I cannot believe I’m saying this, but it may be time to start thinking about the 2018 elections. “Sure,” I can hear you thinking, “right after I finish hot waxing myself and listening to a 2-hour compilation of Kellyanne Conway’s most irritating interviews.”
But, any American citizen who is appalled at the spectacle of immense power in the hands of an “infantalist”, as David Brooks called him, needs to think in practical terms about what it is going to take to get Trump out of office. And whether there is anything we can do about it besides wish.
We are starting to see the term “tipping point” appear with some frequency in the “failing” NY Times and the “dishonest” mainstream media in general. The reference is to the question of whether the self-sabotaging president has racked up enough offenses– against ethical standards, the constitution, intelligence protocol, etc.– and exhibited sufficiently shocking, irrational, unhinged behavior to spur Congress to finally fulfill its intended role as a check on an executive branch that is abusing its power.
It is my belief that, if the current avalanche of jaw-dropping events does not push House and Senate Republicans over that tipping point, it is unlikely to happen. Journalists are reporting that those legislators are increasingly expressing their dismay and concern off the record. But only the occasional lone voice, and none of the leadership, will publicly stand against the president.
Why is that? Primarily, you can chalk it up to three factors.
First, Trump voters don’t agree with you. Polls are showing almost no slippage in support on one vital question. Sizable numbers register disapproval for certain traits or actions, resulting in somewhat lower approval ratings since January. But 96% of those who voted for Trump still say they would vote for him now.
Again, why is that?! I expect you know. Read the polls (e.g. something like 85% of Republicans place more trust in Trump to tell the truth than the media) and listen to Trump voters interviewed about their reactions to current events. You find that they buy into the narrative that the president is trying to do what he promised, is being thwarted by (fill in the blank), and is being lied about in the press and by opponents.
Second, as long as this base does not erode, Reps in Congress believe they can’t afford to anger them and end up getting defeated in the primaries next year.
And third, they still have an agenda they know Trump will sign if he doesn’t get in the way of passing it: repeal and replace Obamacare, tax “reform” i.e. cuts, budget cuts, and regulatory cuts.
What it will take
If the current majority party does not act, the 2018 mid-terms become a referendum to elect to Congress those who will defend our democratic institutions and traditions, to say nothing of the constitution.
Every Democratic seat must be defended. Every current Republican incumbent must find him or herself challenged by the highest quality candidate possible. The process of identifying, vetting, and supporting those challengers needs to begin now.
If Democratic infighting can’t be banished, it at least needs to take a vacation. Encourage great local leaders to run. And to run positive primary campaigns that result in a general election candidate that enjoys united support.
There may be places where an Independent candidate emerges as the strongest option. There may even be situations where a moderate Republican who is also appalled at what has become of the party and the presidency turns out to be the smartest vote in order to oust the Trump-enabling incumbent.
The point is this. The portentous possibilities that were forewarned in 2016 of electing a man so unfit and unprepared are materializing with growing speed and impact. It should not be allowed to continue, but it may. If it does, we can shrug, console ourselves with Colbert, and gradually become desensitized to the new normal.
Or, we do what we can do. Support and read a vigilant press, keeping our opposition informed and intelligent rather than partisan. And act locally, while thinking nationally, to help elect a Congress who will be willing to fulfill its responsibility.
I would like my grandchildren to grow up in a great America. But excuse me if I choose Lincoln’s definition over Trump’s. That would be an America where the “government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
It survived the Civil War. I think it can survive Trump.