Why Trump’s Obstruction Of Justice Won’t Guarantee A Blue Wave
The upcoming midterms aren’t a referendum on Trump’s legal woes, they’re about what kind of country Americans want.
Before we get started, let’s acknowledge that yes, obstruction of justice is a huge deal and the majority party aiding and abetting it is even worse. The idea that the President of the United States considers himself above the law and has co-opted the ruling party into helping him stop investigations into his long history of shady dealings (so he can continue to enrich himself off of what was once a hallowed office) should be both alarming and repugnant to every citizen of our nation. Likewise, we should be disgusted that his allies launch their defenses of him through outlets favored by conspiracy theorists whose greatest hits include “Sandy Hook was staged,” “9/11 was an inside job,” and ” NASA is keeping child sex slaves on Mars.”
We should also be very concerned that the Nunes memo, hyped up by Twitter bots and professional right-wing trolls, could have burnt British spy agencies, giving the public a peek into their methods and assets. It would’ve been a reckless insult to a century-old ally and yet another sign that America can no longer be trusted as a sane and stable partner, but is now ruled by the whims and concerns of some of its most corrupt politicians, which can change on a dime. As noted by fellow ex-Soviet Max Boot, the United States is an ” empire by invitation,” and its reach is so vast because other nations want to house our bases and make trade deals with our corporations.
By neglecting our partners, then starting simplistic, unfounded wars of words with them, we shoot ourselves in the foot. Everything unfolding now will have grave consequences for all us in the future. In principle, Americans who are fed up with an outsider who wants to run the country like his own personal business and treat our representatives and public servants as his personal employees, no longer trusting the ruling party to make rational or sane decisions about the future of the nation, should vote accordingly at the ballot box. The world will be watching and holding its breath, and we need to make a clear, forceful statement that we will not become an oligarchic banana republic like Russia, and our values will not be compromised by our worst citizens.
But that’s in principle. In practice, 2018 will be a fiendishly complicated set of decisions on how America sees itself and its future, and some voters may just be resigned to let the country slide into autocracy and corruption because they are far too jaded to imagine their vote can help, or because they simply couldn’t care less about anything other than having a job and a bullish stock market. Throw a little money their way, and they’ll happily make do with any form of government. There will also be voters whose economic fortunes didn’t change or changed for the worse, yet they will vote for the GOP because their most important definition of better means that minorities are kept under heel and immigration is severely limited, not whether they can afford rent.
Conversely, with 8 in 10 Americans living paycheck to paycheck and more than 4 in 10 having trouble affording basic middle-class necessities, they simply don’t have the time or the mental bandwidth to debate the rule of law and presidential norms. It’s abstract thinky stuff for law nerds and current events junkies to debate. Their concerns are far more earthly and immediate than the Twitter exchanges of journalists and analysts about historical parallels and legal minutiae. Even the president declaring himself above the law seems like something they shouldn’t have to worry about when the struggle is to put food on the table and mail a rent check that won’t bounce on time.
This is why any Democrat certain that Mueller’s investigation, no matter how it ends or what it finds, and Trump’s fight against it guarantees a blue tsunami come November needs to wake up and smell the coffee. A lot of Americans don’t care what happens to our power and image abroad; they’re never going to leave this country’s borders for any reason, even a vacation. You can’t rely on the right to grow a conscience because they voted for an alleged pedophile and got angry with the media for exposing him, and many have already decided that if The Donald colluded with Russia to win over “the rigged system,” then it was modern presidential rather than light treason, and will hold it up as an example of his supposedly trailblazing and refreshing new ways.
In short, you have to do a lot more than hope for the best because that was the losing strategy in 2016. Our soft power and international relations are fairly abstract concepts many voters won’t care about, and the American economy is so vast that it will take many years to feel the full impact of our deteriorating negotiating power. If you want people to show up at the polls, you need to get into why the Trump administration is dangerous to their wallet and health and highlight its irrationality. You need to ask tough, unpleasant questions to voters and force them to consider the consequences of their answers.
