A few weeks ago, we passed an important but little noted point in Trump’s presidency: Midway between his inauguration and the 2018 elections. About eleven months as President, and about eleven months to go until the people can express our verdict on the administration and the GOP’s support of Trump.
First, let me be clear that Democrats should let nothing eclipse the political priority of flipping Congress this November. We need to march in lockstep to get this done, which will be tough if not impossible. Cynics would say that, given the last year in Dem world, the left remains a comically inept coalition. A lot of the time this seems to be the case. But that doesn’t mean we should give up on ourselves, or, for those who consider themselves part of a passive “independent thinking” audience that demands to be impressed and obviously won’t ever be, that we should give up on making the GOP bite the curb in November.
That said, we’re screwed.
Even if in a dream world Democrats took a hard look in the mirror, got their shit together, and ran on a simple, clear, and genuine platform that made people believe Democrats want to and can make their lives better, it won’t go well. Why? It’s eleven months away.
What could happen in just eleven months? To give you an idea, it’s been just eleven months. The Trump administration, led by a terrified idiot, has done everything it can possibly do to make it clear to all Americans, left and right alike, that it will do everything it can to retain power. If it comes down to the wire, and it already has, we all know they will obstruct and then reject justice, ignore the Constitution, suppress votes, abuse executive power, purge critics, undermine the free press, incriminate and attempt to jail opposition leaders, fail to safeguard the electoral process, sow doubt about the “fairness” of the system, and, should it really come down to it, reject results.
That’s even if we get to an election.
This isn’t an insane, paranoid thing to wonder. It might seem extreme, but look at where we are. The right wing has in recent months gone all-in for this administration. Congressional representatives have admitted coordinating with the White House to attack Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s conspiracy with Russia against the United States in the 2016 elections. This in the wake of Mueller already turning in indictments and securing guilty pleas (that indicate a level of cooperation with investigators that would yield more indictments), including from multiple Trump campaign officials and his former NSA, Mike Flynn. Beyond this, they’re not even bothering to conceal the conspiracy to obstruct justice anymore. Should Mueller’s investigation turn up nothing, which it won’t, the damage that Trump and his fellow obstruction conspirators in the White House, the media, and Congress have already done to our law enforcement and intelligence communities won’t be undone any time soon.
Should Mueller’s investigation incriminate the president, and it will, the right will reject it as partisan and cry coup d’etat.
Robert Mueller is a lifelong registered Republican whose credibility many top GOP Senators, to their credit, tell their constituents not to question. That said, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, while short of attacking Mueller, refuses to introduce legislation that will protect him.
It’s gotten to the point that even nominally moderate Republicans have advocated re-opening a long-closed FBI investigation into a political opponent on the basis of an unhinged, decisively debunked conspiracy theory. The DOJ has even admitted being pressured by the White House to re-open the Clinton email case, which it did. The FBI months ago opened an equally ridiculous investigation into the Clinton Foundation. If you think the Clintons should be investigated, prosecuted, and jailed, eat shit. You and I are made of different bones, fundamentally different people who exist in different realities, and yours is insane and dangerous and should implode.
One-time outspoken Trump critics such as Bob Corker and Lindsey Graham have abruptly changed their tunes, even as the president increasingly displays signs of what I’ll charitably describe as a severe psychological fragility. He’s claimed credit for airline safety. He’s holding, or so he says, his own awards show for Fake News. His allies have repeatedly had to reassure the public the president is mentally fit.
For effect, the President of the United States of America has tweeted all of the following since January 1:
Imagine for a moment a Sunday morning in Mar-a-Lago where Trump walks around his lawn with a white chicken under each arm, then takes them up to his weekend guest Paul Ryan and brags about how he raised them pure and beautiful. Then Trump takes the chickens into the kitchen and orders he and his buddy Paul, who Trump accidentally calls “Ron” agains, have chicken tenders for dinner. Then imagine someone leaked this story, and Paul “Ron” Ryan scoffs at the report but stops short of denying it. What would happen?
Nothing. Nothing would happen.
Imagine Trump has a heart attack. He’s 71. He eats almost exclusively fast food, red meat, and ice cream, and he even drenches his salads with a creamy bleu cheese dressing. He literally doesn’t believe in exercise. The mere nature of his job punishes him with infamously brutal stress. That stress is compounded by his paranoia, the pressure of the Mueller investigation, and issues of policy, governing, and international affairs he’s only now realizing he’s far too late along in life to understand. He shirks his responsibilities, likely in part out of mortal instinct, showing up to work at 11:00 a.m.
Will Americans accept the coronary event as honest, or will a full one-third of us, and major media personalities, suspect foul play?
If you took even a second of thought before answering that question, we’re in trouble.
This is all to say that we’re faced with a bloc of GOP politicians and voters so afraid of losing power that they’ll commit themselves to living in any reality in which they retain that power. If they have to create that reality, they will. Strike that: They are. They’re doing it now while it’s still early enough that the steps don’t have to be drastic enough to make them look completely insane. But they’ve committed to it, and as the left increases political pressure, and as the DOJ’s investigation into Trump-Russia touches the White House, we at the same time march towards an election that can and likely will see their unseating.
