The Problem With Impeachment

| Educate!

Above Photo: Mr. Fish / Truthdig

Impeaching Donald Trump would do nothing to halt the deep decay that has beset the American republic. It would not magically restore democratic institutions. It would not return us to the rule of law. It would not curb the predatory appetites of the big banks, the war industry and corporations. It would not get corporate money out of politics or end our system of legalized bribery. It would not halt the wholesale surveillance and monitoring of the public by the security services. It would not end the reigns of terror practiced by paramilitary police in impoverished neighborhoods or the mass incarceration of 2.3 million citizens. It would not impede ICE from hunting down the undocumented and ripping children from their arms to pen them in cages. It would not halt the extraction of fossil fuels and the looming ecocide. It would not give us a press freed from the corporate mandate to turn news into burlesque for profit. It would not end our endless and futile wars. It would not ameliorate the hatred between the nation’s warring tribes—indeed would only exacerbate these hatreds.

Impeachment is about cosmetics. It is about replacing the public face of empire with a political mandarin such as Joe Biden, himself steeped in corruption and obsequious service to the rich and corporate power, who will carry out the same suicidal policies with appropriate regal decorum. The ruling elites have had enough of Trump’s vulgarity, stupidity and staggering ineptitude. They turned on him not over an egregious impeachable offense—there have been numerous impeachable offenses including the use of the presidency for personal enrichment, inciting violence and racism, passing on classified intelligence to foreign officials, obstruction of justice and a pathological inability to tell the truth—but because he made the fatal mistake of trying to take down a fellow member of the ruling elite.

Yes, Trump pressured Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to give him dirt on Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, and there probably is some. Yes, it appears the U.S. president withheld roughly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine in order to exert leverage over that government. Yes, he attempted to block the release of the whistleblower report that detailed his conduct. Yes, this is a violation of the law, one that many Democrats in Congress see as an impeachable offense.

But this kind of dirty quid pro quo is the staple of politics and international relations. Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence official, was hired to dig up dirt on Trump and Russia by Fusion GPS, a research and intelligence firm under contract to investigate Trump by Perkins Coie, a law firm working for the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Four decades ago, Ronald Reagan’s campaign manager, William Casey, asked the Iranians not to free the American hostages held in Tehran until after the November presidential election to hurt incumbent Jimmy Carter, according to Gary Sick, Carter’s chief aide on Iran. The American hostages were released the day Reagan was inaugurated, in January 1981.

Hillary Clinton, as far as we know, was never on the phone to Steele. Reagan, as far as we know, was never on the phone to the Iranian president. Trump’s fatal mistake was that he was overt in his request and he made it himself. This kind of underhanded pressure to damage political opponents requires skillful hints, secret meetings, carefully calibrated pressure and total deniability. Trump is too clueless to play the game. Because of this he looks set to join the exclusive club of presidents who were impeached—Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton.

Trump, however, will not go quietly into this good night. He will attempt to bring the whole rotten edifice down with him. And he may succeed.

“The Democrats thrive on silencing and intimidating his supporters, like YOU, Friend,” reads a fundraising appeal for Trump that was sent out immediately after the impeachment inquiry was announced this week. “They want to take YOUR VOTE away. President Trump wants to know who stood with him when it mattered most.”

But fundraising from a looming impeachment proceeding will be benign compared with what I think will come next. Trump’s rhetoric, as the pressure mounts, will become ever more incendiary. He will, as he has in the past, openly incite violence against the Democratic leadership and a press he brands as “the enemy of the people.”

There is no shortage of working-class Americans who feel, with justification, deeply betrayed and manipulated by ruling elites. Their ability to make a sustainable income has been destroyed. They are trapped in decaying and dead-end communities. They see no future for themselves or their children. They view the ruling elites who sold them out with deep hostility.

Trump, however incompetent, at least expresses this rage. And he does so with a vulgarity that delights his base. I suspect they are not blind to his narcissism or even his corruption and incompetence. But he is the middle finger they flip up at all those oily politicians like the Clintons who lied to them in far more damaging ways than Trump. Trump was weaponized to stick it to the man. Polls in the 2016 presidential election showed that 53 percent of Trump supporters were motivated by dislike of Hillary Clinton and only 44 percent said they were motivated by support for Trump.

