The Nature of Our Political Crisis

Low-angle shot of Trump and smiling lawmakers.
Perhaps you, my reader, feel as I do, that it’s a challenge to act meaningfully in response to the present political situation—despite recognizing that, as the federal government shows signs of veering off course, all citizens have a responsibility to promote stability and work together to avert an all-out crisis.

So many Americans are unhappy—worried—distressed—alarmed—embarrassed—about the state of the union.  We doubt our president’s sanity, and we fear the real destruction that could follow from having entrusted the entire executive branch to someone who is vicious, immoderate, unenlightened.  We are unhappy and disappointed in the condition and posture of the political parties–both the Republicans and the Democrats lack unity, ideological clarity, and discipline.

Trump gained power partly by destroying many Republican reputations; and, since, as president, he has pushed the GOP to support his style of politics and ideological viewpoint, the influence of many moderate Republicans has been checked.  This has further weakened what was formerly the most effective and palatable element of that party, an element that far-right zeal has gradually eclipsed.  Many formerly respected Republicans have disgraced themselves by collaborating with Trump or, by their silence and inaction in the face of his outrageous condescension toward them, have shown themselves to be terrible cowards.  The hearings that placed a maudlin Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court displayed the moral bankruptcy of Trump’s Senate collaborators.

The condition of the GOP is highly worrisome because it is the nationally dominant party.  For nearly three years, Trump has been cannibalizing it, eating its heart out, and injecting it with a virulent moral rot.

Meanwhile, the Democrats remain riven; not only do they remain too weak to determine the direction of national politics, but they have yet to unite around a figure or an approach capable of undermining Trump’s popular appeal.

The condition of the parties and their inability to advance a legislative agenda that could rally the nation behind a set of positive political goals, demonstrates to the nation that Trump is in fact unchecked and unchallenged.  Congress can’t counter the president’s power.  Watching this bizarre situation unfold every day leads many of us to perceive the federal government, and hence the entire republic of the United States, to be dangerously near a breakdown of an unpredictable kind.

That there is no leadership—that there is no coalition mobilizing and unifying an opposition—is perhaps because, though we all perceive the political actions of the president to be highly abnormal, and we all perceive the relations between the president and Congress to be in near-paralysis—what danger we are on the brink of is very unclear.  Personally, I doubt the president can be impeached (that is, I don’t think the Senate has the will to convict him and throw him out–please see the post I have written on this subject), so even if we agree our affairs are in a critical state, the most constructive course is to concentrate on positive politics, on mobilizing opposition to Trump across party lines, and defeating Trump at the ballot box. 

I hope we will see a resurgence of party control and even deal-making among rival candidates—this is the only way to achieve the necessary degree of unity in either party. If the Democrats have a long slug fest like they did last time, there won’t be enough time before the general to get everyone behind the chosen nominee. The challenge is even greater on the Republican side, where I hope we will see some more conventional players (like Romney and Flake) perhaps teaming up to try to rob Trump of the nomination.

The prospect of a unified opposition isn’t too bright, however.  Presidential hopefuls who aren’t equipped to beat Trump or run the country are already throwing their hats in the ring.  If the national parties can’t exercise discipline over such narcissistic candidates, divisions will increase, allowing Trump to retain his ascendancy.  The lost art of pulling together is all-important now.

3 responses

  1. Susan you said in part, ” even if we agree our affairs are in a critical state, the most constructive course is to concentrate on positive politics, on mobilizing opposition to Trump across party lines, and defeating Trump at the ballot box. ”
    I can agree somewhat that our federal affairs are in a critical state. For many years i have felt the dead hand of government regulation and tax strangling my prosperity. I have watched since Jimmy Carter ( very worthy and good hearted person) was president each year freedoms waned and regulation grew. We have had a variety of presidents since then and none of them seemed able to make any meaningful progress at restoring our constitutional republic.

