With Monday’s revelations, we know more about Donald Trump’s Russian connections, but there is obviously more to come. As I urged in August, we need to think about options for the country’s response as this plays out.
David Roberts (@drvox) posted a tweetstream Sunday night on whether the country can come together, given the division sown by the Republicans and their implications of “Second Amendment solutions” and, potentially, civil war. Daniel Nexon (@dhnexon), a professor of political science, posted a similar, but shorter tweetstream. Roberts has now written a post that is still longer and goes in a different direction than I take here. I’ll work from the tweetstreams.
Here is Nexon’s tweetstream, in narrative form.
- I don’t feel celebratory abt indictments. I’m not impressed w/ Mueller Time &c. It’s good justice might come to those as corrupt as Manafort
- But I see this as a grim day for the United States:
- The erstwhile campaign manager of POTUS was likely a crook to tune of 10s of millions of dollars, he worked w/ autocrats and oligarchs
- Even *after* Manafort was fired—when some of his perfidy was exposed—Trump continued to seek his advice. #draintheswamp indeed.
- POTUS, meanwhile, handles moment by tweeting out paper-thin conspiracy theories involving his defeated electoral opponent and 44th POTUS
- These theories are being blasted non-stop by right-wing media, and a significant percentage of the US public likely believes them.
- POTUS, even if, by some miracle, untouched by Russia collusion, has shattered norms against conflicts of interest and self-dealing.
- POTUS is more than likely to ‘get away’ with his small-bore self-enrichment, ensuring that there’s nothing to stop it in the future.
- Some kind of constitutional crisis looks like the *least bad* outcome of the current trajectory. Indeed, we’re already in one.
- In sum, this is all *terrible*—a time for mourning… about the state of the Republic, the governing party, and the Presidency
I disagree in a couple of places, but only slightly. I think it’s fine to celebrate that Robert Mueller’s investigation has resulted in indictments and conviction for wrongdoers, but I agree that we can’t lose sight of the bigger problem. I am dubious about using the phrase “constitutional crisis,” because it is being used for too many things and thus is losing meaning in today’s context. Better to specify the particular conflict, of which we are likely to see several.
Breaking down Nexon’s concerns further,
- Trump has employed, and continues to employ, fundamentally dishonest people.
- Trump, aided by rightwing media, disseminates an alternate reality.
- A significant part of the US population believes this alternate reality.
- Trump is using his office to enrich himself and has broken other norms of the presidency.
- There is no clear way to resolve this satisfactorily.
Roberts’s tweets focus on whether the country can come together to find a way to resolve the problems the Trump presidency presents. I dipped into some of these problems in August. I don’t have answers but intend to keep thinking and writing about this.
In a world not dominated by Republican need for tax cuts for the wealthy, we would probably already have articles of impeachment introduced in the House. That will not happen until after the tax cut bill is defeated. Wealthy donors say they will defect if the bill is not passed, and the prospect of not being elected may loom in the calculations of Republican members of Congress.
Or the ever-increasing news of Russian manipulation of social media might cause Republicans to wonder if the Russians might turn against them. Or they might realize that having an adversarial nation help them might be seen by the voters as undesirable. The willingness of Republicans in Congress to accept Russian help in the election and to cover it up was striking. I’ll do another post on that.
Roberts uses Watergate as an example. It took time to build public and Congressional opinion toward impeachment. There was a hard-line residue, like today’s Trump approvers, who thought Nixon was acting appropriately. Who ignored the blatant 18-minute hiatus in the tapes of Nixon’s meetings in the White House. But members of Congress recognized their duty to the nation and urged Nixon to resign.
The process then was gradual, and it will be gradual today, although perhaps accelerated in the way everything is now. The hard-line residue will not back impeachment. But we live in a democracy, and, if those opposing Trump make a strong showing, as in next week’s Virginia elections, members of Congress will take notice.
As more members of Congress speak out and then move against Trump, more of the public will follow. We need to press those members to move. So more phonecalls, please.