The Trump regime (it does not deserve the term “administration”) is now in spasmodic convulsions and vulnerable to those who seek to end it by all legal means necessary.
The question is, how to move to the endgame of constitutional removal and the transition of power to a legitimate American government?
And more specifically, what do the anti-Trump resistance on the left and the #NeverTrump opposition on the right have to offer to the American people at this crucial moment? The left and the right have never been so vehement in their denunciations of the pretender in the White House. But do they have anything in common?
To the left, Trump is a racist bully, an ignorant liar and an out-of-control clown who seeks to destroy what is good and decent about America. (Witness his press conference Monday.)
To the right, Trump is an incompetent loudmouth, a shameless prevaricator and an undisciplined buffoon who threatens to destroy the conservative principles that make American great. (Witness his press conference Monday.)
Strip out the differences in vocabulary and you can find some common ground, though we will probably never get the likes of Glenn Greenwald and David Frum to admit it. People who don’t have to make compromises in order to get a paycheck — people like Greenwald and Frum and a lot of other Twitter geniuses — have no vested interest in non-confrontational thinking. Quite the contrary.
The rest of us, desperate to escape from a hellish predicament, may be more open to other approaches.
The question is, is there any real political value in left-right collaboration against Trump? It's a practical question. Can my #NeverTrump friends (I have a few, I confess) help me and my resistance friends get rid of the nuclear-armed clown who menaces my peaceful Washington, D.C. neighborhood?
I think so, and here’s why.
The situation is dire. There’s the mad president and there’s the law and decency. As the president pours out his passionate belief in the supremacy of white people and his contempt for those who don’t share it, his chief of staff John Kelly can only stare into the distance shame. The fatuous notion that Kelly could fix this situation is dead. He could help by resigning and offering some candid suggestions for how the president can be removed from power legally and swiftly.
Time is important. While the shameless neo-Nazis march, a posse of FBI agents, led by a laconic hombre named Robert Mueller, are closing in on Trump and the corrupt clique around him. Mueller is seeking interviews with White House officials, on a wide range of issues: the digital operations of the Trump campaign, that June 9, 2016 meeting about “adoptions” in Trump Tower, and the actions of Michael Flynn, to name but a few.
The embattled regime, never strong on self-discipline, is running scared. When the president called Mueller's investigation a “witch hunt,” the FBI promptly raided former campaign manager Paul Manafort's home before dawn. The special prosecutor’s pedagogical point pierced even the dimmest bulb in a very dim White House: cooperate, or you may be humiliated in your PJs.
White House officials are said to be "stunned." The president is discrediting himself in the eyes of his supporters. This psychological distress is a vulnerability that needs to be exploited now.
A strategy aimed at ending the Trump regime is essential. There are no "magic words" to remove the president, only a political process that can take three forms: impeachment, the 25th Amendment or resignation.
The 25th Amendment process would require a definitive display of incapacity and the cooperation of Vice President Mike Pence. The Monday press conference was, in the eyes of many observers, a display of incapacity. The Congress can and should take up Rep. Jamie Raskin’s astute reading of the 25th Amendment and create a committee to study and document presidential incapacity until such time as Vice President Pence agrees that Trump is unfit.
That day is not near, but it may come. Trump's derangement is becoming apparent even to those like Charles Krauthammer who once derided liberals for "Trump derangement syndrome."
That leaves impeachment, the constitutional mechanism for removing a president who defies the laws of a self-governing republic. Some Republican leaders now claim to be sickened by Trump’s remarks, yet cannot bring themselves to criticize the man by name. As long as these cowards appease a neo-Nazi bully in the hopes he will deliver a tax cut for their donors, the impeachment process is defunct.
The challenge for the resistance battalions and the #NeverTrump brigades is to force a tipping point in public opinion where it becomes politically attractive and defensible for 100 or so Republicans in the House and Senate to repudiate Trump, to declare he is unfit for office and should be impeached. Every outburst from the president's racist id brings this tipping point slightly closer.
Some argue that the tipping point will never tip, that Mueller could make a strong case for obstruction of justice and the Republicans would still do nothing. That's plausible, but not inevitable. Defeatism isn’t really an option when confronting a toddler with a nuclear briefcase.
