Thursday, August 22, 2019

No Time For Losers

James Fallows, in a column in The Atlantic, makes the point that if President Trump were an airline pilot, senior surgeon, CEO of a public company, a United States Navy commander or leader of a university, museum or other public institution, "action would already be under way to remove him from that role." And then he points out that the Presidency of the United States is an exception to this rule, because of the Senate.

"Why the Senate?" Mr. Fallows asks, rhetorically, "Because the two constitutional means for removing a president, impeachment and the 25th Amendment, both ultimately require two thirds support from the Senate." He concludes with "The GOP Senate continues to show us what it is."

But he never tells us what he thinks the Republican-controlled Senate is. Not that it takes much to guess. There are any number of critics of the current Congress, and for people who understand President Trump to be clearly unfit for the office he holds, the fact that the Republicans in the Senate would absolutely acquit were the President to be impeached by the House of Representatives, proves them to be partisans first and interested in the welfare of the nation second.

There is another recent column in The Atlantic, however, that's worth taking into consideration. It was an interview with one Ben Howe, and it's titled, "Why Some Christians ‘Love the Meanest Parts’ of Trump." In it, Emma Green says that Mr. Howe "is angry that Christians claim they support the president because they want to end abortion or protect religious liberty, when supporting Trump suggests that what they really want is a champion who will mock and crush their perceived enemies." This may be the reason that Mr. Fallows believes that "And people who supported him had already shown that they would continue to swallow anything, from 'Grab 'em by…'  to 'I like people who weren’t captured'."

But if this is the case, then the problem isn't really Senate Republicans. Its the fact that the voters who put them in the Senate, and the President in the White House, are willing to overlook a lot in the service of having a President who will be the "champion who will mock and crush their perceived enemies." Accurately or not, the Senators in question understand that they are accountable to those voters, and they will not be rewarded for depriving the President's supporters of their champion. And while they may understand, "in their hearts of hearts" as the saying goes, that the President and his policy priorities are bad for the United States, they understand that the Executive and Legislative branches in the hands of Democrats are worse. As a group, they may not believe that the United States needs Donald Trump to be in office, but it's likely that they do believe that the United States needs them to be in office. And voting to convict President Trump, and remove him from office, is likely to end with some number of them being removed from their offices in the next election cycle.

The idea that the American public lacks any real power in the realm of politics and/or the good sense to use it properly has become something of a cliché by this point. And expecting that to change would be a clear triumph of hope over experience. But so it the expectation that the role of elected officeholders is to deliver messages that their constituents are opposed to hearing, even at the cost of their seats. If one suspects that politicians are venal, corrupted or cowardly, they have no reason to do anything that threatens their own authority. But likewise, if one views them as genuinely public-minded people who ran for office because they honestly believed that they could be of assistance to the Republic, they still have no reason to do anything that threatens their ability to be of service to their nation, unless and until they effectively give up.

If anger at their fellow Americans is what drives people "to swallow anything," then the best way to erode their support for someone who appears to otherwise be unsuited to the office that he holds is to combat the anger. Otherwise, it will simply give rise to champion after champion. And expecting that elected politicians will hold these champions accountable will remain unrealistic.

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