Many Americans find our President crass, an ego-driven male drama queen, and an embarrassment. He has us frequently careening along a risky edge, using tactics (or reactions) that might be either purposely or accidentally brilliant, or exactly as overly inflammatory as they appear to be. Are we being led over the brink into World War III or will 45 somehow turn authoritarian world leaders into devoted Trumpers (heaven forfend). Just what we need, an alliance of sharks. What could go wrong? Perhaps we have taken our freedoms for granted. Perhaps we have demanded too many human rights.
Unseating an American President
Many of us like to think that we can find a way to unseat a President we feel is unfit to serve and who we feel will teach us hard lessons about how important our freedoms are and how there is no such thing as asking for too many human rights, until all humans own the rights to a productive life. We pin our hopes on the only Constitutional measures we have, impeachment or the 25th Amendment (a President can be removed if he proves unfit to serve). But you cannot impeach a President unless Congress wishes it and will vote for impeachment. With the Republican Party in charge of Congress and becoming more and more the President’s party, we understand that impeachment is not a possibility. The problem with the 25th Amendment is the pesky little detail that the President’s unfitness to serve must be provable. Proof of someone’s mental state is highly subjective unless they are incoherent or involved in harmful anti-social behaviors (and most adult Americans would have to agree about this).
Since this spoiled man-child also seems to have done an end run around the emoluments clause in the Constitution which prohibits a President from making money from foreign entities while in office, our next move has been to get shut of a person who does not have the moral fiber to be President. Previously Presidents have made trusts for their businesses to wall them off so that their personal money cannot be used as a lever of power against American interests. Previously Presidents also have been willing to present their tax returns in the interests of transparency. It bothers many of us that Trump flouts Constitutional law and tradition as he does, but our documents do not suggest repercussions.
There is also the problem that this American President, even before his election, stepped around our allies and embraced America’s enemies. He asked a nation like Russia, who we have no reason to want to be beholden to, for favors, and then used his favorite way out – consistent and vociferous denial – until we question our own sanity. We worry that we may have elected an actual crook, involved in money laundering, to sit in our oval office. We look to Robert Mueller to prove that our President did anything at all that could be proven to be illegal, or, perhaps, treasonous, but many warn us that Trump may not be caught in this web and that he does have ways to stop this investigation however terrible the optics of this would be. Mr. Trump seems unconcerned about optics.
Since we seem unable to inspire our President to use a style of governing that is less hair-raising, less slash and burn, the Democratic Party has put in some solid work to recruit new, younger, and more diverse Americans to run for office on the left and to flip the majority in, at least, the House – to take back one branch of government, to restore our system of checks and balances. Will it be too little too late? Have the Dems let the GOP get away with their seditious machinations for too long? The 2018 election looks to be the best of all our options, a “blue wave” as they say, is essential to keeping this President and the GOP from wreaking havoc on our Democracy, a path he is already blazing with a vengeance.
Threat Levels and “Spidey” sense
Should Democrats and their allies be setting the threat level of the Trump-GOP government at Def Con 1 or are the Dems overreacting? Government-by-Tweet is one facet of the Trump Presidency that ups the threat level, but it’s difficult to tell if this is dangerous or just un-Presidential. However, our “Spidey” sense tingles.
We see our American President seeming to cozy up to Russia, China, Turkey, the Philippines, all nations with authoritarian leaders, and excoriating our old and loyal allies and world organizations that have backed and multiplied our power, such as the UN and NATO. Up another threat level.
We see a man who honors no bargains made by anyone except him, willing to alienate anyone in the interests of negotiating simply to prove how good he is at “the art of the deal”. The Paris Climate Agreement Accord, an admittedly toothless agreement, at least consolidated a global commitment to acknowledging and attempting to address possible causes of global warming and climate change, has been abandoned and disrespected by our chief deal maker. This seems like another attack on the other 190+ nations who signed on. He puts his marker on a denial of science, but what if he is wrong (which evidence suggests he is)?
In fact, insulting friends and even some of our rivals seems to be our President’s main MO for keeping everyone riled up, while fomenting uncertainty, and even astonishment, seems to be his sole negotiating style. He is not a nimble negotiator, switching tactics or using subtlety; he is a thug using language to belittle and then clubbing away at whatever matter he wants to change, hoping to beat everyone around the head and shoulders and pout and accuse until he gets his way. What do we gain by alienating everyone on the planet? It seems we don’t get good deals and we lose anyway in the end (as in win a battle, lose the war). Are your senses tingling yet? Does this kind of thing raise the Def Con level?