“People no longer voted for candidates they liked or were excited by,” Matt Taibbi writes in “Insane Clown President: Dispatches From the 2016 Circus.” “They voted against the candidates they hated. At protests and marches, the ruling emotions were disgust and rage. The lack of idealism, and especially the lack of any sense of brotherhood or common purpose with the other side (i.e., liberals and conservatives unable to imagine a productive future with each other, or even to see themselves as citizens of the same country), was striking.”

Impeaching Trump would be seen by his supporters as an effort to take away this primal, if ineffectual, form of defiance. It is yet another message to the disenfranchised, especially those in the white working class, that their lives, their concerns, their hopes and their voices do not matter. This huge segment of the population, as Trump is aware, is heavily armed. There are more than 300 million firearms in the hands of U.S. civilians, including 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles and 86 million shotguns. The number of privately owned military-style assault weapons—including the AR-15 semi-automatic rifles used in the massacres at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.—is estimated at 1.5 million. The United States has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world, an average of 90 firearms per 100 people. Mass shootings in the U.S. take place at a rate of one or more per day on average.

Economic, social and political stagnation, coupled with a belief that our expectations for our lives and the lives of our children have been thwarted, breeds violence. Trump, fighting for his political life, will use rhetorical gasoline to set it alight. He will demonize his opponents as the embodiment of evil. He will seek to widen the divisions and antagonisms, especially around race. He will brand his political opponents as irredeemable enemies and traitors. He will demand omnipotence, the power of a dictator. Many of those for whom he is a cult leader will seek to give it to him. For when the magical aura of Trump’s power is attacked, those in the Trump cult feel attacked. He is an extension of them. Trump embodies the yearning by millions of Americans, especially those in the Christian right, for a cult leader.

The efforts by the Democratic Party and much of the press, including CNN and The New York Times, to remove Trump from office, as if our problems are embodied in him, will backfire. Our social, cultural, economic and political crisis created a demagogue like Trump. These forces will grow more virulent if Trump is impeached. The longer we fail to confront and name the corporate forces responsible for the misery of over half the U.S. population and our broken democracy, the more the disease of cultism will spread. It was the seizure of power by corporations that vomited up Trump. And it will be only by freeing ourselves from corporate rule, by rebuilding our democratic institutions, including the legislative bodies, the courts and the media, that we can roll back from the abyss.

If we do not succeed in overthrowing corporate power, the explosive devices mailed to Trump critics and leaders of the Democratic Party, including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, along with George Soros, James Clapper and CNN, allegedly by Cesar Sayoc Jr., an ex-stripper and fanatic Trump supporter who was living out of his van, will become an acceptable form of political expression. Such assassination attempts will, if left unchecked, eventually succeed. Anarchic lawlessness and tit-for-tat forms of political murder will swiftly turn the United States into a failed and terrifying state.

  • “I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and
    causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . corporations
    have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow,
    and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign
    by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is
    aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.” —U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21, 1864 (letter to Col. William F. Elkins)

    Prophetic words from a President of the first U.S. Civil War.

  • ThisOldMan

    If this scenario plays out as foretold, the military protection racket that Kissinger made into the United States’ business model will collapse, the dollar will lose its credibility as the world’s reserve currency, and hyperinflation will follow. The elites will buy gold and flee to New Zealand, while the rubes will be left holding the bag. But all that had to happen someday anyway …

  • Infarction

    Methinks the corporate-owned Democrats in Congress that on most issues are to the right of the buffoonish, belligerent president, are actively seeking Trump’s re-election.

    First they these gerrymandered criminals sabotage Tulsi Gabbard, the only reasonable voice for change in a cluttered field of corporate hacks. She advocates for ending the regime-change wars for profit. Her popular stance would upset the apple cart of the corporate Democrats who feed at the pig trough of the warmongers and energy polluters.

    Then, the Democrats trot out another crooked fossilized, dementia-riddled slime-ball, Joe Biden, who for decades has strung together a long track record of corruption, chicanery and prevarication.

