Editor: Today’s guest contributor, Mark Baker, is a stay at home dad with a degree in Political Science and a minor in history. Mark is a USAF vet, liberal, atheist, vegetarian, ex-Mormon, ex-Republican, ex-conservative, living in the most Mormon, Republican, conservative state in the country. The following are his opinions in response to the current conversation about the potential consequences of House Democrats moving to impeach President Trump in the wake of the release of the Mueller report.
Just a disclaimer before I rant; I’m directing this toward elected officials, and to a lesser degree talking heads. In the public, these discussions are more reasonable (though I may personally believe them naive), because the public isn’t who is responsible for enacting the function of government that our representatives are supposed to be tasked to do.
I’m genuinely baffled by the level of concern about potential for political backlash, or the idea that since McConnell is a shitheel, it isn’t worth even pursuing impeachment in any fashion.
These are perspectives that are viable in a functioning government whose public is being served and represented and whose elected officials are, at the very least, concerned about the well being of the country.
Failure to impeach (regardless of success or outcome) at this moment would be a tacit admission that our government, as it currently exists, and the systems designed to serve as the framework of that government are irreparably broken and cannot hold up to the slightest challenge from within.
For an elected official to argue that the information contained within the Mueller report isn’t worth impeachment, or isn’t enough to pursue impeachment, and/or that it would be better politically to focus on the 2020 election, is a sign they’re either too ignorant to hold their position, or too cynical or depraved to be fit to serve in their office.
Punting to the electorate instead of doing the job they are specifically called to do under the constitution is the game of an idiot or a cynic.
In two of the last three presidential elections won by a Republican, they lost the popular vote; the reason we’re here today even discussing this is because the election system in our country is demonstrably broken. Why, after losing the White House when they won the popular vote, would any Democrat capable of basic thought trust that same system to correct itself? Why, after electing people to do a job they’re clearly unwilling to do (either because of cowardice or because of corruption, the former being much of the Democratic party and the latter being the entirety of the Republican party in both houses, along with a few Democrats to provide for an utterly useless “both sides” self-defeating argument), would the public have enough vested interest in a government that has been deliberately undermined from within, to actively try to make an effort to attempt change? Ironically, the latter effect is also deliberate, intended by the same people who declared the government the enemy long ago.
It shouldn’t matter whether or not a failure to impeach would be thrown back in Democrats’ faces in 2020; because this is going to be thrown in their faces anyway. It shouldn’t matter, because 2016 proved that no amount of corruption or ineptitude, or even simply actually losing the vote, will prevent someone from winning, and no wizard has waved their magic wand and solved that problem for 2020. In fact, pretty much every aspect of what allowed the loser to win the White House in 2016 will only be exacerbated in 2020, including many of the crimes enumerated in the Mueller report, and it’s more likely that Trump could win reelection with a larger popular vote loss, no matter how “safe” Democrats play it right now.
This is all so absurd to me that I don’t even know how to think right now. If a person had cancer, yet refused to receive treatment because they were afraid the treatment would kill them, their loved ones would likely overwhelm them, trying to show them that even a chance at living is better than accepting death, particularly out of fear of death. If you refuse to risk being treated, all you are is dead already. (And yes, I have had close friends and family in this situation; I’ve sat and watched my sister-in-law die from cancer, treatments having failed her, and I’ve had close friends suffer through treatment to survive. I don’t make this analogy flippantly.) Everything that Trump represents is a collection of preexisting sickness in our country, and he’s simply the massive tumor that has formed that can no longer be ignored. Impeachment is a treatment, and may or may not be successful. But arguing to not proceed with it because the outcome might not be ideal is absurdity defined.
Because in 2020, if the Democrats lose because of the fear of public perception of a failed impeachment, or if they lose because they punted morality to the electorate in fear of bad press, the result will be the same; the cancer that currently exists in our system of government will have metastasized to the point it will be impossible to ever treat. No amount of seats changed will ever be able to push out the acceptance and normalization of ignorance, corruption, and abuse. Failure to implement one of the most important ways in which the branches of government are supposed to check each other, particularly in an instance where not acting on that duty results in one of those branches becoming so far out of reach of the other branches that it will never be able to be reined in again, will be nothing but irrefutable evidence that the government of the United States, as it exists and is written to function, is completely and utterly irreparable.
Any time in the past two years that I’ve heard politicians or talking heads argue that it would be better for the public to remove Trump via the ballot and not via the systems that have been created for the representative branch of government to do the job it is supposed to do, has been infuriating. What, exactly, is the point of electing representatives to represent us, and exercise their authority to do the things they were elected to do, in the way the constitution requires of them, if they refuse to do so and instead point back to us? We did our job. The public already voted, and voted against Trump. That didn’t work, so the job of rectifying that problem should be with the people who were elected to represent the people who have already spoken. Saying that somehow it would be healthier or somehow more valid to simply wait for the next election is so painfully and myopically ignorant (if not outright dishonest) that I feel like there’s no way to attribute the fact that people don’t get called on that idea immediately to anything but a result of the (frequently intentional) general lack of public education in how our government works.
