Like everyone, I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen with Trump. I have a grim theory, which I lay out at the end of this post.
In the spirit of a diary entry, I wanted to record my thoughts in October 2019. Impeachment has begun, but the outcome seems highly uncertain. I did this once before. In the month following the November 2016 elections I speculated on Trump’s future effect on authoritarianism, security crises, the economy, constitutional and democratic norms, and his fellow Republicans. On balance, versus those speculations, my worst fears about his authoritarian instincts have come to pass, and principled Republican opposition has been weaker than I even expected.1 We have not had a security crisis,2 nor a true economic crisis, thank goodness. In October 2019 we are, however, in the midst of the constitutional crisis I feared.
If nothing changes from where we are now in mid-October 2019, it seems that the Republican red wall in the Senate will keep Trump in office, even after a Democratic House impeachment vote. I see the effect of that red wall as signalling a reward for Trump’s corruption, flouting of constitutional norms around the separation of powers and checks and balances, traitorous foreign policy, feckless and reckless financial and trade policy. Not to mention his general rapey approach to women and disgusting view of people living in or immigrating from Central America or Africa (or any place outside of Northern Europe.) And not just a reward, but a vindication of his style and an open invitation to do more crimes, more corruption, more subverting of our political system. Expect more rapeyness, more white nationalism, more inhumane treatment of immigrants. Why not? His party won’t abandon him.
As he famously said, he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue in broad daylight and get away with it. The puzzling challenge of Trump is that he commits the most brazen crimes in the open – profiting from his office through his hotel business, inviting corrupt authoritarian governments to destroy his domestic enemies, urging violence on the media and political opponents, siding with dictators, undermining our intelligence agents, wrecking global alliances built over generations – and we can’t quite believe our own eyes and ears. Surely he’s joking, right? Does he really mean that? Yes, he really does.
Given what we already know about Donald Trump as President, what would be required to alter Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republican’s views on impeachment? It’s hard to imagine what more in America he could fuck up.
Does the stock market have to go into free fall? Does Russia have to declare it is taking back Alaska and Trump says that’s fine, because Alaska is kind of a frozen shithole place and Fairbanks is no good for building gold-plated hotels anyway? Would that do it?
A few other thoughts.
- The Nixon resignation/impeachment experience shows that Republican supporters may stay strong up until the last minute, but that when they flip, they flip quickly and all at once. What causes that – beyond what we’ve already seen from the Trump administration, like Ukraine/China/Russia foreign policy treachery – I can’t really imagine. For them not to flip on Trump already at this point, but to flip at some further traitorous action…well, I guess things have to be even darker than they are today, which isn’t something to exactly look forward to.
- The Clinton non-resignation/impeachment experience shows that a President who has little personal shame and decides to just “stick it out” against his political adversaries will likely survive an impeachment vote in the Senate. All evidence suggests Trump has even less sense of personal shame than Clinton. So he’ll go the distance as long as he can. He’ll never resign if Republican Senators don’t turn on him.
My own grim feeling about where we are headed at this point, given the lengths Trump and his supporters are willing to go to subvert the rule of law and to obstruct justice:
At some point removing Trump from office will come down to a choice made by the people who literally wear the uniforms and carry the badges indicating they have a monopoly on the legitimate use of force in our society.3 The uniformed folks will receive a set of orders from a court to arrest him, his family, or members of his inner circle, and he will shout to countermand those orders and to instead arrest Pelosi, Schiff, Nadler, AOC, or whomever comes to mind in his addled brain at that time.
Whether or not he is removed from office at that point will come down to whether the people in those uniforms feel they owe loyalty to an abstract set of constitutional ideals, or whether they feel they owe loyalty to the Commander in Chief shouting and bullying them and resisting arrest. I wish I were kidding that that’s where I think this is headed.
I wish I felt more secure that the people in the uniforms will make the right choice.
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- Paul Ryan caved. Rand Paul flipped. John McCain died. Lindsay Graham did whatever he did, with zero evidence of personal pride or consistency. Mitt Romney furrowed his brow and has expressed “concern.” If we were waiting for unified and principled Republican leadership as a check on the President, as I had hoped for in December 2016, we are officially fucked. ↩
- I would say the daily & weekly mass-shootings & gun terrorism is a form of a security crisis, but not one that the Trump administration has exploited for consolidating its power, in the way it might if the daily & weekly gunmen were Islamic terrorists. Which they are not. ↩
- I mean the police, the army, the secret service. ↩