We know they will get more desperate, because they’ve already gotten more desperate. We know they will double down because they’ve only doubled down.
The military has a term for this. It’s called “mission creep.”
So why have these ostensibly reasonable GOP leaders gone all-in for a madman who consistently polls in the mid-thirties? Why are they going so far as to cast doubt on indispensable American institutions such as, oh, say, the justice system? There are a few theories out there.
One is that Trump is a useful idiot, and they need him in office in order to pass their agenda. This is silly. For one, Trump has only made it more difficult for them to enact their agenda. Also, a President Pence would be even more friendly than Trump to institutional, country-club GOP policies, not to mention exponentially more competent and effective at making sure they accomplish those priorities. Further, the GOP just got the very thing that pundits said they were keeping Trump around for: Tax cuts.
Side note: During the tax cut debates, the President of the United States campaigned for a man accused several times over of sexual assault and child molestation.
A competing theory is that GOP leaders are equally implicated in the Russia conspiracy. This is most likely garbage. They’re now all complicit in it, for sure, but the theories that the conspiracy in 2016 wrapped up people such as Ryan and McConnell as knowing and willing co-conspirators in an attack on the United States electoral process are, to put it mildly, hard to believe. It’s more likely, of course, that some members of Congress are connected to people that Mueller might now be reaching, or that they’re directly implicated in the conspiracy to obstruct justice. For instance, Lindsey Graham’s 2016 campaign manager Christian Ferry had a few years ago partnered with Paul Manafort in a substantial investment project with a Russian oligarch. Mueller’s team might well be knocking on his door, and making Graham nervous. This theory is complicated, however, by Graham’s unwavering support of Mueller, which he expressed as recently as this weekend: “I think we should all want to protect somebody like Mr. Mueller. I don’t think President Trump is going to fire Mr. Mueller. There is no reason to fire Mr. Mueller, let Mr. Mueller do his job and Mr. Trump, our president, should focus on his day job.”
Author’s addendum, 1/10, 10:45 pm: Christian Ferry asserts that the truth is much more prosaic. The investment fund was organized at the end of 2006 or early 2007, as Ferry was leaving Manafort’s firm. And according to a recent Bloomberg report, Deripaska invested in the fund in 2007 or 2008, after Ferry left the firm and was working for the McCain campaign. Ferry told me he was never contacted in relation to any of Deripaska’s legal filings against Manafort, and has never been contacted by the FBI or the Mueller investigation.
Some in congress, though, such as Rep. Devin Nunes, have seemed suspiciously desperate to torpedo the investigation from the get-go.
No, the GOP are engaging in such obsequious and perilous lunacy for a simple reason: Votes.
They don’t need Trump to rubber-stamp their agenda. They’re not being threatened or blackmailed. They’re simply hostage to math: If they turn off Trump voters now, they split the GOP and take a devastating loss in the midterms. The Democrats will take the House and the Senate, impeach Trump, and remove him from office.
Wait. No they won’t. Conviction of impeachment requires two-thirds of the Senate. Hmm. So why this level of desperation? Because if the Democrats flip Congress, it makes it very difficult for Republicans to pass anything else; it makes the Presidency lame-duck; it impedes the confirmation of Trump nominees, and crucially that of federal judges and Supreme Court justices; and whichever party dominates 2018 elections will have the upper hand when we redistrict after the 2020 census. This last one will affect the electoral landscape for a decade, and though district lines are drawn at the state level, if the GOP can vilify “liberals” and their pro-crime, anti-white, anti-Christian, deep-state conspiracy agenda, the GOP will secure the support of the insane voters that they can’t afford to lose. If the GOP crosses Trump, he takes his voters and goes home.
Put simply, it’s too late: If the GOP had repealed Obamacare, passed a tax bill, and taken significant steps towards curbing immigration before, say, July, they could have afforded taking the sane, non-national-security-compromising, anti-authoritarian measure of phasing Trump out of office.
Instead they’re complicit, and they’re all-in, baby. We’ve seen how far they’ll go to kiss the ring. They’ll push it. They have eleven months, and in those eleven months there’s absolutely nothing anyone can do about it. Even if Mueller indicts Trump, that case will drag on for months and months before the President sees his day in court, if he ever does.
And if he does, will it matter? Ask your Trump supporter friends, if you have them. If 40 percent of the country refuses to accept charges as legit, or won’t even discuss it unless Hillary has also been served, what happens then?
What happens when the confusion and mistrust come up against the election, which the timing says, terrifyingly, that it no doubt will?
What defense does the Constitution have against two words: “So what?”
This is all to say that we are in very real danger of losing our democracy. If the right wing can cast enough doubt on our electoral system, or if the midterm elections fall apart, or if we reach a Constitutional crisis before then, or if Mueller indicts Trump, make no mistake about it: The people will face some form of an authoritarian putsch. If this happens, would the GOP stand up to the administration and sacrifice any chance at a 2018 victory? Or would they continue down the path they’re on? Who could stop it? How?
There’s no choice between power and country for people who believe power is country.