Republicans and Democrats are telling us that impeaching Trump would follow the same historical path that impeaching Clinton took. They proclaim that if the majority of the American people are not behind the impeachment, it will hurt the Democrats and help the Republicans. Because of this, Democrats shrink from impeachment talk and Republicans welcome the impeachment of Trump. Not so fast, what does the history tell us? Certainly, Newt Gingrich and the Republicans took a beating in the Congress after Clinton’s impeachment. Perhaps it was because the American people were against the drip, drip of the Starr investigation over an extramarital affair. However, let’s not forget that the Republicans took the presidency back in 2001 with a very conservative G.W. Bush AND six years with a majority in the House and Senate. How was that so bad for them? Are we to write that off as short-term memories on the part of the American people? I think not. Could it be that the actual circumstances of Clinton’s impeachment for lying about an extramarital affair was deemed by the American people as not rising to the occasion of high crimes and misdemeanors? Could it be that the American people are smarter than some give them credit for? Then, there are those Democrats that tell us impeaching Trump will alienate the middle and push ‘center right’ Republicans and independents away from the Democrats. Let’s take a look at these Republican oriented voters.
Sure, there are Trumpsters that would lay on a grenade for Trump while shouting “Trump is Great”. Those folks are not up for grabs for anyone other than Trump. I believe that Trump represents an aspirational myth propagated by the Republicans since Barry Goldwater: Sheer will and determination will make you rich in a Republican styled capitalism. While that may be true for a select few, the majority of those rich wishers will die in their poverty-stricken fantasies. It seems intuitive to them that individual selfishness is a virtue of capitalism no matter what the collateral damage is. The Republican dogma for decades has been no holds barred, ‘get what you want any way you want it’ with no regard to anyone else. Adam Smith would have been horrified at this kind of ‘survival of the fittest capitalism’ (See Free Market: Capitalism and Socialism). Trump represents this kind of ‘will to power’, free market survival of the fittest to Trumpsters. Sadly, this aspirational will for power is statistically mental opioids for the majority of its devotees. For these die-hards, ideology, ethics and compassion are nonsense made for the mentally ill. Law, the Constitution and ethics are not relevant to success. Wining is all that matters. For them Trump is the prototypical hero for this emotional, self-interestedness. The fact that he did not start in poverty like them does not nullify their boldly stubborn and prideful faith in their own imagined virility and heroic identity. The bottom line is that these folks will never be up for grabs for the Democrats. They will die true poor, Republican believers. Impeachment of Trump would have no effect on their vote.
There is a cousin of these true believers which are also non-ideological and purely and solely referenced to self-satiation. They are strictly on the goodie train. Their only criterion for voting for a politician is, “What can you do for me?” Republicans that fall into this camp demean people on social government programs all the while thinking nothing of their Medicare, Medicaid, Obama care, food stamps and Welfare (I paid for my Social Security and Medicare. I don’t take government handouts, The biggest beneficiaries of the government safety net: Working-class whites). Logic is alien to these narcissistic Republicans. However, they could be up for grabs by Democrats if a Democratic politician can convince them there is something in it for them. Alas, these voters are fickle and cannot be counted on to sway any election. Again, impeaching Trump matters nothing to these folks unless they think it will affect their goodies. This can be remedied by Democrats which, like Republicans, can one-up the goodie train.
There are still Republicans which use their brains to figure out that selfishness at any cost is a self-defeating task for individuals and societies. Many of these folks have migrated to the independent camp since Trump. Those that remain in the Republican camp cannot be counted on to vote Republican in the wake of Trump. These folks can be loyal ‘hold your nose and vote for a Democrat’ as long as Trump-styled ideology remains prevalent in the Party. Once they think the haze of Trump’s hangover is gone, they will return to the Republican camp. I believe that impeaching Trump would be satisfying for these voters. In their thinking, flushing ideological Trump waste down the toilet could clear the air for them to return to their Republican Party of old.
In the Obama years independents increasingly leaned Republican and decreasingly leaned Democrat. However, this trend has reversed in the Trump administration. Republicans have fled the Republican Party to call themselves independents. This has had the effect of deceptively keeping the approval numbers high in the Republican Party for Trump while bleeding the absolute number of Republicans profusely. Additionally, there has been a migration of independents which were historically oriented to the Republican camp towards the Democrats (A number of Republicans appear to be becoming independents). Many of these folks are fiscally conservative and socially moderate to liberal. These folks like the rhetoric of Republican ideology because it has been consistently marketed as sound economics. They tend to be driven away by social conservatives in the Republican Party. These folks tend to be more thoughtfully reflective about economics and over time find more complexities in assigning a blanket approval to Republican economics. Statistics like this, The Great Lie: The Great Depression and Recessions of the United States, have more of an impact on them over time. These folks can and are becoming Democratic voters. It seems to me that impeaching Trump would be more appealing to them than not, if nothing else, to forestall the advance of fascism and authoritarianism which is highly offensive to socially moderate to liberal independents. In my opinion, if they did not go Democratic, they would probably not vote or go for a third-party candidate.
