I am struck by how all this talk about the possibility of impeaching President Trump is also a diversion to avoid the harder truth of the biggest threat facing our country — the Republican voters.
In this sense, the talk of impeachment, removal under the 25th Amendment, the search for some Republican Senator with a patriotic spine is still a search for some sort of societal sanity — a hope that someone like Trump would be rejected because we have a healthy body politic.
But we don't have a healthy body politic, and the reason is the Republican voter. If our political society was healthy, Trump would never have been elected in the first place. And this impeachment talk feels like the same misplaced talk in advance of the last election — where most people, including myself, simply could not accept that a Donald Trump could win a national election. “Surely, he will lose” has become “surely, he will be removed.”
But the problem is not so much Trump as it is the Republican voter. Even now we pretend that these voters are separate from the Republican party — that they are “Trump voters,” or economically vulnerable voters, or (not too long ago) a whole fiction of “Tea Party” voters.
No. These are the same voters who voted for Bush/Cheney (twice), Sarah Palin and Trump — all while seriously considering Herman Cain, Michelle Bachman, Rick Santorum and on and on. These are the Republican voters who today approve of Trump’s firing of Comey by 58%, with another 33% saying that they have “no opinion” on the subject. That’s 91% of Republican voters who approve or don’t care. Let’s do ourselves a favor and listen to what they are telling us.
Obviously, this is not a small problem and the answers are neither obvious nor easy. For my own part, I think it is crucial that Democrats stop treating this as a small problem, and stop treating our predicament and elections as traditional fights. Like it or not, there is now a defining fight for the character and future of the country. Most importantly, it is a fight that goes way beyond Donald Trump.
I am sure there are many important suggestions for waging this fight. Right now, I can think of two crucial steps:
- Democrats have to do everything in their power to listen to, respect, court, support, embrace and empower the movement of citizens that we see showing up at Republican town halls and in demonstration marches. Today, these are the true leaders.
Democrats urgently need to widen their opposition from Trump to the Republican party that supports and votes for Trump. One entertaining illustration is this past week's SNL where the Trump skit included Paul Ryan walking in as a subservient lackey, sniveling that Trump “feeds me dog food.” Yes, this is a silly example from a comedy show, but that example shows more insight than the Democratic leadership has shown. Don’t give these Republican leaders a free pass, and ridicule them for the lack of courage they are displaying.
Finally, to show my point, there is an otherwise fine article on Huffington titled “Yes, Trump Thinks He Can Defeat The Russia Probe.” Give it a read. Other than a few milquetoast, almost exculpatory references to Republican weakness, Trump is depicted as an independent force of nature sweeping across and through our national institutions and norms. NO. Trump is a creature and product of the Republican voters and leaders. He isn't a free-standing, independent, and outside threat to our democracy. He is the natural leader of a well-known and defined movement . . . the Republican voters. Do not let these people escape accountability. Don’t think that you can defeat them by giving them a polite, free-pass.