Do they want to live in a country where mass shootings in schools are routine, and the only response is to introduce more guns into the equation and have a round of police-style drills for students and teachers every year? Do they want to live in a country where their tax dollars are used to prop up dead and dying industries in a transparent scam for votes? Do they want to live in a country in which politicians and the loudest, most opinionated citizens, dictate what gets taught in class, and a battery of poorly designed and sloppily graded tests are used to decide their children’s fates?
Do they want to live in a country where a third of the citizens believe only they are legitimate voters and decision-makers while the rest of the nation are traitors and foreign invaders? Do they want these citizens to be able to tell the rest of the nation what to do because politicians get to pick their own voters, using gerrymandering and arbitrary rules designed to make it harder for voters who don’t support them to cast their ballots? Do they consider a system where the precinct where you cast your vote is more important than how many people actually voted a real democracy? Do they want their country to be seen by the rest of the world as a political basket case instead of a leader, and associated with white supremacists and Nazi marches?
Do they like the idea of being citizens of a country considered too feckless and fickle to be involved in important decisions about the world order? Do they care if their interests are sacrificed so the president can get a loan for a project, or his kids’ trademarks get fast-tracked? Do they agree to suffer if those plans go south and the president decides to start a trade war in retaliation for personal disputes? Do they feel fine about a booming economy which still somehow leaves only a quarter of them not scrambling from month to month, nearly half of them unable to cover a $500 surprise bill or afford middle-class basics? Do they care that if this continues, America will start suffering massive brain drain to their economic competitors?
Do they believe more tax cuts with benefits going to corporations, investors, and the wealthy, and runaway deficit spending are the way to fix all of these issues? Do they believe in investing in giving citizens affordable healthcare, improving infrastructure, modernizing job training, and investing heavily in education is a better way to go, building an economy from the bottom up rather than vacuuming up anything not nailed down to the top and told to be ecstatic with the scraps reluctantly thrown back down? Do they believe in a smaller government because it was streamlined to be smarter and more responsive, or small government merely for the sake of small government?
Do they believe in building the future and a government with a vision that extends beyond just hitting the right number of faceless, nameless workers were given a paycheck for sitting in a cubicle the colors of depression and myopia? Do they want leaders who give a damn about a future that propels civilization forward, and are not just out to address the grievances of perpetually angry and miserable elders and conspiracy theorists? And finally, are they tired of our leaders fighting imaginary problems invented for them by professional conspiracy theorists or do they want to keep neglecting the real issues in favor of wasting billions on the advice of clueless cranks rejected by every other administration for incompetence, corruption, or both?
Because this is ultimately what the 2018 midterms are about. Do we keep careening towards living in Bircher Conspiracy Land, or do we make a stand and turn back towards planning for the future so we can lead the world, not help it descend into further anger and chaos? Trump may be a larger than life figure obsessed with being the object of the world’s attention, good or bad, but he’s merely a symptom of much bigger problems conveniently distilled into human form, and his wild antics reflect the cancers of tribalism, fear, and loathing that have been eating away at America for decades.
This is why we have to address not just him and his many faults, but the turmoil, corruption, greed, carelessness, and incompetence that made him president. We will not sway every Trump voter, far from it. They will revert to their natural rebuttals of memes and “Feeling triggered little snowflake? MAGA! MAGA!” But if we show just enough people there’s another way, a better way, and make it clear that we have the solutions, we’re just not being allowed to implement them by angry old men fighting #DeepStateIlluminatiUNMuslimSocialists and giving their buddies ostentatious tax holidays in the process, we may get people on the sidelines, often too jaded to participate, to pay attention and change the game.
Instead of chasing after voters who have long made up their minds and not even the most dire of setbacks will make them change it, we need to engage with the tens of millions who aren’t voting and show them how much can be done if we work as a country, not compete against each other while media personalities in $20,000 suits cover elections and legislation that affects people’s lives as if they were largely meaningless sporting events. We can still turn this ship around and take control of our future. But simply making yet another election about Trump, who will bask in the attention and lead his crowds into xenophobic, sociopathic chants, won’t get us there. After all, we are our own best hope, and no impeachment hearing will be the magic wand that heals decades of increasingly dirty and angry politics. We have to fix it. And voting for sane, sober, rational leadership is our first step to doing so.