Two years ago this week, deep into the temporal void known as the Post-Xmas/Pre-NYE Interzone, the reality of an incoming Trump presidency settled over me like a shroud over a corpse. MSNBC’s phalanx of former intelligence officers, polysyllabic consultants, and, best, disaffected George W. Bush abettors remind the audience that the institutions Trump has dedicated himself to destroying have withstood the assault. Nonsense. We need bedtime stories, though. Institutions won’t save us, argues Scott Lemieux, for “the institutional failures began with Trump assuming office in the first place.”
It would take unprecedented courage from Senate Republicans to vote for conviction. Lemieux is correct: for the sake of these same institutions we should sigh with relief that the Framers made impeachment/conviction mathematically impossible in all but two cases (I don’t doubt Barack Obama would have watched C-SPAN as the ayes for his removal from office rumbled in the Senate chambers). Democratic oversight and voting for another man or woman in his place are the only ways to eliminate this contagion from our system:
Congress may not remove Trump, but House Democrats actually conducting oversight makes it marginally more likely that American voters of various stripes will reject Trump by a large enough margin that even the anti-democratic mechanisms of the Constitution and active Republican vote suppression can’t save him. It may be that the institutions our Founding Fathers created will not save us, but the citizens about whom they were so worried will be able to save ourselves.
The Obama presidency as a legislative promotional thing stopped in January 2011 when John Boehner picked up the Speaker’s gavel before the sans-culottes in his caucus smacked him on the head with it; the nominations for regulatory agencies and Supreme Court justices ceased when Dems lost the Senate three years later. Recall that Harry Reid’s elimination of the filibuster for federal judges at least resulted in the unclogging of the stoppage, in retrospect a necessary response to a genuine emergency, despite the tut-tutting of the talk show coffee klatch.
Similarly, the chaos in the GOP caucus has prevented the House and Senate from sending any bill but the tax cuts to the presidents desk. It takes no imagination to see how terrifying a Washington united under the standard of Mordor might’ve been if the GOP didn’t believe that it serves its interests best to oppose, obfuscate, and abjure the act of legislating altogether. And as a major newspaper revealed yesterday, the most nefarious deeds affecting the health and safety of millions of Americans get done by those agencies mentioned above. A New York Times story published yesterday revealed the extent to which the Trump administration and energy industry polluters have collaborated on hastening the putrefaction of Earth:
Since taking office, Mr. Trump has consistently sided with powerful economic constituencies in setting policy toward the air we breathe, the water we drink and the presence of chemicals in our communities.
In the process, he has frequently rejected or given short shrift to science, an instinct that has played out most visibly in his disdain for efforts to curb global warming but has also permeated federal policy in other ways. Mr. Trump has expressed skepticism about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. His administration supported rolling back safeguards for workers exposed to some toxic substances. And in rolling back nearly 80 environmental regulations, he has regularly played down findings that bolstered the need for the rules in the first place.
Rather than mourning the decay of norms that the chattering classes and party satraps had no qualms about flouting themselves, point out how Trump is the vessel through which callous, self-pitying, imagination-free, and stupid men and women have fucked us since January 1981. To stop them, vote as enthusiastically in 2020 as we did in November 2018.