I would like to be clear up front that I think it is extremely likely that the Senate will acquit President Trump of all wrongdoing in the current impeachment proceedings. This is unfortunate because evidence increasingly indicates that President Trump did indeed engage in unconstitutional behavior and abused the power of his office. (I have written about this here, here, and here.)
I think that if the Senate excuses this behavior, it will encourage such behavior (and worse) in both President Trump and future presidents. This concerns me.
“Boreas”, John William Waterhouse
Despite this, I have also decided that whatever happens in the Senate trial, I am going to maintain hope in our country and our ability to conduct ourselves in a politically productive manner.
I am going to maintain realistic hope. Realistic hope acknowledges the facts—even if the facts suggest that things aren’t so great. It also maintains faith that we are capable of great wisdom, creativity, and even love: and these three forces are powerful and can change the world.
That’s my jam, and I am going to practice it in this post. First, I want to look at the facts of the matter—what will happen if the Senate acquits President Trump of wrongdoing. If they do, I think things look bad. That’s the realistic part of this post.
Now, you don’t have to agree with me on my interpretation of the facts, but I will tell you why I think an acquittal is bad news. If you agree with my points, at the end of my post I will suggest some things we can do to practice wisdom, creativity, and love together.
Here are four things that I think will likely happen if the Senate acquits President Trump:
One: President Trump will grow increasingly reckless, and that is unhelpful for Republicans and Democrats.
Many people who voted for President Trump did so because they thought he was an outsider who would shake up the establishment. In some cases, shaking up the establishment is good. However, President Trump’s method of shaking up the establishment appears to be doing things that are unconstitutional and illegal.
Photo courtesy of Needpix
He also frequently shakes up the establishment by ignoring and insulting people who have much more expertise and experience than him on the issues about which he is making drastic decisions. This leads him to act with reckless ignorance.
If the Senate acquits Trump, there is very little for him to fear going forward, and a fearless Trump will likely become an increasingly reckless Trump. (I have written here about how I believe Trump is an amoral president and lacks any clear moral standard, a problem I think will get worse with the fear of impeachment removed.)
This will be unfortunate for both Democrats and Republicans for the following reasons.
Two: President Trump will damage U.S. relations abroad.
Leaders around the world, even leaders of countries that have traditionally been our allies, have little to no respect at all for President Trump, and their lack of respect is based on legitimate reasons such as President Trump’s ignorance on important issues (and his unwillingness to learn), his unnecessarily aggressive attitude towards almost everyone, and his tendency to lie or distort the truth on a consistent basis. President Trump has also unnecessarily escalated tensions with several countries, most notably and recently Iran, in a way that endangers our country and its citizens.
In an increasingly global world, it is impossible for the U.S. to thrive if she alienates herself from key allies and recklessly escalates tensions with other countries, scenarios which could quite possibly embroil the U.S. in war.
This is Trump’s current trajectory, and if acquitted, he will continue it because, as his past actions have shown, the President does what he wants if he can get away with it, no matter what anyone else (even experts in his own administration) says. If he is acquitted, he will grow even more confident in this area.
Three: The Republican party will shrink and lose its power.
Although President Trump has maintained a high approval rating among Republicans, this has damaged the Republican party overall. The Republican party is shrinking (you can read about this here and here), and this is because the President’s behavior, character, and policies have alienated large and once-loyal constituents in the Republican party.
As the Republican party becomes more identified with Trumpism, it is likely it will further alienate constituents and that the party will suffer even more serious attrition. This is even something some Republicans are concerned about.
I can’t predict if the Republican party will destroy itself, but if its current trajectory continues, I think it is likely and that President Trump and the party’s unwillingness to stand up to him will be a major cause of it.
As a former Republican, this saddens me. Although I disagree with the Republican party on several major issues, I greatly value the Republican party’s historical respect for the Constitution. I think it is a needed check to the Democratic party, and I do not look forward to its demise.
Photo by Lilla Frerichs
Four: The Republican Senate will set a dangerous precedent they will later regret.