If it is truly better for the public to choose and the legislative branch to not fulfill their duty, then the same people who argue that can’t possibly argue there is any need for a legislative branch to begin with. If it is, in fact, better for us to have to fix problems that are structural in the system without our elected representatives to do it for us, then there is no need for those representatives. Remove them and make everything a direct up or down public referendum, and save us the headache of electing ineffectual people in ineffective roles who are unwilling to do the minimum that role is designed to do. And, if the vote of the people is so much more valid than representation by representatives, then those same people cannot defend not immediately removing the electoral college and also the Senate, both devices that directly undermine the voice of the people, whom they feel are responsible for solving the problems presented to those devices, instead of the representatives themselves. While they’re at it, they might as well dismantle the unelected judiciary, including the Supreme Court, as they’re not directly selected by the public and therefore clearly shouldn’t be chosen by anyone elected to represent the public, as those representatives have divested themselves of the responsibility to represent.
This isn’t a slippery slope, this is a direct and short walk across the hall. An argument that impeachment shouldn’t be pursued, when this is specifically what it is designed for; and an argument that it is better to wait until 2020 for the public to decide, is an argument against the very existence of a representative government. And honestly? If public perception is so easily warped by the outcome of a failed impeachment and the words of a demonstrable liar, then the public proves itself undeserving of the right to choose. Because if that’s all it takes, some lies and corruption, to so easily divide us, then what the fuck is it all for in the first place?
If the risk of losing is so abhorrent that our representatives will accept abject failure to prevent the chance of a slightly more abject failure, over doing the god damned right fucking thing; then fuck em. If “old guard” Democrats are willing to throw people like Warren, Sanders, AOC, and others under the bus in order to appeal to the status quo of failure (because what else can you possibly call a majority group of elected representatives unable or unwilling to do the right thing?); then fuck ‘em. If the people who are elected to serve the greater good of the public are unwilling or unable to do so and exist solely to fight for their own existence and produce nothing, or at best a slight slowing down of the progression of ignorance and corruption; then fuck ‘em. Right now, if House Democrats fail to impeach (again, regardless of outcome), then 2018 was meaningless; having the votes to make Pelosi Speaker served no purpose if that majority can’t do the right thing when it needs to.
If the elected representatives in a cancerous government fail to act to treat that cancer because they’re afraid the treatment could kill them; then all they are is already dead. I’m not a prophet, I’m not even a doomsayer. If anything, I’m railing against the certainty of doom. I genuinely believe this experiment of a nation can be salvaged and even repaired. But I do know history pretty well, and I feel confident in saying that we’re looking down a road that only leads to failure. No nation in history that has had anything remotely resembling a representative government, and even those who didn’t, has ever survived the level of corruption, abuse, and dysfunction that would be cemented by the failure to do what is necessary right now. Some would argue we’re already past that point; that despite its bravado there is absolutely nothing special about the United States from a historical perspective. I fully agree that America has no special protection against failure, but I’m not entirely convinced that things have already gone too far to be retrieved.
But boy, are some leaders doing their best to prove me wrong.
I genuinely believe impeachment needs to happen. It doesn’t matter if it fails. Treatment has to be attempted. If it fails, Democrats still would have done the right thing, and I have to believe that still matters. The systemic problems that got Trump elected haven’t been solved, and if Democrats can’t even move to impeach against clear obstruction (among other crimes), then there isn’t any hope for them to spend that same time fixing what let Trump win (and if Senate Republicans are the roadblock in either instance, they might as well do the right thing on both counts, and at least try). And if they decide to not impeach? Well, then, I don’t know how anyone could argue in good faith that our representative government is anything but a complete and total failure. If doing the safe thing is more important than doing the right thing, when everything is on the line, then I don’t see how any path leads back to ever doing what is right, and I don’t see any path back to viability for the American system of government.
By all means, Democrats should get their ducks in a row with hearings and investigations, should pursue lawsuits to force a decision on any subpoenaed material the Trump administration is withholding. Impeachment doesn’t have to happen tomorrow, but it needs to happen. There’s already enough basis for it, but I’m okay holding my horses a minute to pile on even more evidence. They should impeach even if the public still refuses to budge, even if Republican Congresspeople still refuse to budge, in the face of all the facts and all the evidence.
But I do need to believe movement is possible. There were people who proclaimed they would never falter in defense of Nixon, who at the time made the same arguments that today’s Trump supporters do. But when it mattered, enough people did the right thing to treat the cancer, and I have to believe that can still happen. Because if not, what’s it all for, anyway?