1. New York Times columnist Charles Blow writes, “We may have reached an inflection point at which even partisans grow weary of the barrage of lies and the indefensible behavior, and Republican representatives finally realize that they are constitutional officers who must defend the country even if it damages their party.”
This strikes me as a fair read of the present moment. It does seem like the political fortunes of Trump are in steep decline, and, unless reversed, could eventually force him from office. Not everyone shares this point of view. Times columnist Tom Friedman, for example, echoes the sentiments of many when he exclaims in an op-ed column this week that there is no way in hell (my words) that the Republicans would move against Trump. His advice is to give up such fantasies and turn our collective attention to next year’s elections.
No one in their right mind would disagree that preparations for next year’s elections should be at the top of everyone’s To-Do list. But why should that preclude efforts at the same time to remove Trump from office? Trump is too much of a clear and present danger to humanity and democracy to concede the White House to him for the next four years.
Each day he does something that reaffirms his unfitness for the office. A recent poll has a majority of Americans supporting his impeachment. And this comes on top of polls that show record disapproval levels for a president at this stage of his presidency.
Earlier this week, Laurence Tribe, constitutional scholar and a member of the political-academic elite, made a compelling case to impeach Trump in the Washington Post. And this was before the latest bombshells rocked the country. One was the public disclosure that Trump “suggested” to FBI Director James Comey that the FBI terminate its investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and the Putin government. The other was the abrupt firing of Comey a day later. Together they became, albeit with some prodding from the public and Congress, the final straws that forced the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to look into this cancerous situation that endangers the democratic fabric of the country.
Admittedly, Republicans aren’t in complete flight mode from Trump, but their support for the Justice Department’s decision reveals that they are no longer ready to defend him no matter how bizarre and illegal his behavior. Needless to say, their motivation and agenda are very different from the millions of ordinary people who are worried about the future of the country.
If they had their way, Congressional Republicans would probably prefer for now anyway a chastened and malleable Trump to a Pence presidency. But that could change for they are tired of the “drama” on Pennsylvania Avenue, to use Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell’s word. it interferes with their right-wing legislative agenda.
Ousting Trump isn’t a diversion from more pressing problems, as some claim. Nor will it inexorably lead to war with Russia, as others assert. In fact, the longer Trump stays in office, the greater the risk of war, if not with Russia, then perhaps in the Middle East or on the Korean Peninsula.
Setting aside the peculiar optics of people of progressive and radical views appearing indifferent to foreign interference in our election process, it is a big roll of the dice by some of these same people to stand aloof from the struggle to force Trump from office. Such a posture rests on a gross underestimation of the danger that Trump presents to the country and world. It also fails to realize that timely popular intervention could turn an “inflection point” into a “done deal,” forcing Trump to step down in disgrace and take his place as an ignoble figure in our history.
The present turmoil in Washington isn’t simply a feast that keeps on giving to political junkies and late night talk show hosts. It’s a dance that should engage all of us.
2. I hear said, “If we get rid of Trump, Pence will become president and that will likely be as bad, or even worse.” My short answer is: Trump is a singularly dangerous political figure. And his removal by itself would be a major victory for the democratic movement opposing him.
In addition, the GOP would be surely weakened. Its political and moral authority would take a hit as well as its political agenda of austerity, inequality, militarism, and hate. And its grip on the Congress could change dramatically in the fall of next year when voters go to the polls.
Finally, the unity, understanding, and confidence of the millions of people who oust Trump and defend democracy, equality, decency, and the best traditions of our country can only ratchet upward. And that can only bode well for the future.
3. Someone said that the recent election of Emmanuel Macron to lead France wasn’t a victory for either its working class or its left. One can only make such an assertion if one looks at politics in the most narrow and static way. As I see it, in the outcome of the French elections we all dodged a bullet. The rise of the right, after all, is a global phenomenon. And what happens in France doesn’t stay in France; it reverberates elsewhere.
