air whether America as we know it will survive.

To that end, next week we conclude this four-part opus with another interesting idea for removing Trump from office:

What are the odds we can just vote the motherfucker out?

 

 

6 thoughts on “Who’s Afraid of the Big I?

  1. Thank you for the well thought out and documented article.

    One thing we have seen with Trump is that he continues to amp things up. If he gets away with some thing once, he is sure to do it many more times.

    If the Dems just let this go and think that they will “let the voter decide”, they are assuming that he will not do something more egregious to ensure his win in 2020 knowing his party will support him and, since he is President, the Judiciary and DOJ (with his appointee) will be feckless until he is out of office.

    And, if the Dems claim foul and let his other infractions go without trying to take action, they will have no one to blame but themselves, will have no moral standings or, arguably,will have no Constitutional standing since they abdicated their role already. If they have at least tried to take actions, to do what they could, then they have demonstrated that they are trying to put uphold the Constitution while trying to bring consequences for the previous infractions. There will be some moral consistency.

    Will it seems like there is a choice, there really is not. He will make sure he wins 2020 even if it involves open fraud. While it is likely he would anyway, with pending possibly indictments, the stakes are higher.

    Looking forward to your next post.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s