  • Interestingly, very few in the U.S. and Great Britain are buying gold. We’re selling it to Russia, China, India, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, the Baltic States, etc. They (the buyers) know the days of the dollar are coming to a close but the arrogant U.S. and it’s puppy dog across the pond think they can recapture their waning world dominance through economic and militaristic wars. But they’re not winning those wars (Yemen, Iran, Venezuela, Syria, Libya) – all they are accomplishing is the depletion of their own monetary reserves, hastening the de-coupling from and demise of the fiat dollar, and strengthening a growing military opposition alliance.

    The U.S. ‘rubes’ can buy gold and silver. Gold can be had by the gram for under $50 and Silver can be had by the ounce for under $20 as of this writing. Be smart and buy the physical metals – laughably, many of the elites are buying the paper version (stocks and ETFs). When the market crashes and they try and convert their paper gold and silver into it’s physical form, they will find the supply won’t be able to come close to accommodating their demand.

    China holds over $1 trillion in U.S. Treasuries – once the global economic crash is well under way, what do you think would happen to the value of the U.S. dollar if China started dumping those Treasuries? Yes, China would do some financial harm to itself in the process but, they will have pounded the last nail in the U.S. dollar dominance coffin. What’s a little pain when there’s so much to gain?

  • DonaldAlan

    Hedges is always over the top, but always partially correct.

  • chetdude

    I’d say Hedges is always “over the top”, always entirely correct in his analysis and apparently “over the top” still isn’t nearly enough…

  • chetdude

    Ya’ can’t eat gold…

  • PeterPaget

    For all of the repetition of known facts here this opinion does not deal with the here and now very well. It reads like an excuse to let the Mut in the WH off the hook for his compounding efforts to destroy the Constitution and rule the country by dictatorial decree.

  • chetdude

    Now that the awful, disgusting Trump is severely wounded, it would be the height of folly for the democrats to make the fatal step of enabling the republicans to install a more “electable” pResident before next year’s election.

    Especially if they compound the mistake by succeeding in their process to deny a REAL Progressive a 1st ballot nomination next year and instead push a Biden or some such down our throats — to lose again…

  • Steven Berge

    The oligarchs don’t care much whether it’s Trump, Biden, or any of the other corporate sell outs that the republicrats will give us as our “only choices”. That’s why Bernie is the only establishment party candidate that I’ve voted for since the early ’80s. None of my candidates at the national level won, but at least I don’t feel like I contributed to “the show” to keep the rabble mollified.

  • Steven Berge

    There’s lots of warnings, eg: Edward Thurlow, British chancellor in late 1700s- “Corporations have neither bodies to be punished, nor souls to be condemned; they therefore do as they like.”
    1831 – Birth of Ignatius Donnelly, U.S. Congressman, populist and leader of the Greenback movement
    “The newspapers are largely subsidized or muzzled; public opinion silenced; business prostrated; our homes covered with mortgages; labor impoverished; and the land concentrated in the hands of the capitalists…The fruits of toil of millions are boldly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few, unprecedented in the history of mankind; and the possessors of these, in turn, despise the republic and endanger liberty. From the same prolific womb of governmental injustice we breed the two great classes — tramps and millionaires.”

    1919 – Death of former US President Theodore Roosevelt, critic of corporate political contributions;
    In 1905, he stated: “All contributions by corporations to any political committee or for any political purpose should be forbidden by law; directors should not be permitted to use stockholders’ money for such purposes; and, moreover, a prohibition of this kind would be, as far as it went, an effective method of stopping the evils aimed at in corrupt practices acts. Not only should both the National and the several State Legislatures forbid any officer of a corporation from using the money of the corporation in or about any election, but they should also forbid such use of money in connection with any legislation save by the employment of counsel in public manner for distinctly legal services.”

    1782 – Birth of Martin Van Buren, 8th President of the US – on MONEY POWER
    “The MONEY POWER… when firmly established, was destined to become the only kind of an Aristocracy that could exist in our political system.” (Note: Van Buren always capitalized “MONEY POWER” when using the term, which he used to describe banking corporations).