I think none of these folks would have much an impact if Trump was impeached. Certainly, we know that actually booting him out of office by the Senate with Mitch McConnell is an impossibility. However, this should not stop impeachment in the House of Representatives. Why?
For quite a long time we have had a political stand-off in the U.S. with voters almost equally split between Republicans and Democrats. This has resulted in a flip-flop of Republican and Democratic power in our government. It seems that the net result is a Sisyphean styled task which can never resolve the truth-claims of either side. Over time this political stagnation results in more and more political paralysis and less capacity to get anything done. It leads toward less confidence in government. This favors the far right who love to get in power to prove the incompetence of government by their own facile incompetence. Specifically, by:
1 – refusing to fix programs such as Obamacare while being all too happy to try to repeal it forever
2 – insisting on costly investigations for years like Benghazi and Hillary’s emails even after many investigations have shown nothing
3 – looking for scape goats like the FBI and Justice Department for failing to substantiate their conspiracy theories
4 – failing to fund mandatory spending programs adequately which were already made law by Congress or to even approve an annual budget for the Federal government
5 – insisting on more costly government programs which benefit their private market buddies like Medicare Advantage, no bulk negotiations on Medicare and Medicaid prescription drug costs (“I paid for my Social Security and Medicare. I don’t take government handouts.”), tax reform for corporations, etc.
This kind of behavior would get any free-market, private business employee fired in a heart-beat. With this kind of government by paralysis, the stand-off strategy between political parties is not a long-term win for Democrats but a lose-lose over time for them. It ends up just proving that the Republicans are right about government when they get in power to make sure what happens is government incompetence at the benefit of their own ‘private market’ interests. What the Democrats need to focus on is new voters.
In the last presidential election, roughly a quarter of eligible voters plus three million voted Democrat, a quarter of eligible voters voted for Trump minus three million and a half of eligible voters did not vote at all (Did Trump Do Democrats a Great Favor?). The best hope for the Democrats is to get new voters. The best hope for the Republicans is to restrict voter participation and stagnate the government. New voters include the young, single women, Hispanics and working folks which do not take the time to vote. These folks are not going to run away from Democrats because Trump gets impeached. However, they will not come out unless Democrats try something different to get them to vote. As we know, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Those that employ the popular cliché of ‘the far left’ in the Democratic Party driving away the middle seem all to ready to return to the tried and true failures of appealing to the fictional middle which Hillary has demonstrated are not enough to sway the presidential election. Not only are the numbers based on the historic strategy of Democrats not enough, the Republican ‘winner take all’ strategies over time have made it very hard for Democrats to win without overwhelming victories. I, myself, supported Hillary and worked very hard for her in the last election. However, in light of the structurally embedded hurdles the Republicans have erected for Democrats over time, it is time that we recognize that the diminishing number of likely voters in the middle and the increasing negativity towards the government over time in the Republican/Democratic standoff will not bode well for Democrats. Let’s look at some of the hurdles the Republicans have erected to protect their shrinking numbers.
While gerrymandering has been done on both sides of the isle, the Republicans are much better historically at it than Democrats. They have been intensely focused on it for many decades. I remember when I lived in Texas in the 80’s Democrats had to leave the state twice to keep the Republicans from having a quorum so they could redistrict to favor the Republican Party. This did not stop the Republicans only delayed them as it was the typical merely defensive strategy of the Democrats. For decades, Republicans have consistently made appointments, manipulated Census data, used the judicial system thanks to the Federalist Society and catered to rural America without any benefit to them to make it hard for Democrats to keep a majority in the House of Representatives. One need only look at how much the Republicans have kept the House in recent decades to see how successful their strategy has been.
The Electoral College is popularly thought to have started in 1787 with the signing of the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787. However, the Constitution does not refer to an ‘Electoral College’. It refers to electors and was a totally different system then we have today (United States Electoral College). The electors were thought to be required for the presidential election to keep the more populated urban areas of the Country from dominating the rural areas. Additionally, the Three-Fifths Rule counted three out of every five slaves as a person. This gave the South, which had many more slaves, an advantage in the number of electors – but not blacks or women who did not have the right to vote. Electors in the time of the Constitution were not required to vote in any particular way and each elector originally had two votes. From the start, the electors were only white, male landowners. Women and blacks, who were mostly slaves, were not allowed into the club of electors which decided the presidency. Therefore, the idea of fair, representational government from the beginning was not fair or representational in terms of absolute population numbers. After the Civil War, the Electoral College was used even more to favor the conservative white, male South in the form of Jim Crow laws not unlike the voter suppression efforts of our day. The increase in population numbers in the South increased after the Civil War as the slaves were freed which resulted in higher numbers for the South in the House of Representative and thus the Electoral College. However, the electors made up of conservative white males had the effect of institutionalizing bigotry in what was supposed to be a representational democracy. The Electoral College is still supported by many Republicans not because of any concerns for fairness but, as we have seen in recent elections, to keep the popular vote from determining the presidency.
