Last week I described the nightmare that haunts many of us who oppose Trump:
The Democrats present their case for impeachment, well or badly (the nightmare is actually worse if it’s the former); Trump is acquitted because of the cowardice, venality, and utter lack of respect for the rule of law among the Republican majority in the Senate; he then falsely declares Mueller report-style “total and complete exoneration;” and subsequently coasts to electoral victory in November 2020, having once again cheated political death in one of the biggest scandals in American history. (He would actually hold both of the top two spots on that chart. Impressive.)
It’s a damned scary dream and all the scarier for being perfectly plausible. (Also, in the dream I’m naked in public, haven’t studied for the SATs, and all my teeth fall out.)
So how do we make sure it doesn’t happen?
As I teased last week, I think the answer is in the way impeachment is prosecuted. Not because I expect it to succeed and result in a conviction in the Senate (though hope springs eternal), but because the very process will have a decisive effect on the 2020 election, which remains the most likely method by which Trump will be removed from office (with a Secret Service agent pulling on each of his legs as he clings by his fingernails to the front door jamb of the White House). For at their core, impeachment and the election are one in the same, or at the very least, two mutually supporting campaigns with the same strategic objective.
Hence my decision to illustrate this week’s essay with a portrait of the famous 19th century Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz, who along with Sun Tzu—as every military professional knows—is probably the foremost strategic theorist in human history. (Duh.)
You probably have his masterpiece Vom Kriege on audiobook.
PROFILES IN COWARDICE
Both impeachment and the ballot box are primarily public relations campaigns. They differ only in the size and location of the audience.
The former is focused on a very small subset of that public, the 100 members of the US Senate, though broader public opinion undoubtedly bears on how those Senators think. Anticipating that things will break strictly along party lines, 45 Democrats and two independents are almost certain to vote to convict Trump, meaning 20 Republicans would have to break ranks to reach the two-thirds threshold needed to actually throw his fat ass out of office.
The conventional wisdom is that that will never happen, and it’s probably right.
How likely are defections? Former White House communications director (yes, eleven days count) Anthony Scaramucci predicts that if and when the polls hit 60% in favor of impeachment and removal the GOP will turn on Trump. I’ll leave it to you to decide how much faith you wanna put in the Mooch.
Maybe none of them cross the aisle. Maybe a few, er, mavericks defy the capo di tutti i capi and do so: Romney, Murkowski, Collins (cough cough), maybe Sasse, or Portman, or Gardner, and perhaps a couple others. But certainly not twenty.
But that’s from the perspective of November 11, 2019; how things will look a few weeks from now is anyone’s guess. It’s worth remembering that the whole Ukrainegate scandal only broke six weeks ago, and witness how fast it has moved, and public opinion with it. Every dawn brings appalling new revelations that are harder and harder for the White House and its myrmidons to defend (though they’re damn creative—and brazen—in trying). It’s hard to imagine what turns of events would finally cause Republicans to abandon their Dear Leader, considering all the horrors that thus far have not. But although conviction and removal remain a longshot, I would not bet the farm on where we’ll be by the time the cherry blossoms bloom in Washington.
Until this very week Republicans have been busy howling for transparency from their Democratic colleagues, even though plenty of Republicans have been present for all the proceedings (sorry, Matt Gaetz) and have had ample opportunity to grill the witnesses to their black hearts’ content. The Democrats have now called their bluff, formalizing the impeachment inquiry, releasing the first batch of transcripts, and preparing to begin public hearings.…..so the GOP should be happy, right?
Hardly. As I predicted last week—though it didn’t require the skills of a Nostradamus or even a Kreskin to do so—all that has done is confirm the worst possible news for the GOP. As David Graham writes in the Atlantic:
The Intelligence Committee has so far released four transcripts—interviews with Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, former State Department Senior Adviser Michael McKinley, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, and Ambassador Kurt Volker…. (The transcripts have) both closely tracked the leaks that have already emerged and deepened the president’s jeopardy. Sondland’s testimony, including an addendum he submitted after being contradicted by later witnesses, confirms that he told Ukrainian officials that the U.S. would not provide military aid until Kiev published a public statement citing Burisma and the 2016 U.S. election. That, along with other documents released yesterday, confirms that the president not only demanded a quid pro quo, but demanded a corrupt one.
In other words, as Graham put it, “The more we learn the worse it looks for Trump.” And things do not promise to get better when witnesses began appearing in public session next week, beginning with Ambassador Bill Taylor—playing Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, if Mr. Smith were a West Point grad and combat veteran of Vietnam with 30 years of noble service in the US diplomatic corps.