4. Yogi Berra said,”It ain’t over til it’s over.” And the health care struggle ain’t over. Still has to go to Senate. Time to join some public action today and/or this weekend – not to mention talk to our neighbors and call our Senate representatives. We should urge Democratic Senators to make a public fight of it as well as make Republican Senators think twice and three times before supporting it. The politics of the Senate are not the same as the House. This bill is not yet the law of the land.
5. Several studies have pointed out the role of racism in motivating the voting decsions of white people in the last year’s election. And yet I still see people deny this dynamic, resting their position on some rigid, abstract, and subjective concept of class and working class that doesn’t allow for behavioral patterns outside of politically prescribed (class) boundaries. This, by the way, isn’t marxism, even if someone claims it is. It’s a caricature of it.
6. The role of the left has many dimensions. It shouldn’t be reduced to politically outbidding the center in every situation. The left, after all, has done that for years. But, as we well know, its militant and radical rhetoric hasn’t catapulted it into the center of U.S. politics? So why will it now? If you examine the work of the Communist Party in the 1930s, it grew in influence and size -= into a major player in U.S. politics — only when it rejected narrow and sectarian approaches. Indeed, it executed a political about-face in the mid-thirties. It didn’t change its name, but everything else was retrofitted to the crisis conditions and popular upsurge at that time. It didn’t allow “traditions’ chains” bind it to outmoded, leftist thinking and practices.
7. In his path-breaking work, Capital, Marx turns individual capitalists into an abstract economic/class category that act in prescribed ways in order to elucidate the underlying motion and dynamic of capitalist production. But while such a methodology served Marx well in arriving at an understanding of the general logic of capitalism, the same can’t be said about the use of such an approach by Stalin in particular and Soviet communists in general in the actual process of socialist construction.
In turning people into nothing more than the embodiment of abstract class and political categories — some supporters of the state, others its enemies, some good, others evil, some on the right side of history, others on the wrong side — it became a rationale, dressed in the language of Marxism-Leninism, for unspeakable and massive crimes – not mistakes – that occurred in the Soviet Union in the 1930s.
Moreover, this sort of thinking found its way into the mentality and practices of other parties in the world communist movement to one degree or another.
8. Closer to home, abstract categories of analysis and struggle – capitalism, establishment, economic elites, class struggle, etc. – can cause of lot of political mischief if the user of them resists moving from the general to the concrete level of experience where the contradictions and complexity of daily life modifies them, sometimes in unexpected ways. Only in employing such a methodology is the basis created for the elaboration of strategies, tactics, and political demands that have any chance of capturing the political realities and possibilities of that moment. Too many on the left failed to do exactly this in last year’s elections.
9. Hillary Clinton said recently that she is ready to join the “resistance.” Not everyone, I noticed, was happy with her announcement. But such a reaction doesn’t make sense to me. After all, the resistance. isn’t a coalition of the left. Nor is it the exclusive franchise of the center.
The resistance is a coalition of the center and left — and, to go a step further — other democratic minded people and organizations. This expansive coalition is the ground floor of a successful strategy to defeat Trump and the Republican gang in Congress. Its unity doesn’t rest on either side fully accepting the political demands and program of the other side. Competing views co-mingle with cooperation and compromise. This however isn’t always understood .
Nor is it well understood that the main task of the left in this coalition is to persuade and move the center (or major sections of it) to the left in order build a majoritarian movement that can reverse the damage done by Trump and the Republican gang in Congress as well as enact deep political and legislative reforms. The center isn’t simply a handful of people at the top who salivate at the thought of market-based reforms, globalization, smart government, and a robust U.S military presence worldwide. It’s a mass current as well. Not everybody, including millennials, is a socialist, or ready to embrace radical solutions at their mere mention, or itching to hit the streets. Much work in broad, politically heterogeneous coalitions is still to be done before we reach that denouement.