Donald Trump calls for the “expedited removal” of undocumented Mexicans and Central Americans from the United States. This is cruel, stupid, and immoral, but he has the power to make it happen.
Meanwhile, a large and growing number of Americans would do almost anything to assure Trump’s own expedited removal from the White House. His immigration policies are only one of many reasons why.
Calls for his impeachment are therefore on the rise. The cause is just, but the power to make it happen is still out of reach.
Some of those calls come from within the ranks of the Democratic Party, the party of pusillanimity, neoliberalism, and liberal imperialism – in a word, the party of Clintonites.
The conventional wisdom has it that the Party is divided between Clintonites, defenders of the Obama-Clinton-Biden establishment, and remnants of the Sanders insurgency.
This seems right, except that it gives leading figures associated with the Sanders insurgency too much credit. Witness the mediating role Sanders himself is playing. Along with Elizabeth Warren and other “progressives,” he talks the talk – on some issues, at least. But, having gone all out for Hillary, they remain effectively ensconced on the Dark Side.
Tom Perez’s narrow victory over Keith Ellison in the election last week for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee reflected the balance of power between the two sides, and also the nature of their differences. Ellison supported Sanders in the primaries and caucuses; Perez was on Hillary’s side.
Before Trump made the issue moot, Perez was for the Trans-Pacific Partnership while Ellison was against it. On nearly every other “issue,” however, the positions of the two candidates were essentially indistinguishable.
Evidently, Clintonism runs deep in Democratic circles. The Party’s progressive wing is more in the mold of New Deal – Great Society liberalism than the Party’s establishment, but it is essentially Clintonite too.
One reason why mainstream Clintonites are able to hold onto power, even if only by the skins of their teeth, is that the wave of Russophobia that the Clinton campaign did so much to invigorate is now in high gear; and, aided by friendly media, they are making the most of it.
Of all the ways to “delegitimize” Trump, they have seized on that one – demonstrating, yet again, that reckless and potentially catastrophic war mongering is in their blood.
However, the Party establishment’s problem with Ellison had little, if anything, to do with matters of war and peace or any other significant political issue. The problem, for them, was that influential Israel-firsters were opposed to Ellison’s candidacy, notwithstanding his abject efforts to win over their hearts and minds. They considered him an unreliable supporter of injustice for Palestinians.
Ellison’s Original and inexpungible Sin was that, having convert to Islam, he had, decades ago, defended Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, and espoused “radical” views on Israel and Palestine.
For this, Alan Dershowitz threatened to leave the party if Ellison became chair of the DNC. On that account alone, Ellison’s victory should have been a slam-dunk; opportunities like that don’t come along every day! Another notorious defender of the ethnocratic settler state, Haim Saban, the Clintons’ primo “donor,” indicated that he too would be displeased by an Ellison victory. In a better possible world, this would be icing on the cake!
But, the Israel lobby did all it could to assure that Ellison would lose, and so he did – demonstrating, yet again, that the Democratic Party is worse than useless. Democrats deserved Debbie Wasserman-Schultz; Perez is too good for them.
They deserve Nancy Pelosi too. In 2006, when Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate could have impeached George W. Bush, she put the kybosh on the effort – in order not to complicate Hillary Clinton’s (and later Barack Obama’s) 2008 campaigns for the White House.
After their latest “shellacking,” however, even she must be thinking that the Party has nothing to lose by letting the handful of Democrats with backbones call for Trump’s impeachment. She understands that nothing can come of it unless Republicans take the lead, and therefore that nothing Democrats do now will seriously disturb the status quo.
If pressure from the rank-and-file becomes irresistible, all bets are off. But she and other establishment figures are confident that it will never come to that.
From a legal point of view, the case for Trump’s impeachment is strong. Informed observers agree that he has violated the Constitution’s emoluments clause, and it would not take much ingenuity to find additional grounds.
But because Republicans control both the House and the Senate, some significant number of them would have to turn against Trump before he could be removed from office in the Constitutionally prescribed way.
This is not about to happen in the near future; and it won’t happen until Trump’s billionaire cronies, and the Republicans’ evangelical, libertarian, Islamophobic, misogynistic, racist and nativist wings come around to the view that he is no longer useful. For this to happen, Trump’s poll numbers, already abysmally low, would have to fall farther still.
The true “deplorables,” the miscreants whose baser instincts Trump legitimizes, will never bolt. But once it becomes clear to the majority of Trump voters that the man they put in office does not, and never did, have their interests at heart — that he was only taking advantage of their disgust with the Clintonite status quo to enrich himself and his class brothers and sisters, and that they are actually worse off with him in charge than they had been before he conned them – his level of support could well drop to untenable levels.
There is every reason why this should happen, but it has not happened yet. Until it does, impeachment will remain out of the question, no matter how vile Trump’s policies become, and no matter how much of an embarrassment he is to everyone who is not willfully blind.
As long as Republicans think that there is some percentage in staying the course, Trump has the functional equivalent of a get-out-of-jail-free card.
Calling for his impeachment can nevertheless help expand and intensify resistance to his policies, and force him to mitigate his attacks on vulnerable populations. It will take a lot more than that, however, to rid the country and the world of the Trumpian menace.