This then is a textbook case of “be careful what you wish for,” though of course the Republican demand for transparency was never genuine, only a stalling tactic and effort at misdirection. But its utility is at an end. (To that same point, the transcripts also revealed that the House Republicans have mostly used their own time with the witnesses on batshit conspiracy theories and other tangential antics, showing that the counterarguments they have made in private are no more solid than the ones they have made in public.)
Gordon Sondland’s reversal of his Congressional testimony in particular—“Oh, THAT quid pro quo”—obliterated the GOP denial that there was any extortion going on with Ukraine, even though (my record player is broken, Joe Biden!) the presence of a quid pro quo is irrelevant to the illegality and impeachability of what Trump did. Nevertheless, it’s another disingenuous GOP talking point blown to smithereens. That quid pro quo has also been confirmed by others, including Taylor, Vindman, Morrison, Mulvaney, and even Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis). Graham again:
(The White House statement distancing the president from the quid pro quo) is steeped in Orwellian irony. Trump wanted Ukraine to pursue these investigations in order to further his chances at reelection in 2020. The Ukrainian government was having its arm twisted into giving a statement swearing to stop interference in US elections—even as the statement was itself coerced interference in US elections.
By the by, I am cheered that many people are turning against the prissy Latin term altogether, which doesn’t fully capture the criminality in question, and begun calling this what it is: bribery, or, if you prefer, blackmail, which is nothing but bribery’s equally illegal inverse.
As the evidence continues to mount, Republicans will be put in an ever more precarious position, one that will test even their oft-demonstrated capacity for kowtowing to His Royal Highness, and nowhere is that dilemma is better exemplified in the man from South Carolina. (I’m using the term “man” loosely.)
Only a few weeks ago, when the scandal first broke, Lindsey Graham tried to dismiss its seriousness, but noted that if a quid pro quo were shown, that would be a different matter and he would support impeachment. Those exact conditions were confirmed last week by Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland. And yet now from Lindsey, crickets.
The closest he came, echoing a Kellyanne Conway talking point, was the disingenuous claim that withholding US aid to Kiev didn’t matter because Ukraine eventually “got the money.” Which is like saying kidnapping isn’t a crime if you get your baby back after paying the ransom. As Salon reports, “(Senator Graham) did not mention that the aid was released after months of pressure from members of Trump’s own party and administration to release the aid, which was appropriated by Congress.” More to the point, at its core, it’s also a tacit admission that bribery was indeed in play, and that his self-stated criterion for impeachment has been met.
Thundering like an Old Testament prophet with a suspiciously Southern accent, Graham also was among those demanding the transcripts of House testimony. Now that the Democrats have released such transcripts, he has bluntly refused to read them. Most recently, he has argued that the Trump administration is simply too incompetent to have successfully blackmailed Ukraine.
Those goalposts are proving very mobile indeed.
As Lindsey demonstrates, the Republican defense of Trump grows ever more absurd. I would call it unsustainable, except that we have already seen that there appears to be no low to which the GOP will not sink in that regard. So I am not optimistic that 20 Republican Senators will suddenly grown spines, regardless of what further evidence emerges.
Former US Naval Academy professor Tom Nichols puts it well:
The House Republicans have clearly decided to throw themselves on the pyre of Donald Trump’s burning presidency. The last act of this tragedy—and impeachment, no matter how it turns out, is a national tragedy—will be when Senate Republicans meekly submit to the will of Donald Trump and acquit him, like terrified jurors under the glaring eye of a Mafia boss who knows their names.
Nichols is echoed by Tim Alberta , author of American Carnage, who recently wrote in a Politico cover story based on dozens of recent interviews with GOP lawmakers, congressional aides and White House staffers:
There is a sizable number of Republican senators and representatives who believe Trump’s actions are at least theoretically impeachable, who believe a thorough fact-finding mission is necessary, who believe his removal from office is not an altogether radical idea.
But it’s also evident that, barring a plain admission of guilt by the president himself—think Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men—the Republican Party will not be forsaking Trump. He could lose a stray vote in the House, maybe even two, when articles of impeachment come to the floor. He could fare even worse in the Senate, knowing that more than a few of the 53 Republican jurors might be tempted etch their names in the history books at his expense. None of this will alter his standing atop the party; none of this will change the fact that he is president through January 2021 and perhaps beyond.
