29 August 2017

Some thoughts on impeachment

As the possibility of impeachment becomes more concrete, I'm sensing a certain amount of negativity toward the idea on the left.  Some seem to worry that (a) it can't really happen because the Republicans who control Congress will never go along with it, and (b) even if it did happen, it might actually be a bad thing because the Republican regime would become more effective with a less incompetent and divisive leader (Pence) in place, while the resistance would grow weaker without the baroquely obnoxious figure of Trump to energize it.  Both of these concerns are misguided.

First, as to the idea that impeachment will never happen because Congressional Republicans will not allow it -- as noted in the last link round-up, the number of Republicans needed to bring it about is surprisingly small.  The votes of the large Democratic minorities in Congress count too, and we only need enough Republicans added to that to get to a simple majority in the House and a two-thirds majority in the Senate.  Further, several have already shown enough defiance toward Trump that they could well be brought along in an impeachment vote too, especially as Trump continues to do outrageous and ridiculous things.

There's abundant anecdotal evidence that most Republicans in Congress are exasperated with Trump and would far prefer Pence as President.  No experienced Republican politician could relish the thought of such a man and his antics being the public face of the party for another three and a half years.  Many must be concerned at the risk of disaster if Trump's hand remains on the nuclear trigger for that period.  Finally, some are genuinely outraged at the spectacle of Russian meddling in the election (Republicans tend to be nationalists), equivocation about neo-Nazis, and the Arpaio pardon (which has driven another nail into the coffin of Republican hopes of winning over Latino voters).  Some dismiss all Republicans as uniformly evil, but if the party were homogenous, it wouldn't constantly be paralyzed by internal divisions as we've seen.  There's a vast gulf between the ideology-blinded fervor of the (grotesquely misnamed) "freedom caucus" and the genuine moderation of, for example, Collins and Murkowski, who voted down ACA repeal partly to protect Planned Parenthood.

Second, as to the fear that Trump's removal would make the Republican regime more effective and weaken the resistance, remember that Pence, too, is a polarizing figure.  As the embodiment of the God-hates-fags Christian Right, he would never have had any chance of winning a Presidential election on his own.  Before being picked by Trump for VP, he was best known for Indiana's anti-gay "religious freedom" law -- but he's also widely despised among his fellow religio-wingnuts as a weakling for later caving to pressure from big business to abandon the law.  His obsessions are more theocratic and anti-gay than Russophilic and anti-immigrant, but would likely prove just as divisive among Congressional Republicans.

As for the resistance, the issue that has actually been most effective at energizing it -- ACA repeal -- has little to do with Trump.  The tsunami of public opposition and pressure that helped force Congressional Republicans to back down on repeal would have happened regardless of who the Republican President was.  The same applies to future threats to Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, etc.  The danger to the public, and thus the level of public pressure to defend those programs, will be the same regardless of whether it's Trump or Pence standing ready to sign the devastation into law.

Will Pence be a less effective tool than Trump to rally Democratic voter turnout in 2018 and 2020?  Probably so, but the difference will be less than many fear.  A theocrat who, just as much as Trump, owes his position to Russian election interference will be deeply unpopular in his own right.  For whatever reason, Pence has so far defended Trump even while other prominent Republicans have grown more critical -- the stench of Trump's rhetoric and actions will stick to him better than to most other Republicans.  He'll be unpopular enough to lose to a Democrat in 2020, even if by a smaller margin than Trump would have.  As for Congressional elections, again, most of what the Republicans there have done to make themselves toxic to the voters has little to do with Trump.

Observe, too, that the Republicans seem to be swinging back into O'Donnell/Akin mode, using primary challenges to dump electable relative moderates in favor of complete loonies.  It's looking very possible that Moore will beat Strange in the Alabama primary and that Ward will beat Flake in the Arizona one.  Alabama is so red that Moore might win the general anyway, but if this kind of thing happens in more purplish states, it could create real opportunities for us, Trump or no Trump.

More importantly, a Trump impeachment will leave the Republican rank-and-file bitterly divided.  As Trump's poll ratings sink, hard-core Trumpanzees remain a minority, but a large one, within the Republican base.  And Trump will not simply vanish after impeachment.  He'll keep right on tweeting and holding rallies, whipping up his people with a full-bore Dolchstoßlegende featuring Republicans who turned on him as arch-traitors.  The party will go into 2018 and perhaps even 2020 with a big chunk of its base enraged against its establishment.  (In fact, I think the fear of this scenario is the main reason why the Republicans haven't impeached Trump already.)

But the most important reason why we must support impeachment has to do with the President's personal control over nuclear weapons.  Pence, at least, is basically a "normal" Republican no more likely to use an H-bomb in a fit of anger, or start a war out of stupidity, than any other President, while Trump's belligerent and erratic nature make him unacceptably dangerous in that position.  This issue is more important than anything that happens or doesn't happen within the US.  The risk Trump presents to the lives of millions of people in Seoul or Tehran outweighs our domestic political concerns.


