I grew up in Southeast Missouri on top of swamp land that was said to have been reclaimed. I spent some time in the swamp hunting ducks and casting for bass. The wildlife habitat was swamp that, despite the best efforts of engineers, persisted. And it came with mosquitos and snakes.
In the 20th Century the word swamp became a metaphorical hinge. The phrase, “drain the swamp”, first used a century ago to characterize self-interested groups of people, has taken on a more contemporary meaning. President Trump frequently uses the phrase to characterize his opposition. Unfortunately the White House has become a swamp squared. Trump brought the insidious side of New York City into the Oval Office.
With apologies to the snakes of my memory and alligators, they have bred in Trump’s Washington beyond the constraints of natural laws. Back in the day, I felt secure with hip boots on; not in today’s Washington.
Historians, always searching for parallels, will find few, if any, when analyzing Trump—at least in United States history. Pride swollen to immense size has certainly characterized not a few occupants of the big house. And bullying was first given memorable recognition by Theodore Roosevelt who referred to the White House as the “bully pulpit.” But, Roosevelt meant it afforded him a great platform for persuading the public to support his ideas.
Trump views humanity as either supplicants or enemies. With few exceptions enemies include any who challenge his leadership. He branded his supplicants with a memorable phrase: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and wouldn’t lose any voters, okay?”
Trump’s other enablers are the far Left who attack his supporters as “deplorables.” The far Left, with their utopian schemes, fail to understand why anyone could be against bigger and bigger government. They sneer at those who fight having more of their hard work socialized.
Trump’s poisonous bullying has shrunk the potential challengers in his Party to almost zero. An absence of strong candidates prevails notwithstanding the likelihood of impeachment (although not conviction) and remarkably low approval ratings despite a good current economy.
Most sane people want to avoid his lethal tongue which has a reptilian rhythm. All those who push back are “crooked” or “sick” or “stooges” or whatever belittling phrase suits his purpose. Fear and intimidation are his tools.
Political Parties, in a two-Party framework, need a lively exchange of ideas and competition between those who aspire to leadership. This is especially true in a two-Party framework. Indeed, competition is an immutable principle in Republican ideology.
As any observer knows, few who run for President ever succeed beyond a tiny footnote, viewed mainly by presidential historians. There is now the possibility that a challenger to Trump can become at least a large footnote by reintroducing some level of give and take in the Republican Party. History is generous to the courageous.
“Consent of the governed” is enshrined in both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. We are approximately a year away from an election that will decide who should serve a four year term as President.
Rancor always attends these quadrennial decisions as the delegation of power by the voters invites sharp disagreement. Yet, I suspect that if there were an entirely objective scale and associated alarm the current level of rancor would be deafening.
Increasingly impeachment proceedings against President Trump are anticipated. There is now an impeachment inquiry which is likely to result in the drafting of Articles of Impeachment and a formal proceeding in late 2019 and 2020.
In early February of 2020, voting begins to select the candidates to run for President ten months later. Impeachment hearings, floor debate, appeals to the Courts over procedural differences and, if Trump is impeached, a trial before the U. S. Senate would undoubtedly take up much of 2020.
Turning a presidential campaign into a trial would capsize any kind of a rationale election process—the campaign would turn on Trump’s retention, not on spending, taxation, foreign policy and the like. And during this two front war of charges, counter-charges, prosecutors, judge and jury the United States’ overseas power would be negligible. Indeed, there would be an open invitation for foreign meddling.
My recommendation. Move as quickly as possible to a censure resolution and vote in the House of Representatives. It is in the House where impeachment hearings are being held and it is the House which must institute an impeachment process. Also, the House of Representatives is the most democratic institution of government and the votes of the individual Representatives will be instructive as voters make their 2020 decisions.
For further information on the use of censure
Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books.