“Some Democrats Think Trump Wants To Be Impeached” reads a CNN headline today. The opinion writer isn’t wrong. Similar stories has been presented by other news agencies for weeks, by people who are intimately (some would argue too) familiar with prominent Democrat politicians.
The idea is that Trump is running some sort of multiple-level ploy, perhaps under the guidance of experienced Republican operatives.
I’ve seen this before. It is the same type of concern which plagued the Republicans while they won Congressional seats and national power throughout much of the first decade and a half of this century. Every apparently stupid action taken by the Democrats was, in fact, a devilishly clever plan.
This was how the Republicans sold their constituency on the value of not taking immediate action when it seemed necessary. The fact that Republican electoral failures typically stemmed from massive failures of policy and personal sleaze or stupidity seemed to escape them.
The failure to find huge stockpiles of chemical weapons in Iraq and Congressmen chatting up former aides for gay sex did more damage to the Republicans than all of the political maneuvering by the Democrats, and often all the Democrats were really doing was attempting damage control. It was no different on the Republican side; nominating Harriet Miers wasn’t a sneaky way to get someone else promoted onto the Supreme Court, it was simply the choice to nominate someone Bush knew and trusted over an apparently more qualified, more philosophically consistent judge.
Right now, the concern in Washington is all focused on 2020, and the attempts to jockey for position. Having beaten Hillary, Trump is supposedly being taken seriously as a strategist.
What is being ignored in that equation is that almost anyone, and possibly anything, could have beaten Hillary. All they needed was to be at the top of what was perceived as the “only alternative” ticket, the beneficiary of the binary option. Hillary was disliked by most of the country. The only reason the election was close is because Trump was disliked by even more of the country. Hillary had many avenues to defeat, and Trump was pushed with hundreds of millions of dollars in free advertising during the primaries because the Hillary camp recognized that his nomination provided her best chance to win.
Rick Wilson is a prominent Republican strategist and adviser who has walked away from the party, but he’s far from the only one. The Republicans no longer have as great a network of grassroots and D.C. activists able to leverage the party in various directions; they instead are relying on online advertising and media figures to maintain basic loyalty. Trump’s actions are not part of some grand skein of manipulation. They are, simply, Trump being Trump.
Trump being Trump has resulted in foreign policy failures like the Venezuela stalemate, North Korea’s normalization, and alienation of long-term allies. It has resulted maintaining the borrow-and-bubble strategy long criticized by Republicans in order to maintain a growing stock market and the perception of a strong economy. Prior to the Presidency, it resulted in dozens of bankruptcies and distressed sales of business ventures.
There is a valid debate over the influence an impeachment might have on the 2020 election. It is almost certain that the fight over Kavanaugh, for example, drove Republicans to the polls in 2018 and prevented the Democrat win from being even more prominent than it was. But that wasn’t arranged ahead of time by Trump, nor were the inane statements of people like Ocasio-Cortez. Trump was the beneficiary of others’ actions, not a mastermind.
There may be strong political reasons to not move forward on impeachment. “Trump secretly wants it” is not, and should never be, one of them.