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Is the US Political System Beyond Repair?

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

Moving ahead with the impeachment of Donald Trump is a good idea. Indeed, the fact that it is moving forward is a sign of the deep fissures in the ruling class. They are very divided. Even if it is done within the limited parameters hoped for by Pelosi and other mainstream Democrats, the process should expose the criminality of one party of the ruling class and the venality of both.

Despite the claim by some, the impeachment inquiry of Donald Trump and others in his administration is not just cosmetic. Furthermore, because it is part of a process to ensure the government continues—to repair it, if you will—impeachment will not change the system.

However, it can remove Donald Trump and his band of fascists from the seat of power. The fact an inquiry was called by Rep. Pelosi is an indication of just how deep the divisions amongst the ruling elites are. Consequently, the Left should not be diminishing its seriousness or dismissing its potential to expose the criminal nature of the system.

Trump is the third of the last nine presidents to face the possibility of impeachment. Both he and Nixon’s crimes were/are related to the electoral process which, as any observer can tell you, is an easily corruptible process. Trump, like Nixon, is attempting to remake the entire US government into a tool of his wing of the ruling class. It is also the most reactionary and racist element. So was Nixon’s. The difference is the political situation each man faced. Nixon was president in a time when FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society programs had redistributed some of the ruling class wealth to the rest of the US population. In addition, and perhaps because of these programs, a broader swath of the population was politically involved.  Trump rules in a period where that wealth is concentrated among a smaller percentage of society than ever before, thanks to a continuous theft by the rich of the wealth US working people produce. It is a theft that is intentional and it is a theft in which the US government is a willing accomplice. Richard Nixon’s campaign and presidential rule could easily be considered the first victory in the battle to regain that wealth.  Every president and Congress since his resignation continued to play a role in that process.  From the deregulation of banking and the airlines under Carter to the privatization of numerous departments in federal agencies under every successive president; the ongoing tax breaks to the rich and the intensified financialization of the economy, the war of the ruling class on the rest of the population has not relented.

Obviously, a departure of Trumpists (with Trump leading the way) from DC will not end that war.  It could provide some breathing room.  If the left is to play a meaningful role in the post-Trumpist reality if and when it comes, then it cannot look at the necessary impeachment of Trump like the Democrats do. Impeachment is not going to change the nature of the US political system, make the economy fairer or end racism.  At the same time, ignoring or dismissing impeachment because it’s “cosmetic” or just a rearranging of the deck chairs would be a serious misinterpretation of its potential.  The impeachment process is a chance to expose the system itself. The specifics of the charge regarding Trump’s abuse of presidential powers in the Ukraine conversations can only lead to an exposure of his other crimes of corruption.  In addition, the fact that he is not alone in his administration in the abuse of power and the coverup of that abuse could create a situation never before reached in US politics: Trump, his Vice President and other members of his administration could all be forced out before the 2020 elections.  Furthermore, there is the potential that the issues of Ukraine and corruption connected to the Democratic candidate preferred by the Party’s right wing—Joe Biden—could mean the end of his run.

This is what I mean when I write that the impeachment process and all the noise it creates is an excellent chance to expose the nature of the US political system. It is corrupt not because those who enter are necessarily corrupt, but because it serves the ruling elites whose power and riches are based on two fundamental realities: the exploitation of working people and resources and the greed the profits from that exploitation create.  It is the rare politician who does not give in to the corruption the system demands. It is an even rarer businessperson who does not.

If Trump is not forced from office, it does not mean he is not guilty.  It means the system is beyond repair.

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Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

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