Sunday, December 8, 2019
BTRTN: A House Impossibly Divided. Now What Are We Going To Do About It?
Sure, the report issued by the House Intelligence Committee is stunning in its scope and precision in articulating the impeachable offenses committed by Donald Trump. Wake up, lefty: it is not going to change a thing. Read this piece at your peril. Steve is going to tell you that now is the time to roll up your sleeves and go to work.
For longest time it was going to be Mueller.
The great patrician Princeton patriot and imperturbable nonpartisan pillar of propriety, Robert Mueller would be the perfect person that conservatives would actually listen to when he pilloried the President about impeachable offenses. Certainly, we all felt, Republicans would listen to Mueller, and when he spoke, they would turn on Trump in an instant.
Then, in an instant, they didn’t.
But progressives did not lose hope. If not Mueller, then surely, Obi-Wan, there is another.
Then had been that brief dream that Don McGahn would willingly publicly testify about what he supposedly told Mueller. Nope.
There was Anonymous. Who does not understand that remaining anonymous serves no purpose.
John McCain tried, but he died just as his influence was waning.
When senior officials – like H.R. McMaster, James Mattis, and John Kelly -- started to leave the White House, there was the hope that one of these seeming patriots would speak publicly to the behavior that they had witnessed and condemn the President as unfit for office, and the dam would break. Republicans would turn on Trump. Guess not.
When Mitt Romney was elected to the Senate with more popularity in his own state than Trump, the hope was that he would be emboldened to openly challenge the President within his own party. Eh, nah.
More recently, there was the whistleblower, and then a parade of dignified and credible career foreign service experts Marie Yovanovitch, Fiona Hill, William Taylor, and Alexander S. Vindman, whose testimony in aggregate utterly devastated Trump’s assertion of a “perfect phone call.”
There were gushing comparisons to John Dean when Trump loyalist Gordon Sondland openly broke from the White House and said that yes, there was a quid pro quo, and yes, “everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.”
Now there is a fantasy that John Bolton can do what no one has been able to do.
Even better, we are now on round two with Don McGahn. Now that the courts have ordered that McGahn must testify before Congress, progressives are a abuzz that surely Pompeo, Mulvaney, Barr, and other high-ranking Trump loyalists can be forced to testify under oath… and that this will finally turn the tide.
We’ve even heard pundits breathlessly whisper that if all else fails, Chief Justice John Roberts will preside over the Senate trial and will amaze everyone by taking an activist role, wounding Trump in the most critical phase of impeachment.
Then, Adam Schiff’s committee turned in an utterly devastating portrayal of a White House oozing slime out of every pore. Trump’s approval rating among Republicans? Immovable.
Through it all, and in the face of Einstein’s theory of insanity, there lingers the belief that somehow, at some point, someone with credibility in the conservative community will rise up and declare that the President has no clothes. Someone will have the guts to publicly announce the obvious: that the presidency of Donald Trump represents a clear and present danger to our democracy, our rule of law, and our standing in the global community.
It is still widely believed among progressives that such a mythical being exists – some sort of Big Foot with a single horn – and will be able to revitalize the power of fact and convince Republicans that they must abandon Donald Trump.
Turns out Trump was right along about one thing. He could go out and shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue, and his supporters would not budge.
In fact, if Trump did shoot someone, he would probably say that the shooting was perfect, just like the phone call.
The perfect crime. Just like hijacking the office of the Presidency for personal gain.
And what would Republicans say about that shooting on Fifth Avenue?
Some would say it didn’t happen.
Some would say it happened but he didn’t do it.
Some would say that it doesn’t matter, because you can’t prove it.
Fox would tell you that it was just so much fake news perpetrated by The New York Times, The Washington Post, MSNBC, CNN, or CBS.
White House lawyers will assert that the police have no right to conduct any investigation of any kind into the actions of a sitting president.
Some Republicans would say that he did it, but because he is the President, and he had every right to do it.
Some would say that the investigation into the shooting was an illegitimate exercise undertaken by the President’s adversaries deep in the bowels of the police department who were using the excuse of the shooting to attempt an illegal coup on the president.
