A truism of American politics assumes that a politician’s reelection campaign begins the day after s/he wins an election. This has been especially the case for Donald Trump, the nation’s 45th president.
The current public phase of the Congressional impeachment hearings of Pres. Trump is a critical part of the 2020 election effort. At this time, it is assumed that the House will investigate and present charges of impeachment concern the 45thpresident, and the Senate will conduct a trial and determine his guilty.
In all likelihood, the House will move to impeach Trump and the Senate will find him not guilty. However, as more testimony from Congressional interviews are made public and more people, particularly federal officials, tell their tales of woe live before the media, the political landscape may change. Trump appears to have sought to employ – exploit – the full power of the federal administration to further his 2020 election prospects.
Testimony has identified the key Trump administration officials assigned to implement the Ukraine effort to acquire possible damning information about Joe Biden. Trump used Congressionally approved military aid valued at about $400 million and the desire by Ukraine’s recently elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky, meeting to force an investigation into Biden. They are known as the “three amigos” — Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the European Union; Kurt Volker, then an envoy to Ukraine for its peace negotiations; and Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
Ambassador William Taylor (of Ukraine) identified these officials as part of the “irregular” apparatus who played key roles implementing Trump’s apparent abuse of power. Subsequent witnessed have corroborated the general consensus as to Trump’s intentions. Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff, and Att. Gen. William Barr appear to be complicit in the effort and Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, appears to have led the effort. Still other officials might be identified.
New critical revelations might emerge, particularly from unexpected sources. As has repeatedly occurred, Trump is notorious for assailing those he was once close to but ultimately discarded. This is evident in his treatment of former Att. General Jeff Sessions and former Sec. of State Rex Tillerson. Trump treated John Bolton, his former national security advisor, with similar contempt and Bolton’s testimony – if it happens – might be explosive. Similarly, if Trump jettisons Giuliani like he rejected his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, one could only guess what might be revealed.
The Trump impeachment hearings will likely play a critical role in the 2020 presidential election now underway. In the 2016 campaign, Trump’s showman-like bluster and misdirection captured the ad-dollar hungry hearts-and-heads of corporate media execs who knew a good story and chased it for every rating point they could. They promoted Trump as a sure-thing audience grabber and helped him win the Republican nomination and presidency.
Like an old-fashion circus ringmaster, Trump knows how to play to the paying crowd. He appears to instinctively know the art of misdirection, of how to keep the audience’s attention focused on where the show’s alleged magic is supposed to be (i.e., center stage) and away from what’s important (i.e., behind the scene).
Trump expertly played this game with regard to what he calls immigrant “invaders”, his foreign policy gambits (e.g., N. Korea “negotiations”, China tariffs, Venezuela sanctions) and – among his latest favorites – the four Congresswomen who he assailed as unpatriotic, un-American as well the Ukraine whistleblower who he has repeatedly assailed. In 11-or-so months until the 2020 election, Trump’s targets of ridicule and/or false bluster will likely be replaced by others that will be as easily superseded.
Trump’s electoral legitimacy was initially tarnished by two factors. First, he is only the fifth president to have lost the popular vote but secured victory through the questionable Electoral College. Other Electoral College winners were John Quincy Adams (1824), Rutherford B. Hayes (1876), Benjamin Harrison (1888) and George W. Bush (2000). Second, Russian involvement in electoral disruption detailed the Mueller Report cast double among many as to the 2016 election’s legitimacy.
His inauspicious electoral victory has been compounding by the profound incoherence displayed during nearly three years in office. As commander-and-distractor, he daily orchestrates a grand media spectacle. His latest verbal rants, catch-and-throw exchanges with reporters or late-night tweets offer up a mash of false claims, contradictory statements and outright lies that too often determine the establishment print and video media’s daily news stories.
However, Trump’s victory secured legislative power for the capitalist elite and the Christian right. The ruling class, through former Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and others, secured one of the greatest wealth-enhancement windfalls in U.S. history; the fossil fuel industry (oil, gas & coal), with the backing of the Koch industries and Sec. of Energy, Rick Perry, have expanded; the religious right, through Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) secured two arch-conservatives to the Supreme Court; and VP Mike Pence has reinvigorated the culture wars and its effort to end a woman’s right to an abortion.
To date, Trump has yet to confront a real crisis. Sure, he’s made his dutiful – if half-hearted and campaign-rally-like — appearances following devastating hurricanes, fires and mass killings. But these are really only sideshows, epiphenomenal occurances that allow all presidents to strut their “humanitarian” stuff. But what if, as some “experts” and media pundits are speculating, the nation faces a serious economic downturn next year? What would blame-someone-else Trump do?
Such a “crisis” might involve either a domestic or foreign development. For example, the growing instability in the Middle East could lead Trump to declare a “targeted,” “limited” war against Iran or like George W. — what’s-going-on? — Bush, a supposedly simple military incursion could easily become a nearly two decades-long failed imperialist standoff. Similarly, if a recession or significant slowdown in the nation’s economy took place, the distractor-and-chief could turn it into a chest-pounding call for patriotism and national unity while railing at the Chinese, the European Union or some other third-party.
The Trump impeachment hearings will play out over the next few weeks if not month. At this time, it appears that while the House brings charges against him, the Senate will not impeach him.
Unless something profoundly consequential is revealed, the House hearings and/or Senate trial will likely only stiffen the resolve of Trump hardcore loyalists. Nevertheless, if more details of a Trump/Giuliani conspiracy to exploit the federal administration for personal political ends are revealed, especially from someone like Bolton or Mulvaney, some of the more “moderate” elements of Trump’s supporters may have second thoughts about backing him in 2020. Numerous media reports identify suburban women as at risk of deserting Trump and they could prefigure a greater Republican shake-up yet to come.
Trump will likely not be impeached, but the erosion of his base and the possible loss of Republican House and Senate seats may be a far better outcome of the current Washington circus.