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Impeachment won’t save you

Kevin Taghabon

August 29, 2018

With the walls closing in ever quicker on President Donald Trump, many well-meaning people feel a sense of incoming relief. The sentiment ranges from, “Trump is the American devil incarnate who must be defeated no matter what” and “sure, he’s not the only bad one, but he’s the worst, and the President.” The latest ray of hope for a procedural defeat of the President was delivered by Trump’s long-time and now-ex attorney, Michael Cohen.

In an extraordinary admission, Cohen plead guilty to eight charges, including payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and a Playboy model in exchange for silence about Trump’s extra-marital affairs. Cohen says that the payments were directed by Trump while he was a candidate for President, implicating Trump in a crime himself.

There have been various calls for impeachment votes in legislatures on issues such as the Emoluments Clause (presidents cannot accept gifts) beginning almost since Trump was elected. The most recent one failed 58-364. If Trump is in fact impeached, the collective catharsis will be short-lived. The most important question to ask after celebrating what would be an admittedly enjoyable catastrophe is, “what’s your favourite thing about Mike?”

Mike Pence, Theocrat in Chief

Vice President Mike Pence has already been called the most powerful Christian supremacist in American history. Skin-deep analysis of the 2016 election framed Pence as the more traditional Republican operative who would simultaneously assuage the fears of the Christian right, finance capital, and be the dependable connection between Trump and the neoconservative war salesmen in Washington. There was even foolish analysis in some circles that Trump would be “less hawkish” than Hillary Clinton and that the rest of us should rest easy with Pence as the proverbial “adult in the room.”

Mike Pence is, in reality, a glassy-eyed right-wing ideologue, and an admired Christian extremist. More honest analysis of the 2016 election framed Pence as the bridge between the hard Christian right and the brash Donald Trump. As Jeremy Scahill wrote in the days following the election, Pence has “never waver[ed] in his commitment to America-First militarism, the criminalizing of abortion, and utter hatred for gay people (unless they go into conversion therapy “to change their sexual behavior,” which Pence has suggested the government pay for).” Christian conservatism as sold by Ted Cruz could not win the presidency, but it could sneak in elsewhere on Trump’s coattails. The scheme worked. A full 81% of white Evangelicals voted for Trump despite his toned-down religiosity and previous opposition to abortion, exceeding Mitt Romney and George W. Bush’s numbers.

Disaster profiteer

Among Mike Pence’s accomplishments is the, “disaster capitalism free-for-all that followed Katrina and the drowning of New Orleans.” Pence was the spearheading profiteer in the days after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Louisiana coastline. Fifteen days after the levees broke, the powerful Republican Study Group led by Pence signed off on a policy book full of pro-privatization anti-public services ideas that served as then-President Bush’s guiding light. Pence also pushed to repeal environmental regulations in the Gulf coast itself.

Pence’s resume also contains disasters outside the 50 states. In 2002 Pence was among the most rabid champions of military invasion in Iraq. This position is far more pro-war than Trump’s view on Iraq (which has been inconsequential anyway). Pence was also among those in the DC orbit that peddled the lie that al Qaeda’s attacks on September 11, 2001 were connected to Saddam Hussein. Pence cosigned a military disaster that has torn the world apart in a way that will not heal for generations.

Sexist, anti-queer extremist

On LGBTQ issues, Pence been a prizefighter for the homophobic Christian right. Pence believes that gay marriage is a sign on social decay, as he said in a speech to the Republican Study Committee. Pence also pushed against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2007 because of “religious freedom”, and later said that allowing servicepeople to identify as gay would make the military a “backdrop of social experimentation.” Pence, like Ted Cruz, is also an anti-trans “bathroom warrior”: an American conservative who opposes people’s right to use the bathroom according to their gender identity.

Pence is also a fierce anti-abortion legislator, using his time as governor of Indiana to suffocate Planned Parenthood and deny coverage to thousands of women. He infamously said that the ruling legalizing abortion in the US, Roe vs. Wade, would be “consigned to the ash heap of history where it belongs.” Pence, like most anti-choice conservatives, fails to outline what should happen to women who seek abortions outside of the law. The cruel implication of course is that it is criminal behaviour to be punished.

There is also the the fact that Pence cannot be the “adult in the room” because he isn’t allowed to be the adult in the room if there is a lone woman or a martini in it. International diplomacy of any kind under President Pence would begin with a childish “no girls allowed without a boy” sign on the Oval Office doors. The idea that Germany’s Angela Merkel or the UK’s Theresa May cannot have a one-on-one meeting with the sitting American President because of their gender is absurd.

No solution from Republicans or Democrats

In what seems like a long-gone era, there were once so-called #NeverTrump conservatives in the American political arena. Conservative extremist Ben Shapiro has gone from swearing he would never vote for Trump in 2016 to his independent propagandist. There was even the politically illiterate push to launch a third party challenger under unknown conservative millionaire columnist, David French. The weak pushback from Republicans like Jeff Flake has amounted to nothing. This administration has gone on largely unopposed by elected Republicans (and many Democrats) who see their fortunes as tied to Trump’s.

The Democrats, ever-focused on managerial mechanisms as opposed to politics, seem to forget that the Republicans stole a Supreme Court appointment under Obama and “nuked the senate” to confirm conservative Supreme Court Justice, Neal Gorsuch. Loving rules doesn’t matter if you’re the only team playing by them. More importantly, if the GOP has been willing time and again to break the rules to get their way under Trump, what’s to say it will not happen again? The Republicans have to vote on impeachment in Congress and the Senate, which they both control. Trump retains similar levels of support among his base, with a mild increase in approval among his rural base as the trade war began.

Build the movements

Despite the cartoonish level of corruption in this administration, the lesson to be taken is not simply, “Trump is evil and his friends are evil.” Rampant wrongdoings at the heights of politics are part of our system of power and secrecy. The next government may be worse. The Trump administration has been subject to wet-tissue-paper opposition from elected Democrats and monomaniacal focus on Robert Mueller’s Russia-Trump investigation from the media. They have not delivered, and they are speaking to an ever-shrinking audience. A President Pence would only accelerate the cruel policies that have been laid in place for decades by both political parties.

Donald Trump makes the American psyche most uncomfortable because it is the perfect American product. It brings to light on the lie that institutional legitimacy - winning an election - bears any resemblance to real democracy or justice. Mass movements provide the only real bulwark against climate catastrophe, creeping fascism, and the airheaded demagogues who will come tomorrow. Whack-a-mole legalism is no permanent solution, because the problem is not this president. It is all presidents.

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