I understand that some Republican senators argue that the President’s call to Ukraine was fine. I would like to point out, however, that if President Trump is acquitted, Republican politicians should be prepared for a scenario in which a future Democratic president uses his office to gain an unfair advantage in the elections. If it is similar to the current situation, this is what it would look like:
In the future when a Democrat is president, a Republican candidate gains popularity and poses a significant challenge to the incumbent Democratic president. The Democratic president pressures a vulnerable foreign country by threatening to withhold aid from them unless the country announces they are opening a corruption investigation into the President’s key political (and Republican) rival.
Oh, by the way, the investigation is completely bogus, and the Democratic President knows it. Or rather, he doesn’t care if it is bogus or not because he knows that if enough people see the word “Corruption” associated with his Republican rival’s name, gossip and rumor and fake news will tip the election in his favor. Lucky for him he has the vast resources of the U.S. government at his disposal to accomplish this.
The scenario could be something like this or some other scenario in which a Democratic president uses his power or the finances of the government primarily to benefit himself. If this or something like this happens to a Republican presidential candidate, Republicans are going to cry foul—and they should. It IS foul. Their moral outrage is also likely to fall on deaf ears because they will have set the precedent themselves for such behavior.
I think it is very likely that these things will happen if the Senate acquits President Trump, and I also believe that acquittal is likely. Nevertheless, I think there are still wise, creative, and loving things we can do despite these difficult things. Here are a few of those things:
One: If you are a Republican and you think it is the right thing to do, consider calling or writing your representatives to tell them you think that President Trump should be removed from office (if you think he should be). Even if the Senators vote to acquit President Trump, they are more likely to hold the President accountable if they know their constituents disapprove of his behavior.
Two: if you are a Republican and you believe that the President’s behavior is wrong (and he is acquitted in the trial), consider voting for a moral Independent or Democratic candidate in the 2020 election. All things being equal, I think it is more important to have a moral president in the White House than it is a candidate from a particular party.
Because of the checks and balances in our government system, our politics will always have politicians from different parties who must work through controversial issues and work for compromise.
A moral president will do his best to ensure the fairness and legality of this process and to respect the people it represents. Amoral presidents will use the office of president primarily to benefit themselves. Vote moral presidents into office and vote amoral presidents out of office. Once again, I would ask you to consider that President Trump is an amoral president and an opportunist who primarily cares about his own self-interest. (You can read more about this here.)
Three: Refuse to engage in partisan politics.
Partisan politics tells us that our party must win at all cost, and I would suggest that this is a really bad political philosophy to have. When we believe our party must win at all costs, it leads us to overlook illegal and unconstitutional behavior. It also encourages us to be hypocrites because we criticize behavior in politicians of other political parties that we permit in our own. This is not only hypocritical, it is illogical and morally suspect.
Instead of deciding that it is your party against the other party, decide that its your party and the other party working together to fight problems of injustice, inequality, dehumanization, and oppression. If we adopt this attitude, we can put our heads together to solve the challenges we currently face in our nation and world. We are much more likely to solve them that way.
Four: Read the Constitution and read it regularly.
This one speaks for itself. You can read the Constitution here.
Five: Reject cynicism and use your imagination
Whenever I write things like I have above, especially number three, I frequently have someone tell me that I am naïve and idealistic. It’s possible I am naïve about some things. I don’t know: I’m in my forties and have seen a lot of both great and horrible things that humanity has to offer.
I certainly have an idealistic streak. That’s for sure. But I would invite you to consider that folks like Martin Luther King Jr., Ghandi, and thousands of other people who have changed their society for the better believed the kinds of things I wrote about in number three.
Interestingly, people who decide that we can overcome our differences, treat each other with respect, and transform the world together usually do so—in either large or small ways.
I plan to be one of those people, and I believe you can be, too. Let’s reject cynicism and let’s use our imagination to change our politics together. We don’t have to have it all figured out now, and we don’t need to worry. We just need to be willing.
Six: Consider reading this post, which discusses ten things you can do if you are discouraged about politics.
Whether you are Republican, Democrat, Independent, or whatever, if you want to respect people and walk the path of love, I’m ready to walk with you.
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