President Donald Trump is doomed for sure. Special counsel Robert Mueller is tightening the rope around the 45th president. It’s only a matter of time before he delivers the evidence necessary to impeach and remove Trump from office, some pundits predict.
News of Trump’s political demise has been greatly exaggerated in the past, so it’s always wise to approach such pronouncements with skepticism. But suppose it’s true.
Suppose the Aug. 21 conviction of Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort on eight counts of tax and bank fraud – charges that had nothing whatsoever to do with Trump – is a critical hit. Suppose the announcement of a plea deal with former Trump attorney Michael Cohen – on charges related to payoffs to a former Playboy playmate and a porn star – really does implicate the president in a felony.
Suppose the vaunted “blue wave” sweeps away the Republican House majority on Nov. 6, and Democrats impeach the president posthaste. Let’s even suppose the Senate comes up with the two-thirds supermajority necessary to remove Trump. Then what?
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Then Vice President Mike Pence becomes president, of course.
But what about the movement that put Trump in office in the first place? Those voters aren’t simply going to shrug their shoulders and go back to voting for people like Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush. Not a chance.
To understand why, read Salena Zito and Brad Todd’s book, “The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Coalition Reshaping American Politics.”
Zito, a writer for the Washington Examiner, the New York Post and The Atlantic, offered the key insight of the 2016 Trump campaign: “The press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.” Todd, a Republican pollster, developed a way of quantifying why.
What really makes the bookwork, though, is Zito’s reporting from 10 counties that switched from supporting Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 to Trump in 2016. These are the voters who have felt abandoned and unmoored in a globalized economy. They don’t trust “big banks, big Wall Street, big corporations, the establishment of both parties and their lobbyists, and the big media corporations,” as one Pennsylvania voter put it.
That voter, it turns out, is a former labor union leader and a lifelong Democrat. “The more he listened as the campaign went on,” Zito writes, “the better he understood that the Democrats definitely hated Trump, and the Republican establishment hated Trump. All the lobbyists on K Street hated Trump. The Chinese came out against him. India came out against him, Mexico came out against him.”
There’s plenty more in that vein. The upshot is, millions of Americans voted for Trump in 2016, not because they’re racist or sexist, though they clearly reject the paint-by-numbers identity politics of the modern Democratic Party. They voted for Trump because they were tired of the same old crap. They were tired of feeling condescended to and ignored. They wanted their vote to matter.
That is why impeachment will not be enough to wipe Trumpism from the history books.
Robert Reich, a former U.S. labor secretary who is now a UC Berkeley public policy professor, wrote the other day for Newsweek to argue that impeachment (a constitutional tool) doesn’t go far enough. Assuming Mueller’s findings are “so compelling” that “even Trump’s loyalists desert him,” Reich argues that the only remedy is “to annul” his presidency.
Annul, as in “repeal all of an unconstitutional president’s appointments and executive actions” and “eliminate the official record of the presidency.”
Reich admits that the Constitution doesn’t “specifically provide” for annulling a presidency. But no matter; it’s probably in a penumbra of an emanation of the Constitution somewhere.
And what about the 62 million people whose votes would be “annulled” along with Trump’s time in office?
Those people aren’t going away. And they’re not about to embrace another establishment creature who says one thing to well-heeled audiences and something else to the rubes.
“Trumpism” is a dumb term to describe the movement that emerged with Trump. The man, himself, was always more of a means to an end – a disrupter who would shake up the status quo and make politics possible again. But ideas have a way of taking on lives of their own.
If Trump himself isn’t especially popular – his approval rating has never quite broken 50 percent – the agenda he articulated is a winner: vigorous enforcement of immigration laws, trade agreements that put American interests above international interests, rethinking Cold War-era alliances and a patriotic nationalism best summed up as “America First.”
If you think that will disappear with Trump, you’re dreaming.
Ben Boychuk is managing editor of American Greatness. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter@benboychuk.