Blogger Donna said...

Thank you – I needed to read this today.

29 August, 2017 13:53  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pence may be less likely to stupidly or accidentally trigger a nuclear confrontation but he's much more likely to do it intentionally. His insane Dominionist theology believes that a conflagration in the Middle East is a prerequisite for the return of his "savior" and the establishment of the "New Jerusalem" and heaven here on earth, so while he may be less likely to provoke N. Korea he will be much more likely, if not more probable, to start some shit vs Iran/Syria/Lebanon to help fulfill this demented "prophecy".

30 August, 2017 06:46  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

I fully support impeachment. My next blog post will be from Lawfare's Benjamin Witte's article on urging Congress to open an impeachment inquiry.

Great analysis on repealing and replacing Trump!

30 August, 2017 06:48  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Donna: Glad to have been of help.....

Anon: That's a concern I've always had about a fundie in the Oval Office. In Pence's case, I think he's probably not that hard-core -- if he were, he wouldn't have backed down on the Indiana anti-gay law under pressure from business. Nevertheless, it's definitely a risk. I just think it's substantially lower than the risk with Trump. The real solution, of course, is to change how US nuclear weapons are controlled.

Shaw: Thanks! I'll look forward to the post.

30 August, 2017 08:06  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

You really been analyzing the situation, which I guess is good ... I'm lost on Trump and what's going on, simply because I got so burned out on it over the last few months, I been ignoring most of the news about him ... it's like several times a day, tweets, talking shit, etc, etc (like a f'n circus of sort).

What I do know is this ... I will be voting against Trump/ Pence and Republicans in next election any way you slice it. Pence is just another f'n fruit loop, regardless of how mellow he is or liked. And unlike many ... I dont think Trump is "evil" ... I just dont think he is a well balanced President for representing such a diverse nation ... and he should slack up on not calling these Nazi's out ... he just pissed alot of folks off too as a president, regardless of the following he has.

Actually I wasnt even thinking about impeachment ... I was thinking that he may not even last a full term on his own and resigning. I mean ... even though he has the president badge to highside with for record ... I dont think this guy is really very happy being in that position in some wayz. When he went into office, I figured this guy may feel like he's under house arrest, lack of freedom and the mobility of what he has been doing for years, I mean ... he knows they got a microscope up his ass 24/ 7/ 365. He cant even conduct business the way he's used to ... the media pisses him off, many that he has to work with pisses him off, the list is endless of what he may not like about the job. I figure he will try to square up international business alliances more as President ... but that's only for his gain and folks like his daughter and son- in- law, get a few projects with his name on it like a wall or some other crap and call it quits.

30 August, 2017 11:22  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Ranch: That would be best and simplest, if he just resigned. I guess his frustration with the job is battling with his ego and fear of being called a "quitter". If he resigns, he'll probably want to make a deal with pence for a Presidential pardon to avoid being prosecuted after leaving office, the way Nixon did.

31 August, 2017 05:54  
Blogger Kevin Robbins said...

I can't imagine being against the impeachment just because it would be more advantageous politically to leave him in office. My understanding is that Pence was on his way to losing the governorship in Indiana before Trump chose him for Veep. That could be fake news I suppose. Don't believe he has the charisma or whatever it is that Trump has that rocks the worlds of the Trumpinistas or whatever they are.

On ACA, you're absolutely right it's totally the fault of my congresswoman who has had a severe case of laryngitis since about January 20th. Donald Trump was going to give us "terrific" healthcare that would cover everyone and cost nothing and doctors would make housecalls again. MAGA! Sorry, I got carried away.

I see in the news today there are a couple of less loony than Kelli Ward candidates in AZ being pushed. It's still really odd that a prez is coming out against a senator of his own party for nothing more than pique.

Do they allow tweeting from Leavenworth?

I've been curious for a long time how much of a check there is on that "finger on the button." Is there no way to stop an obviously insane SOB like Trump from nuking whoever he wants? Maybe I don't really want to know.

01 September, 2017 12:00  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Kevin: Pence will be a "normal" Republican President -- we can handle him, I think.

Has Trump ever done anything other than for pique?

Strictly speaking, the President's authority over nuclear weapons is absolute. During the last days of Nixon's Presidency, when he was severely depressed and drinking heavily, the Secretary of Defense ordered that he be consulted about any order Nixon gave for a nuclear strike before it was carried out. However, he really had no authority to issue such an order. Who knows what would have happened if Nixon had ordered such a strike. I've heard that Mattis, McMaster, and Kelly (all former generals) have coordinated their schedules so that one of them is always near Trump, ready to talk him out of anything insane he suddenly decides to do with the military, including nukes. Let's hope they're persuasive. But we need to get this guy out of office before the problem arises.

01 September, 2017 15:42  

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