WASHINGTON — Forget it, America. It’s Chinatown.
Washington, once the guarantor of American values, is a crime scene. This capital of white marble is now encircled by yellow tape, rife with mendacity, cowardice and corruption. It’s Chinatown on the Potomac.
Robert Towne, the screenwriter of the 1974 classic “Chinatown,” wrote the movie as a eulogy to great things that were lost. He said that he was not conjuring a place on a map but a state of mind: the futility of good intentions.
Or, as Raymond Chandler, the premier chronicler of Los Angeles noir, once wrote: “We still have dreams, but we know now that most of them will come to nothing. And we also most fortunately know that it really doesn’t matter.”
“Chinatown” was set in 1937, right before the war. Like Jack Nicholson’s Jake Gittes, America was naïve about the forces of real corruption, real evil.
“I think the American people are going to have a chance to decide this at the ballot box in November 2020,” Beto O’Rourke said in March, neatly expressing prevailing Democratic opinion on the question of impeaching President Trump, “and perhaps that’s the best way for us to resolve these outstanding questions.”
This is no longer a tenable position. The president’s bungled bid to coerce Ukraine’s leader into helping the Trump 2020 re-election campaign smear a rival struck “decide it at the ballot box” off the menu of reasonable opinion forever. Mr. Trump’s brazen attempt to cheat his way into a second term stands so scandalously exposed that there can be no assurance of a fair election if he’s allowed to stay in office. Resolving the question of the president’s fitness at the ballot box isn’t really an option, much less the best option, when the question boils down to whether the ballot box will be stuffed.
Impeachment is therefore imperative, not only to protect the integrity of next year’s elections but to secure America’s continued democratic existence. If the House does its job, it will fall to Senate Republicans to reveal, in their decision to convict (or not), their preferred flavor of republic: constitutional or banana.
Mike Murphy, a Republican election consultant, recently remarkedthat “one Republican senator told me if it was a secret vote, 30 Republican senators would vote to impeach Trump.” Everyone understands that Mr. Trump is wildly popular with conservative voters, and that Senate Republicans would rather not invite primary challengers by alienating them. But when the legitimacy and preservation of our democracy are at stake, striving to keep a Senate seat safe through craven betrayal of the American people could come at a catastrophic price to the country.
Since 2015, we have been worrying about how much danger Donald Trump posed to democracy. Now, with the impeachment inquiry moving forward, a new question is rapidly gaining relevance: How and when will President Trump leave the White House?
When I asked David Leege, professor of political science emeritus at Notre Dame, about political developments in the near future, his response surprised me. After noting that I had not posed the most important question, he added:
We should not assume that either a 2020 election defeat or impeachment/conviction will remove Trump from the White House.
Both before Trump was elected in 2016 and during his term, he has made frequent references to “my 2nd Amendment friends”’ and increasingly the “patriots” who constitute the military.
Before you decide that this is paranoia, let me point out that Leege is an eminently reasonable scholar, a former chair of the board of overseers of the American National Election Studies and one of the founders of the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems. He has been a valued source of mine for years.
“The country is armed to the hilt,” Leege wrote:
As president, Trump has resisted any effort to curb citizen access to guns and ammo. He puts on a modest show of concern when a particularly bad gun massacre occurs but, in the end, he sees armed citizens as a significant personal asset.
Leege went on to speculate about what might happen in the worst of circumstances:
I think the legal profession, finance, and corporate business would resist Trump’s efforts toward a coup. They need stability to make profits. Perhaps the biggest question concerns the military. Coups are usually backstopped by colonels, not generals. Thus, major barracks could provide him with support. Probably his best strategy to keep all levels of the military loyal to him rather than to the Constitution would be to embroil us in a major war.
Should push come to shove, the pivotal group, in Leege’s view,
is and always has been Republican United States Senators. If enough of them, spread across the country and in the South, see advantage in supporting the Constitution instead of their personal and party’s advantage, they would desert Trump either through conviction on impeachment articles or through the 2020 election.
Everything was unfolding as it usually does. The academics who gathered in Lisbon this summer for the International Society of Political Psychologists’ annual meeting had been politely listening for four days, nodding along as their peers took to the podium and delivered papers on everything from the explosion in conspiracy theories to the rise of authoritarianism.
Then, the mood changed. As one of the lions of the profession, 68-year-old Shawn Rosenberg, began delivering his paper, people in the crowd of about a hundred started shifting in their seats. They loudly whispered objections to their friends. Three women seated next to me near the back row grew so loud and heated I had difficulty hearing for a moment what Rosenberg was saying.
What caused the stir? Rosenberg, a professor at UC Irvine, was challenging a core assumption about America and the West. His theory? Democracy is devouring itself—his phrase — and it won’t last.
As much as President Donald Trump’s liberal critics might want to lay America’s ills at his door, Rosenberg says the president is not the cause of democracy’s fall—even if Trump’s successful anti-immigrant populist campaign may have been a symptom of democracy’s decline.
We’re to blame, said Rosenberg. As in “we the people.”
Democracy is hard work. And as society’s “elites”—experts and publicfigures who help those around them navigate the heavy responsibilities that come with self-rule—have increasingly been sidelined, citizens have proved ill equipped cognitively and emotionally to run a well-functioning democracy. As a consequence, the center has collapsed and millions of frustrated and angst-filled voters have turned in desperation to right-wing populists.
His prediction? “In well-established democracies like the United States, democratic governance will continue its inexorable decline and will eventually fail.”
Rō’bear is going to the Dark side for a few weeks beginning Sept. 14th. Traveling south to check out rumors of a Deep State in the Central Andes along with some fly fishing and of course observance of the daily Pisco Hour. He will procure assistance from local personas de mala reputación y conferencistas invitados residing in Rio Blanco, Portillo & Papudo Chile … then hopefully return with a few stories early October to share with rŌbert devotees.
While the jefe is visiting the Dark Side you can go to the bottom of each page in the Re’por to Older Posts which will take you back in time to past stories from the bad old days.
“It’s the truth even if it didn’t happen” Ken Kesey
Julián Castro framed the debate almost perfectly in his opening statement: The 2020 election will be won or lost in a handful of states, starting with Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and maybe a few others like Arizona, where I live. So the question for Democrats remains what it has been all along: Who can beat President Trump in those states?
That’s the thesis for the Biden candidacy. But last night showed that while Joe Biden, the former vice president, is still the one to beat, Elizabeth Warren remains the most interesting and potentially the most formidable Democrat in the race. If Mr. Biden stumbles, Senator Warren will be ready to make her move.
There was no spontaneous clamor for a Biden candidacy. It was created. He was brought out of retirement because a lot of Democrats think he is purpose built to win those three key states. That’s why Mr. Biden didn’t have to win Thursday night’s debate outright. He just had to avoid disaster, show some signs of life and allow his supporters to continue in the belief that they can cover up his frequent gaffes and the inescapable effects of age and carry him to victory on a combination of a prodigious shower of campaign cash and a media establishment desperate to be rid of Mr. Trump.
But Mr. Biden is dogged by both Ms. Warren and her fellow senator Bernie Sanders. Mr. Sanders has plenty of money, is authentic in his beliefs and has a large but ultimately limited base of loyal supporters. He’s also widely despised by Democratic insiders. His campaign can go the distance if he wants to, but he can’t win the nomination.