WHO’S AFRAID OF THE BIG “I” (REDUX)
So let’s set aside the unlikely possibility of conviction and operate under the probable assumption that Trump will be acquitted. Since we know that going in, the chief goal of impeachment then becomes to damage Trump enough politically to weaken him in the general election.
The two are connected, of course, in a symbiosis that flows both ways.
Just as public opinion about Trump’s unfitness for office weighs on the decision-making of the Senatorial jurors, the impeachment process itself—from the initial inquiry we are watching now, all the way through the trial in the Senate—will inevitably influence broader public opinion, which will make its voice known next November. The jury therefore is not really a hundred senators; it’s the 250 million Americans who are eligible to vote and who will watch the prosecution make its case, much of it live on national television.
In my nightmare scenario, Trump waves his acquittal in the Senate like a giant Confederate battle flag flying from the back of a Ford F-150 with a horn that plays “Dixie” and cruises to re-election like nothing ever happened. If anything, impeachment only strengthens his standing with the public. That is certainly the wishful thinking within the GOP, and what it tried desperately to scare Democrats with by way of forestalling impeachment over previous sins, before Ukrainegate made it inevitable.
Except I don’t think impeachment will strengthen Trump or his public standing. Very much the contrary.
Even absent an acquittal, Trump’s impeachment— if properly conducted—will in fact be a knife in the chunk of coal where his heart should be, leaving him fatally wounded going into the 2020 presidential campaign. I have said that over and over. It is not only a matter of principle for the House to impeach him in defense of the rule of law, and to avoid lowering the bar for abuse of power by future presidents (or dictators, or whatever we will have if Trump is not held to account), but a matter of practicality as well.
The events of the past six weeks have borne my argument out.
Since the impeachment inquiry was announced, support for Trump has suffered, with a majority of Americans now in favor not just of impeachment but of actual removal. That is an astonishing statistic. So it would seem that the dire Bre’r Rabbit-style warnings by the GOP that such an effort would backfire on Democrats—and the hand-wringing among many Democrats themselves on that front—were wildly wrong.
It’s true that the numbers are predictably polarized along party lines, and that his support within the Republican Party remains shockingly strong. But those hardcore Trump supporters are never going to be moved (more on that in a moment). The crucial metric is that the public at large is turning decisively against him, including that small sliver in the middle who can make all the difference in 2020. That trend looks to continue if impeachment is prosecuted in a careful, professional, and savvy manner, which is exactly Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff seem to be doing, despite the hyperventilating predictions of sky-falling and red-faced allusions to Stalinist Russia by the GOP (bad analogy, guys),
Last week’s elections further suggest that impeachment is not hurting the blue team one little bit—again, very much the contrary, with a stunning upset in the Kentucky governor’s race and Democrats taking control of both houses of the Virginia state legislature of the first time in a quarter century. EJ Dionne writing in the Washington Post:
Tuesday’s elections were terrible for Republicans. Their only major victory came in Mississippi, where they held onto the governorship in the face of a spirited Democratic challenge. But face it: The day Mississippi falls out of the Republican base is the moment when the party goes the way of the Whigs….
Trump’s failure to rally Republicans with his anti-impeachment message in Kentucky—a state the president carried by 30 points and that is home to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), up for reelection next year—should give Republicans pause about a Trump-centric approach to their own political futures.
As Dionne suggests, there might even be signs that Trump’s senatorial firewall is not as secure as once thought. Alberta again:
Nobody on Capitol Hill believes the number of GOP mutineers could even remotely approach the 20 needed to convict Trump in a Senate trial. All the same, there is a recognition among the president’s allies that his reelection campaign, not to mention his place in history, could be crippled by even the smallest clique of Republicans banding together and issuing what would be an institution-defining rebuke.
Thus even acquittal in the Senate might hurt the GOP in the presidential race, if the case against Trump is made so well that votes to protect him are seen as brazen cowardice and power-grabbing by the Republican Party. Even if the White House manages to maintain total obedience and not lose a single GOP senator, perhaps through massive bribery (look for Mitt Romney to become Secretary of State), the sight of Senate Republicans voting en masse to make like the three monkeys and excuse massive, brazen, Constitution-shredding corruption is not a great look going into an election.
WHOA WHOA WHOA
Now wait a minute, I hear you saying. Isn’t this exactly the accusation that huffy Republicans are always slinging at the “resistance”—that we have been looking for a reason, any reason, to impeach their hero since the day he was elected?
