The President Who Cried Wolf
Anyone who has been even been remotely paying attention would most likely agree with me when I say, sadly: the outcome of impeachment is pretty much a foregone conclusion. We can hope for enough Republican senators to see the light and succumb to moral conscious, culminating in a John McCain-like party break, but I wouldn’t advise putting money on it. The only thing left is to analyze how this once existential thought experiment became a reality.
At face value, this would seem like Democrats — and democracy’s — worst nightmare. To have such a clear violation of not merely norms, but of constitutional law, and have it be so blatant and undaunted, but to then still have, practically, 50% of the country looking at these offenses and not just, simply, see no wrongdoing, but an act of political genius in the style of fight-to-win gamesmanship.
How has Trump managed to maintain his army of loyal Republican supporters? I would say that it comes, rather simply, down to words. Trump has quipped that he knows “the best words,” and given his current standing of support amongst members of his party — he’s still easily above water with a 70% approval as of this writing — his words seem to be doing the trick at the moment.
It has become manifestly clear given the last 3 years, that Trump’s words tend towards the outlandish and overblown. This tactic has shown to be effective with his Republican allies and their constituents. If he can make it seem that every attack on him and his leadership is an attack on democracy (well, what he thinks democracy is or should be), or an attack on the Republican values he claims to be a crusader for, then he will never be short of Republicans in Congress, and pundits from his favorite news channel, rushing to his defense, no matter the accusation.
Trump would have you think that he is under attack constantly; that there has been a steady barrage of bad-faith actors working day and night to sabotage his presidency. Of course, unbiasedly speaking, this is simply not the case. However, that would require Trump to understand the difference between political opposition — simply a product of liberal democracy — and genuine obstructionism.
I would make the case that the ebb and flow of Donald Trump’s presidency could be tracked merely by the multitude of self-created fires him and his administration have had to put out do to his bombastic verbiage. And this is no more staunchly evident than in the case of his “perfect” phone call, and catalyst of our nation’s third impeachment proceeding.
To witness Trump and his administration chase their tails with a phone call transcript — that they released willingly by the way — would be humorous if it wasn’t so soul-sucking to witness. He can say (and not say) whatever he wants, and suffer little consequences. A politician’s wet dream. His silence is almost as deafening as his words sometimes. For example, you would think one of the easiest things to do in American politics is to condemn white supremacism. The benefits of doing so were, at one point, so clear and pervasive. Not for Trump. Not anymore. He has managed to turn what were once elementary-level easy decisions, and clear right and wrongs into graduate-level ethical examinations.
In fact, the outcome of the impeachment, I would argue, will hinder simply on words. What was said, and what was not said. With his words, “I want you to do us a favor though,” there is simply no way to read that other than a guilty phrase from a guilty man. But I’m sure when, or if, more of the facts come to light, Republicans will try to convince the nation otherwise. Long-and-short, Trump knew what he was doing. That is self-evident. You either see it or you don’t want to see it — so you won’t. And it’s sadly no longer news that Republicans would like to avoid the not-so-friendly fire and ire from Trump to merely, and shortsightedly, protect their election prospects.
Trump has made even the most self-assured among us second guess ourselves… and that’s a feat. He has, I’m sure, lost an extremely self-confident gambler or two their socks. I think I speak for America when I say: this makes us all feel a bit woozy. Like a goldfish whose bowl keeps being convulsed by the “trouble child” at a daycare center.
Be that as it may, Trump should begin to notice, if he hasn’t already, that the hyperbolic rhetoric he has attached with gusto to impeachment is the same blustering approach he has taken since the beginning with non-issues such as his inauguration size. He, and those in his orbit, should start to realize that decrying “treason” or labeling something a “coup” or “witch hunt” will have less and less impact the more they are used. And the power and urgency the president is hoping to garner for his case may, slowly but surely, been seen as not enough. He could be yet another casualty of this megaphone culture he helped create — and I say “could” because prophecy has become a less sturdy profession in the age of Trump. He has fashioned a space where everything is existential and urgent. With an unbreakable tone that like, even those things that were once deemed catastrophic will no longer even worthy of prime time news.
So, what’s the tactic here? The same as it’s always been. Lie. Repeat. Deny. I’m wrong? Prove it. And if you do, watch, no one will believe you or care. The waters have become too muddy to see what’s right in front of us.
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” Joseph Goebbels said that; and it’s an unfortunate turn of events when a Nazi quote becomes so grossly applicable to American life, isn’t it?