Saturday, April 20, 2019

Impeachment Is A Kobayashi Maru (and we should still do it)

The day that the fuller version of the Mueller report dropped, I realized that the impeachment situation is a Kobayashi Maru scenario for opponents of Donald Trump. For those who don't know, Kobayashi Maru was a training exercise for Starfleet in the Star Trek universe where prospective captains were put into an impossible situation. They could try to rescue the civilians aboard the namesake ship, but would be destroyed by the enemy. The point of the simulation was not to guess the correct course of action, but to show how officers would react in bad circumstances.

Impeachment is a Kobayashi Maru because there are two options: to allow a brazen criminal to continue to occupy the presidency, or to exhaust political capital in what will be an inevitable failure to unseat that president. As has been obvious from day one, Republicans will follow Trump to the gates of Hell. They happily defended his breaking up of migrant families and tossing their kids into cages. They signed their deal with the devil, and now there's no going back. In any case, he is the key to their wildest dreams of unfettered capitalism and Christian dominionism. Even if ten Republican Senators defect (which will never happen), the Senate still would not be able to unseat Trump.

A lot of folks, including in the Democratic Party leadership, have made this calculation. They are concerned that this inevitable failure would boost Trump, allowing him an easy path to reelection in 2020. They are more rightly concerned with how focusing on Trump takes air away from appeals on issues like health care that are the party's winning advantage.

I've been thinking long and hard about this, but impeachment needs to be done. If failure is guaranteed either way (which it is), then doing the right thing actually becomes a lot easier. The pragmatic option doesn't exist. The question becomes simply this: are we going to give a proven criminal president a pass, or not? I do not see how we can live with ourselves if we refuse to carry out the Constitutionally mandated remedy for this situation.

It can also be carried out in a way that does not backfire, or where the consequences are at least mitigated. The message on impeachment can be intertwined with the "bread and butter" issues. Investigating the Trump finances (which aren't even part of the Mueller probe but are by far where most of the crime goes on) will dredge up all kinds of stuff. The message gets pretty easy: "Your tax return went down last year, but Donald Trump set up a system where people like him don't have to pay taxes." Any serious look into his business empire is going to turn up all kinds of stuff (just listen to the Trump Inc podcast), revelations that can be capitalized on, so long as Democrats run an economically populist campaign. This will be crucial, because with the economy growing they need to not just talk about "jobs," but about compensation, health care, child care, etc.

Ever since Trump's election, the country's politically apathetic soft middle has yearned for a "return to normal." This I think is secretly one of the Democratic party's biggest advantages in the 2020 election. If you spend time talking to so-called independent moderates, they tend to frame things in maddeningly imprecise generalizations. Last time around it was "I don't like either candidate" and people who deep down didn't like Trump ended up casting their vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, which in key states was effectively a vote for Trump. One of those garden variety suburban dipshit opinions could easily turn out to be "I'm just tired of Trump. I just don't want to have to care about politics." In that case, impeachment might actually be able to help Democrats.

And speaking of the soft middle, political corruption is something that most voters dislike. It's the reason Trump kept talking about "draining the swamp." It turns out, of course, that this was not about ending corruption, but invoking the kinds of metaphors for the opposition beloved by fascists. Impeachment hearings will dredge up things that are public but which have been allowed to leave the headlines, as well as brand new stories.

The danger, of course, is that the soft middle white suburban dipshit opinion after the Senate clears Trump could easily turn into "I guess Trump did nothing wrong and those Democrats ruined my life by putting all this stuff in the news that I didn't want to think about." That won't end so well.

Be that as it may, impeachment has to be attempted. Not just because the president has been proven to abuse his power (the basic litmus test of impeachment), but because if we take our political ideals seriously we MUST take action. And though failure may be inevitable in the short term, in the long term the Republicans will never be able to shake the stigma of their support of this criminal. Future generations will look back and know who was in the right.

I am reminded of another time in American history when a political faction held the country hostage against the demands of justice. In 1860 Lincoln gave his famous speech at Cooper Union in New York City, where the prairie politician moved his skeptical east coast audience by reminding them that slavery was wrong and nothing could ever change that. He ended his speech thus: "Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it."

We know we are right. We know our duty compels us. Time to act.

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