Trump’s Days of Future Past

Let’s face it – 2018 was the year of Donald Trump. That’s not to be confused with the president nominating himself Man of the Year, but rather that our entire system of government has been dominated by Trump’s volatility, irrationality and narcissism. As we look back at the year and peer ahead into 2019, it’s impossible to ignore the impact his cult of personality has had and will continue to have on our nation.

The question is: how much longer can Republicans in Congress stand united with this rogue president? It’s clear Trump doesn’t have the necessary qualities of leadership and his surprise announcement to withdraw our troops from Syria, without even consulting his top military advisors, points to the fact that this president may actually be a threat to our national security. Republicans such as Lindsay Graham, Marco Rubio and Ben Sasse criticized Trump’s actions, and even staunch media supporters like Tucker Carlson joined in disapproval, though no single entity has been more integral to Trump’s continued support from his base than Fox News.

Even if they haven’t admitted it yet, Republicans see the writing on the wall (not that Wall) that this man is clearly not competent. It’s not just his disdain for the truth or lack of experience and intellectual weaknesses, but also his insufferable ego. Moving up the departure of James Mattis out of pure petulance is just so typically illogical and ignorant. But that doesn’t matter when you’re hopelessly rudderless.

Even when the president had the right intention, the administration’s execution was often horrific. Relocating our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in Israel made sense, but his impetuousness (where was that “master negotiator”?) gave away any leverage that we might have gleaned from the move. You could have also made a real argument for corporate tax reform, but not a corporate tax giveaway. Negotiating with North Korea over nuclear weapons was a top priority, but the president also messed that up with his insensible declarations and tweets. And while China is a trade cheat, a trade war, based on tit-for-tat tariffs, undermines our economy by essentially taxing working-class Americans who, ironically, are the people Trump claims to be helping. Most other presidents would have gotten our allies on board and made a unified case to the World Trade Organization.

In relation to our allies and this administration’s growing movement towards protectionism and isolationism, Trump is breaking from what’s been 70 years of very successful foreign policy. What he fails to grasp, even though it’s about as hard to miss as the sunrise, is that these are rules that we set up to benefit us. This is our game and people want to play it because we have an enormously powerful economy and formidable military. If the president continues on this very damaging course, not only with our national defense, but America’s financial prosperity, then you have a whole different ballgame.

When does this all reach critical mass? Without addressing the possibility that he may be removed from office, I believe that the president will eventually realize that his re-election is going to be very tough, as he’s going to be challenged in the primary and will face a very difficult general election. Moreover, with the multitude of misdeeds and scandals facing the president and his administration, a new Democratic majority in the House with subpoena powers will undoubtedly launch an array of serious investigations. This doesn’t take into account the Mueller Investigation and legal actions being brought by federal prosecutors against the president and his associates, friends and potentially, his family. And who knows what will else be found once Trump’s tax returns inevitably face examination?

As far as Trump being impeached, a common refrain you hear from GOP stalwarts is that while the House could indict the president, the Senate would never convict him because Democrats would need 20 Republicans to reach a two-thirds majority vote. They point to the fact that Richard Nixon stayed in office throughout the Watergate scandal with continued support from his party. But that’s a slight airbrushing of history, because once the Smoking Gun tape was released on August 5th, 1974, Nixon’s support evaporated in the Senate and he resigned just four days later. Even if Muller doesn’t indict the president, if he does release extremely damaging information, the tide could turn very quickly. While Trump is clearly not the type of president who would resign out of respect for the office, he may have no choice given the number of GOP senators who may decide he represents a fatal risk to their careers. One would hope these decisions would be based on patriotism, but pragmatism may have to suffice.

All this, along with Trump’s actions and the subsequent reactions in the polls over the past few weeks, have redoubled my conviction that he’s not going to run again. In any case, my hope for the good of this country is that impeachment will not be the focus of Democrats for at least the first six months. What they should instead do is show the American people their first priority is on governing and trying to deliver on things that help the working class. (After all, it was the kitchen table issues – like health care, jobs, wages, education and entitlements – that helped them win back the House.) This should include forcing the Senate and the president to respond to a bipartisan infrastructure bill that they can’t refuse. In the end, fixating on hot potato issues like gun control and abortion rights, or getting caught into a war of words with a Chief Executive who keeps lowering the bar for decency and decorum, will get them nowhere. That’s why I’m glad that Nancy Pelosi will remain as Speaker because she knows how to get the votes and she’ll focus on governing.

One more note to my friends across the aisle: sooner or later, regardless of how the government shutdown is resolved, Democrats will have to define their platform on border security because they have been painted as the open borders party. Is it a virtual wall to increase border security? More manpower and inspection capabilities at crossing points? Working with Mexico and governments in Central America to address the social and economic issues that have caused the flood of refugees? All of the above? The bottom line is that, given the current climate, it isn’t enough to stand against Trump’s Wall. Illegal immigration and border security are issues that the American public are deeply concerned about.

Finally, looking back one last time on 2018, I must say as an estranged Republican who has decided to stick around to clean up the mess whenever the Trump era ends, that warning signs to the party were present years ago. Back in 2015, Bob Dole stated that the Republican National Committee should put up a “Closed for Repairs” sign and admit we’ve become a morally bankrupt party. I got excoriated in 2016 for saying that the best thing that could happen to the GOP would be for Hillary Clinton to win as convincingly as possible because we didn’t stand for anything other than being a vessel for the special interests of our wealthy donors.

Ignoring these and countless other admonitions have led the GOP not only to Trump, but also to a despicable dereliction of duty on the Hill, with zero supervision and oversight of a president that has hijacked the party and conned his base. The harsh truth is the only way for real change to happen to the Republican Party is to keep losing elections. We’re not going to shame these guys out of office when they kowtow to a commander-in-chief who models no sense of morality, responsibility or principle.

I wish I could look into the future and see a brighter picture, but right now the dark clouds hanging over the White House dominate the horizon. All told, sometimes things have to get worse before they get better and whether he’s forced out, resigns, decides not to run or loses re-election, Trump’s days in the White House appear numbered. In the meantime, my sincere hope is that Congress will finally step up and do its job to keep this wildly careening administration in check while we wait and hope for a brighter page to turn in the next chapter in American history.