One of my favorite questions for Republican Trump enablers is to ask them to name just one of the president’s personal character traits that they’d want their children to share. It tends to elicit deep sighs and deflections, or absurd-on-the-face delusions—he’s a good father! When they attempt to respond sincerely, the only answer I have found remotely compelling is that Trump is uniquely imaginative or ingenious. The truth is we are all in this mess in large part because Trump has an expansive view of the possible. He has placed no artificial limits on his aspirations in business or in life and it landed him in the most powerful job in the world—one he is wildly unqualified to hold, and that most other business executives and celebrities would never contemplate seeking.
So on Tuesday afternoon—as my phone exploded with texts and alerts and schadenfreude-filled FaceTime requests about the transformation of Trump’s campaign manager and personal attorney into genuine felons—I was left to wonder, why does his opposition lack his imagination? Why are so many Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans still wallowing in the conventional wisdom that Trump is teflon, and that only general-election voters can take him down?
As things stand today, that conventional wisdom lags far behind the reality: The writing of his demise is on the wall and it is past time his critics started acting like it.
This is not actually new, so much as it is finally coming into focus. The fact that Trump’s orbit is thick with garden-variety criminals has been staring everyone in the face from the outset. Paul Manafort was a known Russian agent, with deeply shady financial entanglements when he became Trump’s campaign chairman. Michael Cohen is such a walking cliche, he could make extra cash as a Paulie Walnuts stunt double. Trump’s first national security adviser was on the take from, and thus compromised by, Russia, Turkey, and Qatar. I have yet to find a single person in Washington, even among Trump’s supporters, who believe that a thorough scrubbing of the Trump and Kushner Organization books wouldn’t uncover dozens of felony-level financial crimes and fraud offenses. And yes, Trump stooges, Trump has already engaged in a treasonous level of collusion with Russia in plain sight, the President’s and media’s claims to the contrary notwithstanding.
All of these nefarious crimes and misdemeanors are apparent right now—before the New York Attorney General has moved against the Trump Organization, or Special Counsel Robert Mueller has obtained his most significant indictments, all of which are sure to reveal much we don’t yet know.
Against this backdrop, most Democrats seem satisfied with business as usual, banking on a midterm wave this fall, and Republicans—even those who privately dislike the President—either continue to openly enable him or have abandoned the political field altogether.
While Trump creatively fights for his survival, his opposition has tried nothing and is all out of ideas.
Somehow the conventional wisdom in Republican Washington has congealed and everyone agrees that this criminal, beset by scandal, facing a continued onslaught of revelations convictions, and confessions is an unstoppable force who cannot be challenged.
Are we sure about that? Like, really sure?
Take Marco Rubio, who is the kind of politician who might fit the bill of a Trump primary opponent were he not a human wet noodle. Last week, he said this about the prospect of a challenge: “I’m not primarying the president, and no one else should either, unless we want to lose the White House.”
For starters, maybe it would be good to lose the White House if the only other option is ceding it to a traitorous criminal!
But let’s put that aside for a second and address Rubio’s political analysis: that the GOP’s only hope of maintaining its grip on power is if Trump runs unimpeded.
What the fuck do you know, Marco?! What do any of us know?
A reality show huckster became the president—nobody predicted that except the Dilbert guy and Bill Mitchell. And now that he’s in there, said huckster has the lowest approval rating of any modern president at this point in his term, and he’s got two and a half years of scandal-plagued news cycles ahead of him. Is it really unimaginable that an outsider who isn’t saddled with this administration’s baggage could have a better shot at winning in 2020? We’re just going to throw in the towel because of some warmed over assumptions about primarying sitting presidents? Did we not learn anything from 2016?
The fact that the only Republicans discussing a Trump primary in Washington are Bill Kristol and retiring Arizona senator Jeff Flake shows just how sclerotic and corruptible the entire establishment is. None of these guys even supported Trump originally but everyone except Justin Amash and Ben Sasse have become children of the Trumpian corn, and even they seem happier to live among the possessed than to attempt a rescue operation. There are more than 280 Republican elected officials in Congress. Not one of them sees any potential benefit in challenging this venal president? Of being recognized by a large segment of the population as a hero? This makes no sense. For any potential Trump challenger, the worst-case scenario is getting stuck with a mean nickname, losing a primary, and winning lifetime sinecures on corporate boards, university faculties, and a cable-news network. Sounds a lot better than being in Congress to me.
And while the complicity in Washington is limited to Republicans the lack of imagination certainly is not. I can’t believe I’m writing this but…where is the Democrats’ Ted Cruz?
Elder Crooked statesman Dan Pfeiffer argued recently that the Democrats’ baseline moral and political position should be obstructing every Trump nominee for the rest of his term and I’m left to wonder—Why isn’t the entire party taking him up on that?
A basic obstruction strategy from an ambitious Democrat is not only defensible but it is the smart political thing to do. If I were Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) or Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) I’d be chaining myself to the Senate dais like an environmental activist protesting the uprooting of an endangered redwood. Democratic obstruction is, of course, limited by GOP control of both the House and Senate but these Senators have options available to them beyond writing “Mr President, sir!” tweets—and that goes double for the miniscule GOP-cuck caucus.
Trump’s election drove many people, myself included, into a state of self-doubt, which generated defeatist assumptions about his stranglehold over the electorate, and the opposition’s ability to impede him. There were good reasons for that, but it is long past time to shake off the spell.
We learned explicitly this week what we’ve all known deep down for a long while: Trump is at the center of multiple, broad criminal conspiracies. He’s corrupt to the core. Trump may never get the comeuppance he deserves, but as soon as someone deploys the powers of his imagination to the cause of defeating him, his political machine will begin to falter.