Last week it was Russia, Russia, Russia. This week began with a bombastic, all-caps screed about Iran – and, of course, more wailing about the purported “Mueller Witch Hunt.” In between was a stray tweet about football and the national anthem, just to stir the racial pot. President Trump is wagging the dog so hard, I fear he will injure himself.
Through it all, we must keep our eyes on the prize. There is just one realistic way to constrain this lunatic administration and hold it accountable: Vote in November to snatch control of Congress away from the quisling Republicans and hand it to the Democrats.
If I sound like a broken record on this subject, too bad. You can shut me up by generating a gigantic midterm turnout and flipping at least the House. Otherwise, prepare to be reminded, repeatedly and perhaps obnoxiously, that I told you so.
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You have no idea when special counsel Robert Mueller is going to finish his investigation, and neither do I. But we all should know by now that when Trump boasted during the campaign about being able to shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and still not lose support, he must have been talking about the GOP majorities in Congress.
We know the drill. Trump says or does something so far beyond the pale that any other president would have been investigated, censured or even impeached. A few Republican members of Congress go public with measured words of criticism; many more acknowledge privately that the president is dangerously out of control. Trump changes the subject via Twitter, and the complaints abruptly stop. Nothing happens. Nothing at all.
It is possible that Mueller will reveal something so shocking that even House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will choose country over party. But it is not likely.
In our history, only two presidents have been impeached; neither was convicted and removed from office. Only one president has resigned before the end of his term. Wildly improbable things do sometimes happen – Trump becoming president, for one – but the odds are that we will have to endure this madness until January 2021.
Presciently, the framers of the Constitution gave Congress the power to check an erratic or power-mad president. But Congress has to be willing to use that power, and Republicans seem afraid to do so. We can only hope that Democrats are up to the task.
We also must hope that the Democratic Party is able to play a winning hand between now and November. This is not a trivial question.
Democrats occupy the mayor’s offices in two-thirds of the nation’s 50 biggest cities, but that is the zenith of their power. Republicans live in the governor’s mansions in two-thirds of the states and enjoy a similar dominance in control of state legislatures. On the federal level, the GOP has a large -- but not unassailable -- majority in the House and a narrow two-vote edge in the Senate.
Republicans have been shameless in perpetuating their hegemony through gerrymandering and voter suppression, but Democrats can systematically level the playing field – once they achieve power. To do so, they need to win elections.
And to win elections, they need new faces, new ideas and a new attitude. Fortunately, all three are present – and must not be quashed.
Democrats should keep in mind the classic definition of insanity: doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result. This is an emergency, and while the party should be true to its values, it can ill afford litmus tests on the left or the right.
If a candidate in, say, West Virginia or Montana is not as fervently pro-choice as the party’s mainstream, or does not make gun control a marquee issue, then so be it. If a candidate in an immigrant-rich district in California, Texas, Florida or New York favors reorganizing Immigration and Customs Enforcement in light of its excesses, that’s fine as well.
There will be plenty of time to worry about the 2020 presidential election. Right now, the Democratic Party’s exclusive focus should be on registering new voters and ensuring that constituencies with a habit of voting only in presidential years – especially minorities and young people – come out in November.
Are you registered? Do you not just plan to vote but swear you will vote? Do you know where your polling place is? If the answer to any of these questions is no, you are not part of the solution. You’re part of the problem.
Eugene Robinson’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.