The writing, it would seem, is on the wall. As the respected and experienced Robert Mueller continues his investigation it grows increasingly likely that the trails of illegality will inevitably lead to a historically unprecedented indictment upon a President that a conflicted congress will have to consider as grounds for impeachment.
For many on the political left of centre, or even many on the right, this is a path of natural justice against a man who by almost every intelligent measure is not only inappropriate for the office he holds, but incapable. Indeed Trump is, in my opinion, guilty of both these estimations, however we must take pause to remember, it is not for these offences that he is being investigated.
Based on the limited information we know about the investigation so far (and granted we probably know very little of what the FBI know) it is fairly probable that Trump is guilty of obstructions of justice. This pertains to his efforts to divert Comey’s attention away from his former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
It is an accusation that is entirely believable. Trump is a real estate mogul who would have spent his life leaning on people and attaining favours from his position of privilege, it is more than likely that Trump did this without a single consideration that it was inappropriate for an acting US President, let alone illegal. This is not just believable to many of us, but is completely forgivable to his supporters.
If Trump was found to have directly colluded with Putin during the 2016 election then there would be a significantly higher chance of persuading a large section that voted for him that he was no longer deserved of their support. However there has so far been little tangible evidence of that. It is universally accepted that Putin intervened in the election to assist Trump but there are countless obvious explanations as to why this was in Putin’s interest beyond the requirement of a complicit Trump. Putin detested Clinton and saw Trump as someone more malleable to his geopolitical objectives.
So in lieu of this silver bullet, the congress would be asked to remove a President, proclaimed as an outsider by his supporters, for what could effectively be reduced to a few inappropriate comments from an inexperienced President.
What is wrong with this? Is it not a means to an ends? I am indeed crippled with concern that Trump is doing irreparable damage to the institutions of democracy, not just in the USA but around the world. He has normalised ‘alternative facts’ and his attacks on any media that criticises him is unprecedented. However, as ex-President Barack Obama so brilliantly put it in a recent speech “Trump didn’t build the building, he just put his name on it”.
To suggest Trump started a movement is to give his capabilities way too much credit. He was simply the man that had the stature and narcissism to capitalise on it. There exists within the USA a huge demographic of undereducated voters who have proven extremely susceptible to the notions of conspiracy and political manipulation by an imagined and distrusted ‘elite’. If Trump is impeached due to his interactions with the FBI, this will fortify their convictions, not deflate them.
It would be seen as a perfect example of the deep state effectively persecuting the people’s democratic choice, the man who swore to “drain the swamp” instead being unfairly defeated by it, the man who was ‘feared’ by the political elite removed so it could return to business as usual. Any scenario like this would galvanise Trump’s base and activate them behind a new leader, and it is this man we should be most terrified of.
You see as damaging as Trump is, his damage in blunted by his ineptitude. He has struggled to unite a Republican controlled congress, he has proven fantastically incapable of winning over any element of the left, and internationally he is political poison to almost any other democratically elected leader. His lack of political experience, whilst championed by his supporters, has proven a massive hurdle and could in fact lead to his ultimate downfall (and has at the very least prolonged an already protracted scandal). However, any leader that assumes his mantle should be expected to be more cunning, politically astute, and charismatic.
Whilst Trump unashamedly accepted the support of fringe elements of the populist movement it is actually not known how deeply he shares their convictions. He was generally known as a Democrat supporter for most his life and much of his perceived racism is more of the ‘inappropriate uncle’ variety rather than the hard line white supremacist. The man that would replace Trump (and yes, let’s be honest, it would be a man) would not just accept the support of these groups, he would probably have climbed their ranks. But most dangerously, he would front a movement that would be borderline militarised by a seemingly required defensive stance against the establishment that martyred their previous hero.
Trump needs to fail on his own terms, and he is doing that. So far the great institutions of American democracy are weathering the storm. A nation has been awoken from apathetic slumber and the contrast of Trump against his predecessor is becoming an increasingly apparent marker as time rolls on. Yes there will be an element of Trump’s so called “base” that will invariably support him through any scandal; but with each embarrassing tweet, undeniable lie, and leadership failure, more and more of the voters that he had won over in 2016 will desert him in 2020. A failure by democratic means is the only way to effectively deflate the movement that brought him to power, removing him now will simply ignite it.
Unfortunately for the USA, this is the President you had to have.