In a way, yes. It’s just that we didn’t have to look very hard to find one.
I understand that framing impeachment and the election as part of the same effort to unseat Trump makes impeachment look partisan, rather than the proper application of Congressional oversight that it is. But I don’t accept that that overlap is necessarily damning, or renders the effort illegitimate.
Donald Trump is wantonly unfit to be a lunchroom monitor, much less have possession of the nuclear codes, so seeking his eviction from the White House is a reasonable and prudent goal for anyone conscious enough to recognize that. Whether that ejection comes through the ballot box or impeachment (or through the 25th Amendment, a very dark horse in this race) matters not. All are perfectly legal and reasonable mechanisms designed to end a failed or dangerous presidency, and his has earned both distinctions. As Salon’s Chauncey DeVega puts it: “In many ways, Donald Trump is the nightmare scenario that the Framers designed the Constitution to protect against.”
So try to wrap your collective heads around this Zen koan:
If Trump had not behaved in an impeachable manner, we would have opposed him on policy grounds, as we have done and continue to do. But it was quite obvious from even a cursory look at his entire miserable life that there was no way that he wasn’t going to do something egregiously worthy of getting himself chucked out of office. And he didn’t disappoint. So I don’t find the “poised to impeach” critique very convincing. It’s also rich coming from a party that was anxious to impeach Barack Obama from the moment he raised his right hand. Unfortunately for the GOP, he didn’t commit crimes as readily as he breathed, unlike his successor.
Partisanship ceases to be an issue—or, arguably, even exist at all in the ordinary sense of the word—when we are no longer talking about two reasonable political parties whose differences are still within the realm of normal political discourse. Segregation used to be a partisan issue, albeit one that crossed party lines. So was slavery. Trump is an abomination, as it the party that he leads, and in no way just another ordinary political entity operating under the usual rules of engagement.
In the words of the eloquent Mr. DeVega, “Like its leader, the present-day Republican Party represents an existential threat to American democracy.”
TRIBALISM UBER ALLES
In an interview last week, the recently resurfaced Never Trump pundit Steve Schmidt (welcome back Steve!), commented that the Democrats will indeed be haunted by what he calls “substantial evidence of political malice toward him that could be exploited during this process argument.” (A witchunt, some might say.) But he didn’t say it would doom them. Schmidt suggests that “Democrats are going to have to offset this with a truth-based, fact-based, reality-based approach.” I couldn’t agree more, although it goes without saying that an appeal to the facts has had exactly zero impact on many Republicans over the past four years.
But we are not concerned with those people, only those with functioning cerebral cortexes. The evidence against Trump is already mountainous and we’re just getting to see the real heart of it. If the argument is made properly, only the most brain dead MAGA zombies will be left defending him. Whether that is enough for him to win in November remains to be seen.
Which brings us to the role of sheer tribalism.
How drunk on Kool-Aid are Trump’s hardcore supporters? This drunk: according to a new Monmouth University poll, 62 percent of people who approve of Trump report that there is NOTHING he could do that would make them turn against him.
Let that sink in a moment. (And we’ll suspend Godwin’s Law temporarily while we absorb a new comprehension of how the train to Belsen came to be.)
Notwithstanding Russian mucking about, propaganda, ratfucking, and possibly even actual vote tampering, 62 million Americans did vote for Trump in 2016. That’s three million fewer than Hillary (I feel compelled to remind us all every time this comes up), but still an appallingly high number. Even now, after three years of this daily shitshow, a shockingly large segment of American voters still buy Trump brand snake oil, and turn a blind eye to Republican hypocrisy, lies, and criminality, finding ever new and groundbreaking ways to forgive and even applaud the most unconscionable behavior. (Betraying the Kurds, anyone? Opening the floodgates for corporate pollution of our air and water and land? Robbing the poor and giving to the rich? Kidnapping and caging children in concentration camps?)
We know that the theater of nationally televised hearings helped sway public opinion massively during Watergate. But that was in the era of the Big Three, plus PBS (and a random UHF channel in each market); we shall see what kind of impact they have now, in the age of the Internet, social media, and a bazillion cable channels. It has become a cliché to say that Nixon might have survived had he had a Fox News on his side, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. The next few months will put that theory to the test.
I’ll go to DeVega again:
A healthy democracy requires a shared sense of empirical reality and a societal ability to discern truth from lies. Trump, his supporters, the Republican Party and the right-wing news media reject those basic principles.
