US Politics

Are the Democrats serious about government?

BY David Waywell   /  4 July 2018

Among the many myths that have grown up around the Trump presidency is that one piece of shameful evidence that will bring him down in a tangle of hair weave and mangled Twitter thumbs.

From the beginning there was the so-called “pee-pee tape” but other more realistic (and more broadcast friendly) candidates have since emerged. Some are the subject of Tom Arnold’s upcoming show titled “The Hunt for the Trump Tapes”, in which he specifically goes after tapes from the filming of The Apprentice. Arnold hopes this is a chance to prove to the country that Trump is racist, misogynistic, and cruel. “My goal is for Donald Trump to resign before he really destroys—you know, to keep pressure on him,” he explained in an interview with Politico.

It’s a clever idea for a silly project that would have America’s first Reality TV President brought down by Reality TV.

Yet if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Donald Trump during his presidency, it’s that he’s immune to almost all bad news. This is the reason he would often boast about shooting people on 5th Avenue. Trump’s flaws were already factored into his election. Conservative voters who are favourable to him are favourable because of the very reasons that others find him so objectionable. It’s not even a matter that his base forgiving him for his sins as much as his base embracing what for them were never sins. “Racism” is simply speaking openly about the problems of racial integration. “Misogyny” is a derogatory term that Democrats use whenever they want to discredit the traditional American family. A rich man having numerous affairs is simply a law of nature. Even cruelty is recast as strength.

Arnold’s plan is flawed in the respect that it assumes that America’s political landscape is defined by California Democrats with their progressively liberal views. When Trump falls — as he surely will, sooner rather than later — it’s still unlikely to be caused by scandal. Robert Mueller’s investigation might yet cause him considerable political pain but Trump’s downfall is still more likely to be caused by the normal motions of politics in America. It has always been hyperbolic to suggest that the Republican Party bought into the Trump narrative. The phrase “Party of Trump” is used but rarely explained. It presumes loyalty to Trump when, in fact, the abject cowardice of congressional Republicans had much more to do with them buying into the Republican narrative whereby they hold power in Washington and fear unsettling their voters who remain sympathetic to this volatile President. There are rumbles over Trump’s tariffs but for the moment they’re just rumbles. Economic difficulties are transitory and Republicans have their eyes on greater prizes, such as creating a right-leaning judiciary, not least in the Supreme Court. For Republicans, it really is a matter of making hay while the sun shines.

And this surely is a brief moment in the sun. Against all odds, the Republicans have found themselves with two years of true power (the midterms look likely to flip at least one of the houses). Yet they will also know that there are greater tectonic shifts moving against them. Every election from this point will be harder for Republicans to win given the country’s changing demographics, as well as Trump’s poisonous legacy. They know, more than anybody, that these two years never represented a reawakening of the conservative movement but something more like its death rattle. If Mitch McConnell is unwilling to compromise on any issue and is unashamed at the hypocrisy of rushing through a Supreme Court nomination during an election year, then it’s because he and Republicans know what comes next. This is their last chance to exert real power in Washington and, with that power, they will the scorch the earth of every liberal rule and regulation. They are preparing the ground for years in the wilderness.

None of this is to say that a blue wave is assured in November, though, in truth, it’s now very hard not to see the midterms being anything other than a chance for voters to reject Trump in overwhelming numbers. The anger is too deep at this point to believe that Democrats will not be motivated to vote. Where Democrats are weak, however, is precisely in their inability to express a moderate and reasonable opposition to Trump. Every single time Congressman Al Green moved to impeach the President, he underscores that suspicion that the Democratic Party are not really serious about government. It’s why Trump wins every time. He can provoke Democrats into making emotional responses to difficult issues. He talks tough on borders. And Democrats do precisely what he hopes they will do by talking weak on borders. This remains the great uncertainty. Democrats still face the difficult task of proving that they are more than #TheResistance. They have to prove they are a party worthy of government and, to do that, they will need something more than Tom Arnold uncovering a few hours of tapes in which Trump is being Trump.