Donald Trump: Season One
In light of recent discussions about the future of President Trump, I decided to have a little fun and see exactly what results were suggested by Google when I typed a number of President’s names, as well as the letter ‘I’ into the search bar.
For Barack Obama, ‘IQ’, ‘Instagram’ and ‘Inauguration’ were the main suggestions. For George W. Bush, ‘International Airport’ and ‘Iraq’ (duh) were the highlights. For Bill Clinton ‘IRA’ and ‘Ivanka GIF’ (oh Bill), for Bush Sr. ‘IMDB’ (clearly for his iconic Simpsons cameo), for Reagan ‘Iran’. All suggestions generally relating to memorable and significant events from their time in office — who knew Obama was such an Insta-junky? There’s one very obvious omission from that list. The man who currently sits in the White House (when he’s not playing golf that is)- Donald Trump. And it’s no surprise that the very first suggestion that comes up for The Donald is the word ‘Impeach’.
The prospect of impeachment has dominated discussion around the Trump Presidency since it began in January. To give you an idea, the word ‘Impeach’ doesn’t even show up after Richard Nixon’s name — and he is Mr. Impeachment! Among the President’s erratic handling of North Korea, an embrace of the extreme far-right and the ever-looming Russian election tampering scandal, the suggestion that Trump could be removed from office is gathering steam. In only 7 months Trump has shattered public disapproval records and has already had ultimately-doomed bills raised by House Democrats calling for his removal. A study from Harvard University recently concluded that there are as many American’s who want Trump to be impeached as there are who want him to remain in office. These are not normal findings for a President who has not even had the chance to pardon his first turkey yet.
From coverage, it would appear that Trump is teetering on the cliff edge. Mounting scandals, increasingly reckless tweets and press conferences, plummeting public support and a tendency to sack key advisors the way he would fire wanna-be entrepreneurs on The Apprentice, you’d be forgiven for thinking that something’s gotta give sooner or later. Surely the evidence that has been amassed will disqualify him from office soon?. But the reality of the American political system is that removing a President from office is a long, painful and critically difficult procedure, that has yet to ever be put into practice and has very few precedents. If this were a HBO series, we’d barely be out of season one yet — and unfortunately there aren’t going to be any tits or dragons to keep our interest along the way.
For starters the process of impeachment is not as simple as sacking the 18 year-old working part time at the bar for slipping a few extra shots into his mates’ drink to the point where someone throws up all over the bathroom after 2 vodka cokes. For a President to be impeached, it requires the House of Representatives to give a majority vote to an article of impeachment in order to impeach in the first place. If this occurs, the Senate holds a trial overseen by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. If in this trial, 2/3 of Senators find the President guilty, he is removed from office. In the modern partisan political landscape of the US, the President would either have to execute an entire litter of puppies live on Television whilst singing The Red Flag, or the House and the Senate would both have to be controlled by the opposing party to amass the necessary support to pass an impeachment article. Currently the Republicans control both, and the next possible time the Democrats could regain control would be in 2018 (and considering the seats up for grabs in this cycle are Rep-heavy, and unlikely to change hands, even this would be shock). House Republicans and Senators have shown no appetite whatsoever for opposing Trump — it was a struggle to find any who would even condemn his reprehensible Charlottesville comments. So the chances of them finding enough of a spine to actually impeach him if the moment came are slim-to-none. In short, other than making a prosecutor cross a rickety draw bridge or complete a run of Takeshi’s Castle, it couldn’t be much more difficult to remove President Trump from office.
So unless the Republicans break out of their Theon Greyjoy/Ramsay Snow-style servitude of Trump, we’re going to be stuck with him for a while. It shouldn’t be neglected however that pieces are falling into place that begin to paint the image of a President who is unfit to serve. The Mueller investigation into ties between the President’s election campaign team and Russia is following a great deal of smoke into what could well be an inferno of back-dealing and treason. Trump’s meddling into the judicial process around the investigation makes for possible evidence for an Obstruction of Justice charge. And his more-apparent-than-ever incompetence, as well as his general mental state could even be catalysts for removal should the time come. An impeachable offence can be whatever the House decides it should be at any given time. If they can interpret Bill Clinton lying about a blowjob as something worth standing trial over, then Trump trying to bait the North Koreans into starting nuclear war over Twitter could easily be justified as a cause for expulsion. But regardless of the reason — it will take time. It may even be that by the time real evidence emerges regarding Trump’s treason, it will be post-2020 and he will have lost the next election anyway. But if a crime has been committed, he will eventually, mercifully, be impeached. The cycle of American politics is so that the Democrats will inevitably be in control of the House or Senate, or both, at some point in Trump’s tenure. When that moment arrives, if Trump’s behaviour is indeed criminal, it will come back to haunt him.
Until then though it is important to remember that Trump has a fascinating insurance policy that he is banking on keeping him shielded from consequence. As the most divisive President since the Civil War, there is an incredible amount of negativity surrounding Trump. There has been more sleaze and corruption on blatant display in Trump’s first 6 months than in the entirety of the Obama Presidency — the pardoning of Sheriff Joe Arpaio just the latest example. Allegations of criminality, treason and chaos at the top of the Executive come daily. Key campaign promises are not being delivered. Polls are collapsing. And Trump has looked more and more isolated by the day.
And yet he survives. Through all the madness and instability he remains President. And Trump’s gamble is that the American public are going to get sick of being told ‘THIS IS IT, THIS IS THE BREAKING POINT’ for every revelation about his campaign’s ties to Russia or for every inflammatory verbal discharge that spills out of his jowls. We’re constantly being given impeachment blueballs by those desperate to call it first. And for every time this happens, there is that little inclination left in the mind of the average American that ‘hey, it can’t be as bad as the media are saying — if it was, he’d have been gone like they said!’. Trump is relying on fatiguing the American public with so much negativity that they pass the point of caring. And when the public don’t care, their representatives can rest easy — knowing there will be no blowback from their tolerance of Trump’s crimes. With an apathetic electorate, Trump would need only the House or Senate to be held by his Party to hold impeachment indefinitely at arms length, even if concrete evidence does eventually emerge that would demand action. That cannot be allowed to happen.
If Trump’s impeachment does come, it will require evidence of collusion with Russia, a collapse in support from Congressman and most importantly, time. Every revelation about corruption is more and more evidence to be patched together that may one day be used to convict Trump of his alleged crimes and throw him out of the White House. But until a conclusive case emerges we would all be wise to hold out breath just a little bit. It’s a long, meandering slog to the end of the Trump Presidency, and if it is going to end earlier than 2020 then the public cannot become numb to the lunacy that comes out of the White House daily. Remember, we are only in ‘season one’ after all, and the more we get teased about the big bad being offed in every episode only for him to survive, the more likely we all become convinced that he is actually invincible.