That sheer fact makes the blindly obedient Trumpist GOP both an especially challenging foe, and one whose defeat is all the more crucial and urgent for that very reason. So it is with fanatics.
Absent any credible defense, Trump and his supporters are reduced to denying demonstrable reality, engaging in shameless character assassination of witnesses against him, trafficking in lies, and generally screaming themselves red in the face that the impeachment is all a satanic plot by godless, chablis-sipping liberals who hate America.
But writing in the New Yorker, Susan Glasser seems to give serious consideration to the notion that these tactics will work, despite their blatant dishonesty and cynicism:
For Trump and his defenders, it is a coup, a show trial, a witch hunt. When that is the starting point, there is no place for the facts, no process that can satisfy, no way to split the difference.
(F)or his most fervent supporters (and that apparently includes virtually all of the Republican elected officials in both the House and the Senate)….(t)here is no evidence, no testimony, no revelatory text message, that can sway them. There is a justification for anything that has come out, and for anything that might still be revealed. Trump has framed the impeachment case, as with all the other challenges to his controversial actions over the past few years, as a purely partisan matter of loyalty and legitimacy.
HE HAS MET THE ENEMY, AND IT ARE HIM
Of course, another wild card in the process is Trump himself and his toddler-like tendency to freak out and make things worse on himself. That variable has the power to change things dramatically, both in terms of the election, and of general outcry for impeachment that might sway otherwise sniveling Republican senators to support it.
Remember when people were saying, “Trump wants to be impeached—he’d love it!” Turn out, not so much. Again belying Republican Bre’r Rabbitism, Trump knows that impeachment will hurt him severely, even if he survives in the Senate. It’s the blackest mark possible on a presidency, and it will change minds heading into November, as the numbers are already showing.
The irony is that Trump is making it worse on himself with his erratic behavior, which only figures to get worse as the noose tightens. As Tim Alberta wrote further in Politico: “Trump cannot stand to be embarrassed—and there is no greater embarrassment to a president than being impeached, much less with the abetting of his own tribe.” An impeachment inquiry that might otherwise result in acquittal could turn into a conviction if Trump goes further into cornered rat mode and does something truly self-destructive.
Trump’s behavior in office was never all that even-keeled. But under the pressure of an impeachment inquiry, he appears more aggrieved, as I wrote last month. “He was never completely hinged,” another former White House official told me. “The trip from where he was to unhinged, as he is now—that was not a long trip.”
For example, we learned last week that part of what Trump wanted from the Zelensky government was an announcement that it was looking into—no joke—Hillary Clinton. Somebody should tell Donald that the 2016 election is over and he won.
Wouldn’t it be sweet if Trump’s Ahab-like obsession with Hillary is part of what ultimately brings him down?
ON STRATEGERY (WITH APOLOGIES TO HARRY SUMMERS AND WILL FERRELL)
So, in my humble opinion, here are a few of the things we need to do in order to mount the most ironclad, convincing impeachment prosecution possible, and simultaneously the best presidential campaign we possibly can, and make them work in tandem.
In Congress, we have to make the case against Trump so powerfully that any Republican who still votes to acquit will do so under the crushing pressure of public embarrassment at their toadying partisanship, willful blindness to the evidence, and blatant violation of their oath office to defend the Constitution.
We have to make that case cogently and with a minimum of partisan rancor. (I know: physician, heal thyself.)
We have to present a positive alternative to Trump in the presidential campaign, led by a strong candidate with a serious plan to address the real issues that matter to our country and our countrymen. (Though to me, even a tree stump would be preferable to Donald.)
We need to worry less about antagonizing the other side (news flash: they’re already at max antagonism) and more about energizing our side. Will impeachment backfire with some members of the public, and actually draw them closer to Trump? Yes, but only with those who were a lost cause from the start.
As for trying to woo that tiny sliver of what Cambridge Analytics called “the persuadables,” we have to distinguish between those voters at whom we have a realistic shot, and those who are so low-information that it’s not worth the opportunity cost. (NB: How anyone can be “undecided” about Trump at this point is beyond me. So I admit that I’m likely part of the problem when it comes to reaching across the aisle.) To that end, we need to make an appeal to reason aimed at blue collar white women, who are among Trump’s staunchest defenders, with whom Democrats made inroads in the 2018 midterms, but appear to be slipping again. We need to mobilize the African-American vote, and the Latinx vote, and drive young people to the polls, beating back the apathy that Republicans do so much to seed and naturally benefit from.