And, of course, there would always be the final line of defense in case somebody actually had a iPhone recording of the President pulling the trigger and blowing someone’s brains out. Republicans would say that it was a bad thing to shoot somebody, but it was not an impeachable offense.
Republicans will recite whatever set of words that enables them to look themselves in the mirror without feeling shame, whatever the words they need to say that get them through the night as Jiminy Cricket flatlines on their shoulders.
After two weeks of unambiguous testimony that impeachable offenses have occurred, no minds have been changed.
And when Republican Congressional Representatives began to champion that idea that it was actually Ukraine that meddled in the 2016 Presidential election and not Russia, any fantasy that reality would play a role in this process was sealed. Turns out Republicans would rather advocate for Vladimir Putin than for the Constitution, the entire intelligence community, or fact.
Republicans are eagerly lining up to do the work that the President of Ukraine would not. It didn't even take a $400,000,000 quid pro quo. Just saving their own skin and their own jobs.
Where does it go from here?
The House vote on the inevitable Articles of Impeachment will fall strictly along party lines. Trump will be impeached, but – again, voting strictly along party lines – the Senate will fail to convict him, and he will remain in office.
In a little more than six weeks, President Donald Trump will go on national television when the Senate impeachment trial has ended and announce that he has been fully vindicated, wholly exonerated, and that it has been proven – once and for all – that the deep state efforts to stage an illegal coup on his Presidency have been thwarted, once and for all. He will instruct William Barr to open an investigation into the parties that caused the United States to “waste billions of dollars on endless witch hunts” to undermine him. My bet? In a flourish akin to spiking the football in the end zone, he will announce the name of the whistleblower on national television… yet another illegal act, another hail of gunfire on Fifth Avenue that will go unpunished.
The failure of the impeachment will only embolden Trump to do more to subjugate his party and slide his grubby hands onto the levers of power in Washington, D.C.
We will emerge from the impeachment and acquittal of Donald Trump at the most polarized point in our nation’s history since Fort Sumpter.
We are a house divided against ourselves.
Perhaps we could probably muddle through if we were simply dealing with a house that was divided into two equally valid perspectives.
But it is not.
It is a house divided into a half that believes in facts, and a half that does not.
It is a house divided into a half that plays by the rules, and a half that does not.
It is a house divided into a half that seeks illumination and information, and a half that searches for propaganda and justification.
It is a house divided into a half that worries about the world it will pass to future generations, and a half that is only concerned about immediate gratification and its pocketbook.
It is a house divided into a half that believes in science, and a half that believes whatever it wants to believe.
It is a house divided into a half that believes that all men and women were created equal, and a half that is clinging to a decaying status quo of white male privilege.
It is a house divided into a half that wants to be united, and a half that wants to be divided.
To be sure, it is a house that stands in Washington, D.C. at the opposite end of Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. But it is also thousands of small homes across America, where talk of politics ruins Thanksgiving, rends families, or has simply been declared impermissible by desperate heads of household hoping that the center can hold. It is a house shaped like the United States, with clusters of blue rooms on each end, and a large swath of red rooms in the center.
It is, in the end, one large house that was long united, but now is a house divided against itself.
And it cannot stand.
What are we going to do about it?
My brother Tom and I were recently invited to speak about the Democratic Presidential race by a women’s political advocacy group based in Stamford, Connecticut called “Women On Watch.” And, WOW, in addition to having a great acronym, they have a profound slogan: “Democracy is not a spectator sport.”
Democracy is not a spectator sport.
Our government and our elected officials are failing us… we, the people.
A vast number of elected officials of the Federal government are failing to living up to their oath to uphold the Constitution. They are hiding the truth, and hiding from the truth. They are placing their own good ahead of the good of the citizenry. They are waging an internecine war in Washington, D.C., designed for the purpose of maintaining hold on the levers of government, even if that means destroying the constitutional underpinnings of the government itself.
This sloppy, brutal internecine war is causing our government to grind to a halt.
The government is not doing the work that must be done. Anyone who believes that Trump will be brought to justice through the institutional mechanisms of government designed for oversight, checks and balances, and the rule of law must now take a moment to google “Einstein’s definition of insanity.”