What the Resistance Can Learn
The resistance could use the help of the #NeverTrump crowd.
The congressmembers and senators we need to convince to vote for impeachment are all Republicans. They are, in general, small-government conservatives, in favor of tax cuts and less government regulation. Some favor immigration reform; more oppose it. Some are pro-choice, but most are anti-abortion. Some were enthusiastic about Trump, more acquiesced out of perceived political necessity. Many seek to disenfranchise voters of color; others condone police violence.
Suffice it say, these Republicans — the ones who aren't white supremacists and have qualms about Trump's fitness — are far more likely to listen to the arguments of the #NeverTrump crowd than to resistance exhortations.
It will be conservatives, not progressives or moderates, who will convince Republican officeholders that moral decency and political survival require them to put the country ahead of party politics. Even if Democrats retake the House in 2018 and impeach Trump, they will still need 67 votes in the Senate to convict Trump, which means Republicans will have to be convinced. What we can learn from the #NeverTrump crowd is how to engage with Republicans and persuade them to end the ongoing constitutional crisis with the remedy of impeachment.
My leftist friends will no doubt say that David Frum, Hugh Hewitt, David French, Charles Sykes, Jennifer Rubin and other #NeverTrump talking heads are untrustworthy, racist, sexist warmongers in the pay of Wall Street and Rupert Murdoch who don’t believe in the Constitution and therefore, we shouldn’t work with them.
I don't think that caricature applies to every Trump critic on the right, or every Republican who might consider Trump's impeachment. There are libertarians who share the left's fear of the Deep State and foreign wars. There are cultural conservatives who loath Trump's louche ways. And there are some neconservatives with blood on their hands who want Trump out. No, we should never forget the crime of the Iraq war, but do we really need to relitigate it now?
Call me a weak-willed, privileged, white, cisgendered neoliberal, but I think moral purity is a luxury I cannot afford with a sociopathic menace living three miles away from my home in Washington, D.C. If Frum or Hewitt or Krauthammer or French or Rubin or Evan McMullin want to help persuade those obtuse and fearful House Republicans that the time for impeachment has come, then I will gladly work with them.
Conservative demonology notwithstanding, we liberals are a tolerant bunch. We know how to work with people of good will who have different points of view. At least I hope we do.
The resistance does not have to compromise its critique of noxious conservative policies, past and present, in order to work with the #NeverTrump forces today. The resistance could endorse the #NeverTrump message to wavering Republicans — it's time to put country ahead of party — without endorsing all or even part of the conservative agenda.
All Americans have a vested interest in removing the unfit president. When we restore constitutional government, our ideological struggles can and will continue. And remember this: The conservative cause will persist whether or not Trump is removed, but if constitutional government is not restored, the liberal cause is doomed.
What #NeverTrump Can Learn
What the #NeverTrump crowd can learn from the resistance is this: It is time to show up.
The #NeverTrumpers don’t have to moderate their critique of the liberalism, leftism, anti-fascism, and other heresies to endorse the resistance message that Trump has got to go.
What anti-Trump conservatives have to do is something they have not done yet: demonstrate their willingness to confront the unfit president for the purpose of removing him from office. The time for "whataboutism" is past. We need a #NeverTrump contingent at each of the nine white supremacist rallies scheduled for this weekend. If the #NeverTrumpers are serious, they need to stand shoulder to shoulder with progressives who say that the president and his racist torch-wielding followers will be defeated legally, morally and constitutionally.
So I say to my #NeverTrump friends, you don’t have to wear a pussy hat or endorse intersectionality (though it wouldn’t hurt you to listen to people who are hurting for a change). You do need to put aside your disdain for all things leftish and recognize what Americans have in common in this moment of danger. And you need to bring along constitutional conservatives and elected Republican officials committed to ending the Trump presidency.
Maybe, just maybe, if the resistance and the #Never Trump movement could rise above their differences and stand together against incipient fascism, they could show the rest of the country how “we the people” can rescue our government. They would show the Congress that the time has come to put country ahead of party and to impeach a disgraceful president.
I know, I know. It’ll never work: Americans are too divided. Which is true. It’ll never work until Americans learn how to put aside lesser differences in service of a greater good. Then it just might work, if it's not too late.