The glue that holds together Donald Trump’s base is not ideology. It is visceral, tribal resentment of the Democratic Party and Never-Trump Republicans which he stokes relentlessly via his tweets and with the help of Fox, the cable news channel that acts, on instructions from its proprietor, Rupert Murdoch, as Trump’s Pravda.
If you need to con people into voting for you against their interests and values and in the face of overwhelming evidence of your moral squalour, the most effective tactic is to get them fearing and loathing your opponent. Of course, you may rip your country apart in the process, but if you are Trump, that is not a concern (any more than it seems to be for Julius Malema and his gang in the SA context).
It is, though, a worry for Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Democrats’ leader until they settle on a presidential nominee next year. Her job is to figure out the best way to fight the cancer on the presidency that is Trump without inadvertently feeding it.
Hence her declaration to the Washington Post that she is not for impeachment unless Trump’s own Republicans are themselves ready to turn on him. That they will only do if stench of his crimes becomes so noisome that hate-mongering will no longer work its magic for him.
Impeachments are political, not criminal, proceedings. The House identifies the grounds. The Senate judges whether they are solid. If a two-thirds supermajority decides they are, the president is removed. As long as Trump can rely on 34 Republican senators sticking by him, he’s safe whatever the Democrat-controlled House decides. At this point, any Republican up for reelection in 2020 would likely face a primary challenge if he or she were to vote to fire him.
There are plenty of House Democrats straining to get started with impeachment hearings right away. They think they have the goods — and the constitutional duty. After all, isn’t Trump’s fixer, Michael Cohen, already going to jail for crimes — campaign finance violations and perjury — which the president himself pretty clearly ordered (and which are a good deal more weighty than the lies about sex for which a Republican congress impeached Bill Clinton)?
Were Robert Mueller, the special counsel, to deliver a report conclusively showing that Trump knowingly sought and received Russian assistance to win in 2016 and then fired FBI director James Comey as part of an attempted cover up, then, yes, one could conceivably see Republican senators going to the White House to tell Trump, as they earlier told Richard Nixon, that the jig was up.
But it is far more likely that Mueller’s report will contain no smoking gun indisputably implicating the president as a witting Russian asset. At which point, expect Trump and his bodyguard of lies and liars to go into full counterattack mode. Asserting complete vindication in the Russia matter, they will declare all other investigations into the cesspit of Trumpworld to be part of the same political hit job by an anti-Semitic party and its allies in the lying press, intent on turning America into Venezuela.
Impeachment proceedings they will call a coup, an attempt by a power hungry mob of unpatriotic leftists to overturn the will of the people, some will even say of God.
Since a sitting president cannot, per present Justice Department guidelines, be indicted and prosecuted in the normal way, the only alternative to impeachment is to vote Trump out at the next election. That, Pelosi rightly believes, is what the Democrats must focus on, building a case as much for themselves as against the villain in the White House. But while she can stop them impeaching, she will probably have her hands full restraining them from playing into Trump’s hands in other ways. They would not be Democrats otherwise.