Speaking of Cambridge Analytica, we need to fight the fake news with the truth, and keep the traditional media from repeating its mistakes of false equivalence in which it trafficked so grievously in 2016. Russian disinformation (and Chinese, and Iranian, and Saudi, to name just a few) is dangerous enough, to say nothing of the homegrown American variety. That tsunami of disinformation will be only one aspect of even more foreign attempts at meddling than last time, which the Republicans are happy to allow and abet, to include outright vote tampering. The plutocratic GOP also has a war chest that dwarfs that of the Democrats, and—I’m told—a far superior trove of data and a willingness to exploit it as black propaganda. (See The Great Hack.) It is also openly determined to suppress the vote through the lie of “voter fraud” functioning as a cover for Jim Crow-like disenfranchisement.
So our task is formidable.
We may fail and end up with four more years of this monster. If so, I shudder to think what the shredded corpse of American democracy will look like by the summer of 2023.
For the flip side of Trump’s impulsiveness and self-destructiveness is his astonishing capacity for Rasputin-like survival, even when besieged by calamities that would doom a less lucky motherfucker, or one with any kind of moral boundaries when it comes to a scorched earth effort at self-preservation. Writing in Salon, Heather Digby Parton addresses this phenomenon, echoing Glasser’s worry. I will quote her at length, because she says it so well, and so terrifyingly:
(F)or all of Trump’s many failings he does have one talent…..he is highly skilled at getting out of trouble. In this case, we can see how he thinks he’s going to do that, because he has already done it once during his presidency.
People underestimate how well the “No collusion, no obstruction” and “Witch hunt!” strategy worked with the Mueller investigation. When Robert Mueller took that job he was considered the single most honorable, straight-arrow lawman in the nation, and was widely praised by prominent members of both parties. But through sheer repetition, echoed by his media minions, Trump managed to convince millions of people that Mueller, a lifelong Republican, and his team of prosecutors were a bunch of vengeful Democratic hacks out to take him down for partisan reasons. With the help of Attorney General William Barr, that narrative was reinforced upon the release of Mueller’s report, and it solidified the “witch hunt” meme that Trump and his supporters continue to push to this day.
Trump and his henchmen are running the same game with the impeachment inquiry into Ukraine ……The point is to rally their white working-class voters by stoking their rage and resentment, and trying to convince what remains of their white college-educated vote to stay the course. Imagine the feral, frothing-at-the-mouth Lindsey Graham of the Kavanaugh hearings leading the charge, with a smirking Mitch McConnell by his side. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul and Tom Cotton will give soaring speeches railing against the Democrats’ illegal crusade to depose the duly elected president, echoing the Trump’s robotic messages once again.
Will it work? Who knows?…..But it’s a mistake to assume that Trump and the Republicans are flailing around without any purpose, and attacking the process for lack of any other options. They’re doing this because it’s worked before, and they figure they might just get away with it again.
DREAM A LITTLE DREAM
The type and scope of Trump’s wrongdoing in Ukrainegate is so blatant, so easily understood, and so egregious—and the evidence so massive, multifaceted, and wide-ranging—that it truly seems like the end of the road. (Much more so than Russiagate and the Mueller probe. And yes, I know they are ultimately related.) That is because in the more or less functioning democracy to which we are all accustomed, it would be a presidency-ending scandal, full stop, period dot, end of sentence.
But we no longer live in that sort of democracy.
It is very possible to imagine that, as crippling and final as this all seems right now, Trump will survive it and even prevail next November. But we cannot give in to fatalism or pessimism. There ought to be enough of us who still have our wits about us and a grasp on civics to get out and overwhelm Trump’s loyalists, first in public opinion and then at the polls. If we can’t, our democracy will be undeniably broken….and if we can but simply won’t, we’ll deserve what we get and have no one to blame but ourselves.
So by way of closing, let’s return to the nightmare that kicked all this off: impeachment, acquittal, false claims of exoneration, followed by re-election.
You know that thing where you say you worst fears out loud, operating under the superstitious belief that that means they won’t come true? (It’s the flip side of not saying your wildest dreams out loud for the same reason.) Well, I’m not a very superstitious person, but maybe by articulating my nightmare I’ve done that.
Or, more rationally, maybe by speaking aloud the dangers we face we can collectively raise awareness of them, formulate a counter-strategy, and take control of our own destiny and avert that fate.
It’s only the republic at stake. Now it’s up to us.