One of the greatest joys of the Trump cultists will be to crow that we were wrong and that we lost, when Donald J. Trump is retained by the Senate. Let me just address that now: no, we were not wrong, and no, we did not lose, because it was recognized at the outset that the chance of removing Donald Trump as President was extremely low.
The chance was (and, as of this moment, is) available at all only because the evidence is overwhelming that he has committed multiple felonies and blatantly abused his authority. This is not arguable, this is not debatable, this is fact.
Another fact is that the Senate is full of Republicans who are already heavily invested in Trump’s continued political survival. They have demonstrated a willingness to support him despite ratcheting up the national debt, despite paying federally for abortion on demand up through the moment of birth, despite attacking free markets and trade, despite elevating our sworn enemies, despite usurping power from Congress, despite betraying our allies on the battlefield…. all items which most of them, and most self-declared conservatives, used to swear were Rubicons for their support.
Well, Little Caesar has crossed those Rubicons and the Senate is politely clapping its approval. Don’t expect me to be surprised that Republican Senators continue to be servile.
The question then becomes: if Trump was expected to be retained by the Senate, what was the point of the impeachment? There are a few answers to that. One was presented yesterday, in “King Putin.” I’ll provide three more of them.
First, and the one most alien to the Trump Cult, is fealty to American principles. While various restrictions and aspirations are codified in our founding documents, some concepts are distinguishable as being distinctively, though not exclusively, American. One of those is a belief that everyone is equally accountable to the law. We even end our pledge of allegiance with that: “…and justice for all.” Another is that honesty and truth matter. Impeaching Trump for his crimes was standing up and defending the country. If this sounds like I’m saying that defending Trump in this was anti-American and unpatriotic… I am.
Second, there’s history. Most Presidents are defined, however unfairly, by a few key events during their Presidency. In twenty years, only a tiny percentage of the electorate will know about the national pushback over George W. Bush’s Dubai ports deal or the IRS scandal under Barack Obama. As critical as they were at the moment, they will be overwhelmed by 9/11 and the “first black President”. President Trump is a man with very meager accomplishments (his most telling, the economic growth during his term, is virtually identical to that of Obama and dependent on the Fed causing a bubble… whoever gets that bubble when it pops may have a defining moment, but the results won’t be favorable if they contributed to it). He will be defined by “impeached”, and from there by his dishonesty and his attacks on our alliances. That’s his legacy.
Third, there’s politics. We are going to see the same effect from Trump’s retention that we saw from Kavanaugh’s ascension to the bench, and for the same reason of a callow Senate. In Kavanaugh’s case, the reasons against him were sparser: accusations of sexual assault which were never conclusively proven, a demonstrated lack of impartiality and judicial demeanor, and a history of statements indicating he was more inclined toward political decisions than firm judicial philosophy. It is unsurprising that these were not enough to derail his nomination; what is surprising, in retrospect, is that they seemed to have a chance to do so. There have been enough other instances of false sexual misconduct allegations to render all such as dubious until they can be conclusively proven; there have been other political lickspittles on the court (my belief is that we have at least two others, at present) and we have had many judges who did not approach topics impartially.
The result from Kavanaugh, and then again the Mueller Report, provides a guide on what to expect after the impeachment trial. There will be an immediate bump in Trump’s popularity, as his energized followers push the narrative that it proves he was innocent all along. That bump will then falter, diminishing over time as evidence continues to come out to demonstrate that the success was based on politics rather than merit.
This is the core reason why the impeachment, even when Trump is retained, will have been anything but a failure. By concluding it now with a show trial, the Republican bump will fade by the time the election comes in November… but the evidence exposed will be used by Democrats, and hopefully worthy third parties and independents, in campaign ad after campaign ad. It will be an albatross around their neck, weighting them further with each revelation to come in the passing months.
No, getting Trump out would be great… but this isn’t Lucy pulling away the football. This is the next step toward getting not just Trump but many of his enablers out of office. I wish only that the people likely to succeed them didn’t have a history of being merely somewhat less corrupt.