Fortunately, impeachment is not the only way to expedite his removal.
During the 2012 election season, Mitt Romney called on “illegal” immigrants to “self-deport.” At the time, the idea seemed ludicrous; in retrospect, it seems prescient. Anticipating Trump, Romney was signaling that, if elected, he would make the situation of undocumented immigrants so onerous that many of them would leave of their own accord.
If and when Trump comes to the conclusion that being President isn’t working out for him, it could dawn on him that it would make sense to self-impeach – in other words, to dump himself.
His options are far better than the ones the self-deporters of Romney’s imagination would face. They would be returning to poverty and violence; he would be returning to the over-the-top pleasure domes he had built to glorify and enrich himself.
Even so, it would take a lot to bring Trump to that point; his egotism is that immense.
On the other hand, though, quitting for profit is in his nature. As a real estate and casino mogul, he would cut and run whenever the going got tough – stiffing contractors and workers in the process, but also making a lot of money for himself.
As President, Trump is in way over his head, and it is plain that he knows next to nothing about geopolitics or political economy. But he is a past master at gaming the system and putting political juice to work. This was, of course, before he became the main juice dispenser, but old ideas die hard.
It helped, back then, that Trump was able to pull off his bankruptcies and tax dodges outside the limelight. For the Donald, appearance is all. Therefore when media cannot be satisfactorily managed, the less attention there is to news that is unbecoming, the better.
Not bragging about how much money he was making off the misery of others must have gone against the Trumpian grain; the man is a shameless publicity hound. But it was his sybaritic pursuits that he wanted the world to know about, not his financial shenanigans.
Trump figured out how to fail in business without losing face. Failing in the White House is different. Were he to dump himself, then, like Nixon before him, he would exit in disgrace.
This is probably an even greater obstacle to Trump’s self-impeachment than his delusions about his skills and abilities. But the more militant the anti-Trump resistance becomes, the more likely it is that reality will break through even so.
Meanwhile, everyone should remember that it is wise to beware of what you wish for.
Were Trump to go, the government he put in place would remain; the dismantlement of what Steven Bannon calls “the administrative state” would proceed.
And the Vice President would take Trump’s place. At a policy level, Mike Pence might actually be worse than Trump. Trump is an opportunistic reactionary, void of conviction; Pence is the real deal.
Normally, this consideration would matter a lot more than it does in this case. But, with Trump, nothing is normal. His expedited removal is urgent and important for a reason that transcends the sheer awfulness of the policies he promotes.
Trump must go, the sooner the better, because he unleashes the furies in a sizeable enough segment of the population to cause great pain and suffering to vulnerable populations everywhere, and to do grave, perhaps even irreversible, harm not just to the body politic, but to the entire world.
This will not change; the harm he does is in his nature. It is also in his interests – because without his most odious supporters at his back, he would have hardly any popular support at all.
Trump and/or Pence would turn the clock back a hundred or more years if they could – that is, if Democrats let them. But with Pence in charge, the pride of the nation, one of FDR’s four essential freedoms – the freedom from fear that Americans enjoy and that the world’s “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” yearn for – would remain more or less intact, even as the political compass shifts to the right. Under Trump, that freedom is already in mortal jeopardy.
Communities of color are already bearing the brunt – Muslims and Hispanic immigrants, most of all.
For decades, anti-Semitism – as distinct from anti-Zionism, which is something else altogether — had seemed a dead letter in the United States and throughout the Western world. But it turns out that the germ had only been lying dormant. Trump and his orthodox Jewish and fervently Zionist son-in-law have brought it back to life.
Evidently, it hardly matters what Trump himself thinks; the furies he has unleashed know no bounds.
It is not exactly Trump’s views that bring out the inner fascist in so many people; it is his instincts and attitudes. He says – and presumably believes, for a while — whatever is on his mind, which is usually a reflection of what he happened to have been paying attention to moments before. It is therefore no wonder that what comes out of his mouth is distinguished as much for its inconsistency as its vileness and stupidity.
A coherent ideology would at least impose a semblance of order, but Trump has no ideology, just an implacable desire to enrich and glorify himself.
Republicans don’t have much upstairs, but they do know how to make the most of the weaknesses of others. Trump’s cluelessness about how to govern is a glaring weakness. And so, Republicans rush in.
Trump needs them; therefore, despite his vanity and sense of self-importance, he welcomes them aboard — so long as they do not cross him. He finds them useful for his cause, the cause of Trump. They find him useful, in turn – for getting their agendas enacted. But the emptiness at the heart of it all remains – because the thinking of Republican ideologues is too shallow conflicted to fill the vacuum.
The GOP is not, and never has been hospitable to the life of the mind; its standards nowadays are especially low. How else could the likes of Paul Ryan or Newt Gingrich be taken seriously at all?
No wonder therefore that a thinker of Steve Bannon’s caliber has been able, with the Donald’s support, to make over the Republican Party. It seems that he actually reads books – or at least that he remembers their titles and the names of their authors.
It seems too that he is drawn to nationalistic strains of social and political theory, and to European authors associated with the post-fascist netherworld. Evidently, though, he is also drawn to classical liberal – rightwing libertarian – economic doctrine.