Similarly today, as in the days after the Civil War, the Republican Party and their hard-fought majorities in the Supreme Court brought largely by the Federalist Society has secured voter suppression efforts to their advantage. The Party has convinced their members that voter restriction is necessary to protect against what factually has been proven time and again to be the myth of massive voter fraud. Trump claims he won the popular vote due to over three million cases of voter fraud which, by the way, they always assume to favor the Democrats. This favor seems to fly in the face of many cases where Republican Secretaries of State have committed the most bold manipulations of their voter roles to favor their party. They are adept at dropping voters off the roles which might disfavor the Republican agenda. Additionally, thanks to McConnell they have secured a record number of Federal judges. All of these actions have made the future success of the Democratic Party an uphill battle. Catering to the middle will not get us there.
I believe that this concerted and long-term objective of the Republican Party has made it very questionable as to whether we really have a working democracy anymore. Unlike most popular opinion, I lay the blame at the hands of the fifty-percent of people that do not vote. We are merely getting what we deserve. Our democracy is seriously dying in a whimper. The inability of the Democrats to take a united, offensive stand against this erosion of democracy is most recently evidenced by their indecision about impeaching Trump. The recent Mueller report highlighted many times when Trump’s executive staff saved Trump from doing the most idiotic things to get him immediately impeached. By protecting Trump, they were furthering and enabling Trump’s continual deadly authoritarian stabbings at our dying democracy. Likewise, the Democrats who are too timid to start impeachment hearings on Trump are enabling the erosion and demise of our democracy. What are we protecting by refusing to impeach a wannabe, ‘keystone cop’ styled, criminal Mafioso boss? This is not an extramarital affair. This is lights out and the Democrats are fiddling while the U.S. burns. Their rationalizations are ill-thought as I have shown for not impeaching Trump. Democrats are so used to being on the defensive that they have taken on a kind of Stockholm-Syndrome to their political strategies. Political Republican marketers have driven our country increasingly towards authoritarianism and away from democracy. The inability of Democrats to muster a long-term offensive strategy against this erosion has enabled the Republicans to succeed. This mealy-mouthed lethargy is not working folks. It seems our only choice after this anemic history is to fall on our sword.
Trump has done one thing very well. He has employed the same technique Hitler did to consolidate authoritarian power behind him. No matter what comes up, the Mueller report being the latest evidence, it is used as another occasion to demonstrate the corruption of the FBI, the Justice Department so Trump can step in to fix it by firing even his own appointees to get more submissive Trump loyalists into positions of power as Attorney General Barr demonstrates. Troubling true facts are discredited and re-marketed as proof of the need for Trump to be in charge. For example, the Mueller report not only completely ‘exonerated’ Trump, but the whole investigation was corrupt and will require another complete investigation to conjure up ‘facts’ that will inevitably make Trump more powerful and our democracy a relic of the past. The tactic of authoritarianism is to ever tighten the noose around its opposition by reinterpreting its opposition as proof of its own need for control. While Mueller may have thought he was being prudent by giving weight to the Department of Justice policy not to indict a sitting president he will be seen by history, if Trump has his way, as paving the way for a further dismantling of the FBI and the Justice Department when all the ‘witch-hunt’ investigations of the ‘witch-hunt’ are complete. The Democrats as playing the same middle of the road game as Mueller and will end up as road kill just as Mueller did.
I think we have more of a chance to bring in new voters by impeaching Trump than caving into indecision and inaction. The strategy we have been using is NOT working folks. It is like the free-market health care myth that Republicans pushed forever but time and time again has shown us that the free-market cannot and will not solve the problem. Time and time again catering to a defensive, middle of the road strategy has resulted in an ongoing erosion in democracy and towards authoritarianism. It is not working Democrats! Let’s try something different. If we think we are going to lose we are deceiving ourselves. We already lost as evidenced by Trump and his alleged conquest of the Mueller report. Even more so, our self-doubting has enabled the move towards authoritarianism. We need to stop enabling and take a stand. We need to show new voters we are ready to hold their interest. A clear distinction is needed not more muddied and namby-pamby catering to the middle which does not exist in any significant way. Our idea of holding the middle has factually over time cost us more than we can afford. Trump is proof that it is not working. These existentially trying times for democracy calls for a clear and resounding distinction. The time for appeasement is over. There are too may systemic booby-traps placed in what was our democracy to hope holding the middle will magically work this time. Democrats need to realize that the facts are as clear as they are ever going to be – there will be no magic ‘aha’ moment that more facts will bring out and sway the public towards the Democrats – stop the magic, wishful thinking. This is merely a delay tactic for the lack of courage. Reality has raised its ugly head in Trump. If Democrats do not respond decisively, we will have no one else to blame but ourselves.
One more thing, I am not advocating that we take up the ‘winner justifies all’ tactics of the right. I do think we need to take a forceful and clear stand but not at the sacrifice of facts. We need to calmly shore up facts to demonstrate what credibility looks like. We need to reflect compassion and adherence to an ethical code and the spirit of our laws. What the far right has shown us very clearly is that winning at any and all costs looks no different than mob tactics or Nazism in the end. If we are not better than that, there is nothing to fight for higher than ourselves and the mad-max war of all against all is the pitiful, final residue of humankind. That end certainly makes the non-human animal kind look like saints living amid the doomed and depraved cries of sound and fury signifying nothing.