Our President cannot even seem to honor a tiny promise made by a previous President to a group of children and young adults, brought here by parents when they were too young to even understand their parent’s actions, the Dreamers. When did we start backing out of agreements made with children, a promise to let them stay in America if they are in school or have a job? Why is the DACA agreement being used as a bargaining chip to force Democrats to stop trying to block policies that are against their ideological mindset; to coerce them to look like there is bipartisanship when it is convenient to the GOP, even after the shoddy treatment offered up by the GOP over the entire duration of the Obama administration? (You could replace Dreamers and DACA with CHIP and this would still make sense.)
We are back to threats such as shutting down the government as another way to coerce Dems to look like they will bend over when even a very small, withered carrot is held out (although there is always the possibility that it will be yanked back at the last second, like that football that Lucy taunts Charlie Brown with). Do we dare extend a hand when it will likely be rejected? If we allow ourselves to be insulted at a moment when power is so one-sided, when our anger is likely to be unrequited, how much face do we lose. Should the Democrats knuckle under and let the Republican/Conservative way play out? Will it be as disastrous for America as we think it will be? Even if the Conservative way will play out regardless of what Dems do isn’t it better to be on record with our heartfelt objections and our warnings about the dangers faced by our Constitution and therefore our Democracy/Republic? Perhaps we are only at Def Con 2.
We wish that the book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House had been written by a more reputable person than Michael Wolff. It is telling that so many insiders seemed to make the same judgements about the President’s unfitness to serve. But since we are not sure about the author, and it is difficult to prove that insiders said the things that the book claims they said, this book is unlikely to get us any closer to unseating this President than have his refusals to honor the traditional interpretations of the Constitutional admonitions for proper Presidential behavior.
Not Everyone is On Board
Clearly, from my recent interactions with family and friends over the holidays and a few other family rituals, there are many Americans who are not at Def Con 1 or even Def Con 5. They claim that they hate politics, that they are not political (although they are, and vehemently, if you offer up any criticism).
They use evidence from what they see around them in their everyday lives, lives which are circumscribed by their finances and their neighborhoods. They see an improvement in the economy and they see rising employment. They are almost all retired. They do not have to work. They have health insurance. They have grandchildren who are turning out well, with a few worrisome exceptions. Most of the parental generation did not go to college but their children did. Their children were too young to be parents of millennials and just old enough to have stepped out of college into the job market while it was still strong. These offspring possess skills that have kept them employed. The “kids” have been promoted and their salaries have risen with their promotions.
Members of the parental generation are worried about rising health care costs but they blame Obamacare and immigrants/refugees and are happy with Trump’s hard line on immigration, although they may no longer be quite so gung ho about repealing Obamacare.
Their conclusions about America are based on anecdotal observations in their everyday lives and by their own feelings of well-being. It’s a small sample, perhaps 100-200 individuals and not a very diverse sample. But there are other circles of friends and family all over America who describe the same experiences, which offers them proof that Trump and the GOP are doing a good job.
Too many of them listen to FOX News or are too busy to pay much attention to any news. Their desires are simple and involve hanging onto financial and physical comfort and enjoyment of their growing small family dynasties. Vacations and socializing play a big role in the life of retirees who can afford it, which adds to their sense that all is well Their “Spidey” sense is not tingling. The contentment and complacency, along with effective propaganda which supports it, make it more difficult to communicate a sense of the danger. It is difficult to convince people who have not yet experienced even the future negative effects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that our Democracy seems to be under a rather extreme renovation, a reconstruction, which could leave us with an America which would be unrecognizable to our forefathers and eventually even to us.
Where Does that Leave Democrats?
So, the hair-on-fire Democrats, the Democrats who feel the threat level rising are finding the resistance movement or even a clarion call for a blue wave is missing people who should be on board but who have not had enough of a shift in their fortunes, or who have been convinced to blame those who have already felt that shift. We cannot count on most of white America to assist in the blue wave we need in 2018. Fortunately, there are many folks with college educations and minority folks already impacted by Conservative racism and “othering” to turn the tide given a fair election. Although things feel quite urgent, our Democracy may prove to be more resilient than we think. But if we become the CSA (Conservative States of America, funny, same as Confederate States of America) it may be decades before we are able to turn things back around to offer opportunities to advance for the middle classes and the poor.
This is a view from the cheap seats.