    When Donald Trump began his campaign, no, before that when he sort of stuck his toe into politics at the previous presidential election, I thought he was a jokester with lots of money wishing to fulfill some personal agenda at the expense of our political system. But what he said during the 2016 campaign sounded sincere. He was calling the fake news media “fake news”. I had known that since Vietnam but was surprised to hear a presidential candidate stand up to the obvious corruption within our government and badmouth their town criers.

    President Trump is the president of the people. We wanted someone who had the fortitude to kick butt and take names. He has been steadily doing this by draining the swamp in Washington D.C. He made many promises and has followed through on as many as he has been able to. You said, “the most constructive course is to concentrate on positive politics.” I agree fully with that but believe the most positive political action we can undertake at this time are recall elections for Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

    In fact I care little for business as usual. I want my constitutional republic restored. I want my posterity to live prosperous lives with freedom and respect for fellow Americans. Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer are wasting my time by resisting what we want our government to do. It is a stall that is wasting time that I do not wish to waste. We are born, we live, and then we die. Somewhere in that lifelong period we realize the importance of getting things done today and not waiting till tomorrow.

    For those of you still young enough to not feel the need to hurry a little and get these things done I hope you live long enough to feel that need. Getting older opens your eyes to things you always felt you understood but maybe misunderstood a little. What’s happening in our federal government is not Republican vs Democrat, it IS Patriots vs Pretenders. There are times when it is best to wait and see, there are times to take action. Please support President Trump in his efforts that can help stop the influx of disease, illegal workers, illegal drugs, child prostitution, undesirable criminals. Those persons wishing asylum or any legal entry should knock on the door and request entry.
    David Cordon

    • David, I appreciate your continuing to read my posts and finding common ground for civil conversation. I agree with you that “Trump is the president of the people.” I regard him as legitimately elected. I think his focus on some paradigmatic issues — especially the costs of globalism, the prestige of American citizenship, and the need to concentrate on enhancing the quality of life in this country — account for his electoral victory. No one else has had the courage to stand up to China.

      Many party politicians no longer have any social relation with the people they represent; instead their most vital relationship is with their funders and the social scientists who take and interpret polls. Trump is an old-style politician whose message is authentically his and who conceives of political power as founded directly and solely upon the voters’ assent. This is why he is so unmindful of “the experts,” the establishment politicians, and the press. Given the tumult he is generating, it is worth bearing in mind that other presidents, including Lincoln and Jackson, garnered relentless criticism from a broad swath of the electorate, the press, the political establishment, and defeated foes. It’s difficult to fathom how negatively these “change agents” were perceived, given the political accomplishments we attribute to them now.

      It is not clear yet whether Trump’s rivals or either of the political parties will follow his lead in focusing on fair trade, tighter borders, and the many reasons this country should draw back from its ridiculously naive and costly interventions overseas. As you mentioned in an earlier comment, it would be cheering to see other political leaders begin to address such issues realistically. Many Americans (including many who did not vote for Trump) would like to see a return to more frugal governance, carried out by a smarter and smaller bureaucracy. Unfortunately, Trump’s style is so combative that he is alienating other members of the political class, whereas a more mannerly style might have succeeded in his drawing more allies to his cause.

      Thank you again for your comment.

  2. The legion of GOP Senators and Representatives who willingly, knowingly, and freely collaborate with Trump are loathsome human beings; they should not even be called “human beings.” Trump is a beast; he is not human but some aberration of DNA. He is an agent of Satan; somewhere the mark of “666” is upon him. The GOP elected lawmakers (a shame to even call them that) just want to get their paychecks and hang onto their elected positions, which garner them power and prestige nationally and, more importantly, in their own districts and states. They are all morally corrupt, following a DNA aberration of nature. Good Grief! What a horrid state of chaos our nation is in now.

    Yes, those who can still hear the “better angels of our nature” must rally, organize, and spend to get that ugly “666” out of the White House. . . . Thanks for your finely written post.