Unlike people who know what they are talking about, liberal and not-so-liberal pundits are impressed. This is good enough for the Donald. In his world, appearance is all; and Bannon can at least pass for smart.
Lucky for him that his reputation rests on hearsay — not on anything he has actually written or publically declared. The last thing Trump needs is scrutiny from anyone who could see through Bannon’s purported erudition, or who is likely to remind a gullible public how dangerous a little knowledge can be.
Wayne Slater and Jim Moore famously dubbed Karl Rove “Bush’s brain” – a fair description and an insult all in one. Trump’s own brain may be good enough for the world of real estate moguls and TV executives, but geopolitics and political economy are way beyond its ken.
Enter Bannon, stage right; now Trump has a Karl Rove too. But all “Trump’s brain” can do is give theoretical expression to Trump’s incoherence. Like so much else in the Donald’s world, Bannon is all about smoke and mirrors, not substance.
One would suppose, for example, that a dabbler in the literature of the European Right would realize that authoritarian nationalism requires a state that dominates the economy, not the “night watchman state” that the classical liberals venerated. The “invisible hand” is nationalism’s enemy, not its friend.
And yet Bannon calls for the “deconstruction” of the agencies through which the visible hand of the state intervenes in national economies.
Thoughtful authoritarian nationalists would be baffled; classical fascists would be appalled. What, after all, does Bannon think “national socialism” was about?
There have been serious social theorists, associated with the historical Left – most prominently, Karl Polanyi (1886 -1964) – who underscored the role of state violence in transforming the “moral economies” that come naturally to persons living in pre-capitalist societies into the kinds of market societies that are indispensible for capitalist development.
But subtle arguments like those of Polanyi and others are not in Bannon’s wheelhouse. As it becomes clearer where Trump and his team of reactionaries are headed, expect to find that Trump’s brain is as muddled as the Great Man himself.
Trump’s effect on his most noxious supporters is the main reason to expedite his removal. Holding his “brain” in check is a close second.
But how to get from here to there? As long as Republicans remain unwilling or unable to rise to the occasion, and as long as Democrats remain useless, impeachment is not in the cards.
Tea Party style resistance to the Democratic Party’s leaders from within the Democratic Party itself, and, better yet, efforts to build a political movement outside the purview of the Democratic Party altogether can improve the odds. But until an organized opposition coalesces, the chances of expediting Trump’s removal from office by impeachment are poor at best.
However, the chances that Trump will see the merits of self-impeachment are better, notwithstanding the humiliation and disgrace.
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), the greatest political philosopher ever to write in the English language, famously described a “state of nature,” a world void of political authority relations, in which individuals are moved by avarice, fear, and vainglory.
In Hobbes’s view, in their natural condition, people seek more and more of everything, fear everyone, and are obsessed with “…trifles, as a word, a smile, a different opinion, and any other signe of undervalue, either direct in their Persons, or by relexion in their Kindred, their Friends, their Nation, their Profession, or their Name.”
Trump seems never to have emerged from this natural condition. No wonder troglodytes love him!
Prudence, rational self-interest, is beyond his ken, just as it was for the inhabitants of Hobbes’s state of nature.
Fear of violent death was, according to Hobbes, pervasive in the state of nature. In that imaginary place, there was no obvious way to diminish the danger. In Trump’s case there is. This is why, if he had the sense he was born with, he would self-impeach just as soon as he can — before the intelligence services he goes out of his way to harm and offend have their way with him.
Other, less murderous, but also powerful forces wish him ill too – workers in the non-intelligence sectors of the “deep state,” for example, and in corporate media (save Fox News), and the foreign policy establishment. Trump has harmed and offended a lot of people promoting himself; they are all waiting to see him fall.
But, of course, he doesn’t have the sense he was born with. All he has is greed, insecurity, and false pride.
For getting to see the back of him, sooner rather than later, this is key: the royal road back to freedom from fear involves using his greedy, insecure, and vain nature against him – by boycotting all things Trump and shaming everyone who buys anything he or his children peddle.
When, for consumers worldwide, the name “Trump,” formerly an asset (for reasons that elude justification), becomes a serious liability, count on Trump taking notice.
By all means, Democrats, and Republicans too should be persuaded to do all they can to secure Trump’s expedited removal from office. But don’t count on them to rise to the level of their moral and political responsibilities.
Unless they are mightily compelled, they will stay true to form and remain part of the problem.
There are many reasons to engage with them, and to do battle with them, but, as matters now stand, ridding the world of the Trumpian menace is not among them.
To be rid of Trump, the wisest course is to attack the man himself — by going after his brand!
When popular sovereignty fails, try consumer sovereignty instead. There would be no way to do anything of the sort under normal circumstances. But there is with Trump. How ironic, but also how emblematic of humanity’s fate in an increasingly irrational capitalist order!
Will boycotts and shaming induce the Donald to expedite his own removal? There is no way to tell. But with the only significant organized political opposition coming from a Democratic Party that is still wallowing in Clintonism and that is encumbered with an establishment whose power has lately been reinforced, there seems to be no better way.