When the government is unable or unwilling to function, the only hope for our democracy and our country lies with its people. The only way we are going to be certain to find our way out of this horrific mess is if every citizen accepts his or her responsibility to act.
There is only one truth that matters now: there are more of us than there are of them. If every eligible Democrat votes for the Democratic Presidential candidate in 2020, we will win. The math is that simple, and it is that obvious.
But that also points out the grave danger: in the end, the matter of whether the majority of our citizens lean left of lean right is utterly irrelevant. The only issue is who comes out to vote.
It is just that simple and it is just that clear.
The impeachment and the trial? Hey, if you think that the outcome is going to be different than we laid it out there, have at it. Stay tuned to MSNBC all day. But just understand: simply watching the impeachment proceedings is a spectator sport.
Democracy, however, is not a spectator sport. It requires action.
The fate of democracy rests with you and me. We, the people.
As we enter the year of the most fateful election of our lifetime, the question will become: what action are you, personally, willing to take to protect our nation and our democracy from another four years of destruction under the depraved leadership of Donald Trump?
Yes, there is polarization in our country, and we often think of it in terms of progressives vs. conservatives, Democrats vs. Republicans, Red States and Blue States.
But the form of polarization that will have the most impact on our nation in 2020 is between activists and abdicators.
If Democrats sit on the sidelines of the 2020 election, expecting others to do the work of democracy, we could easily fail. This election is a call to arms for all citizens. It is now time to act. It is time for all hands on deck.
There are a countless reasons that people do not get involved in political campaigns. People say they are busy. They have other commitments that are judged to be more important. They think that the efforts of one individual won’t make a difference. They think that they live in a solidly blue state so their efforts will not actually change the outcome. They simply don’t know how to get involved.
Sure, you’re busy. We all are busy. But in 2020, it is time to realize that the future of democracy in America is actually more important than two of your weekly visits to the gym. It is more important than binge watching a new series on Netflix or the cooking show on HBO. It is more important than polishing your Instagram avatar. It is time to look in the mirror and ask yourself where the future of this country and this planet stands on your priority list. No one is asking that you consider this election to be more important than your family, your faith, your health, or your employment. But it is yours to ask whether this election is more important than the hours devoted to hobbies, relaxation, and self-indulgence.
Can’t figure out how to get involved?
Join an organization. Women on Watch is a great model. It is nothing more nor less than a group of concerned citizens who wanted and needed a mechanism to turn their frustration, alienation, and anger into productive action.
Live in a state that is so deeply red or blue that you feel nothing you do will matter? Your efforts may indeed have more consequence if you join a national organization like Indivisible. Check out their website. Their mission is “to cultivate a grassroots movement of literally thousands of local Indivisible groups to elect progressive leaders, realize bold progressive policies, rebuild our democracy, and defeat the Trump agenda.”
Go for it.
Or, just google “progressive organizations in the United States.” Talk to a friend who is involved. You may think there are dozens of reasons not to get involved, but there are hundreds of ways to get involved. And a million reasons you must get involved.
Think it won’t make a difference? If millions of progressive Americans had not risen and committed to action to help Democrats in 2018, we would not have flipped the House of Representatives, and there would not be an impeachment inquiry or the stunning report that that Adam Schiff’s Intelligence Committee just released.
This country was founded when ordinary citizens realized that their very freedom was contingent on their own personal decision to take action.
What are you going to actually do in 2020 to rescue our nation from a collapse into ignorance, xenophobia, bigotry, and deceit?
Is it worth forgoing a few spin classes, a few cocktail hours, and a few movies?
The time to answer that question is now.
Don’t wait until that adorable six-month old grandchild of yours turns seventeen and asks you what you did when the country was about to fall irretrievably into the hands of Donald Trump and his Republican pimps, who destroyed our democracy, our standing in the world, and our climate.
Because that day will come.
She will ask: “What did you do, Grandpa? What did you, personally, do?"
"Did you support him? Did you oppose him? If you opposed him, what did you do to fight him?”
Seeing the blank, helpless, guilty look in your eyes, she will pause.
”Or were you too busy?”
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