From my vantage here in Chicago, I can sense the forces in favor of Donald Trump’s impeachment and removal from office building among Republicans on Capitol Hill. Even as David Brooks has insisted that impeachment is a political mistake, even as Tamara Keith and other analysts see political “tribalism” as ineluctably binding Republican legislators to President Trump, one can read events as building toward a directly opposite result, and one very liberating and propitious for all the perplexed Republicans now “hiding in the tall grass,” uncharacteristically quiet and desiring at all costs to avoid the press.
One sign of a change in Republican sentiment is that vocal defense of the President has stopped. Until lately, leading Republicans have eschewed impeachment as a spurious partisan maneuver, insisting in the face of the Democrat-led initiative that the president is innocent of any action meeting the Constitution’s definition of an impeachable offense (“treason, bribery, or high crimes and misdemeanors”). Since September 19, however, when word of the President’s efforts to strong-arm Ukraine into giving him political dirt against Joe Biden began circulating, the White House has itself supplied prima facie confirmation of Trump’s determination to use his official powers for personal ends.
With remarkable speed, the president has moved from doing wrong in private to openly testing the proposition that he can do no wrong. He has breezily defended his actions as a matter of “style.” He has gone so far as to make public statements at odds with his Constitutional duties and responsibilities, denying the legitimacy of, and declining to cooperate with, the House impeachment inquiry, and railing against the “phony” emoluments clause.
The President has moved onto dangerous new ground, all but thumbing his nose at anyone who would insist that he adhere to the Constitution. This was the significance of Mick Mulvaney’s open admission of a quid pro quo: Trump expects his fellow Republicans to tolerate his dirty dealings and “get over it.” As though the Constitution is something to go beyond.
Everyone who passed civics grasps that Trump is violating federal election laws. Once fair elections go by the boards, nothing will be left of the republic, either.
As public servants who have their own oaths to uphold, their own powers to wield, Republican lawmakers can hardly fail to notice how Trump is blossoming into a fearful liability: a president without fealty to their own political needs or principles, an interloper who, having cannibalized their once “grand” party, is intent on desecrating its remains, as in his disastrous unilateral decision to withdraw US troops from Syria and abandon the Kurds. Trump wants Republicans to do more to defend him. Yet why should congressional Republicans remain loyal to a president deviating so wildly from his Constitutional job description, which is to execute the will of Congress and respect its laws?
Republicans are supposedly afraid of cutting Donald Trump loose. What, really, would the downside be? After Trump’s removal from office, the very conservative Mike Pence would be the incumbent president. Trump’s much-talked-of base supposedly wouldn’t like this, but let’s face it, this is something no one can know. What will Trump be, when the amplifiers are turned off? The Republican Party is still lousy with political talent (much of it in abeyance). Boosted back into a commanding position through a gutsy act of patriotism, the GOP could find redemption, enjoying a new and more broad-based popularity. It could even remake itself in time to beat the Democrats in 2020. Nikki Haley, anyone? She’s on a long list of Republican alternates published the other day in the Rolling Stone.
Image: Black and white screen-shot of Donald Trump just before his inauguration,
© 2019 Susan Barsy
“If Republicans Ever Turn On Trump, It Will Happen All At Once” (FiveThirtyEight)