First, the obvious: no matter how much liberal conspiracy theorists want to fantasize about “sealed indictments” or their heroic Wikileaks suddenly coming through for them or The People Risen or whatever, let’s get one thing straight: the only way Trump doesn’t serve out his entire term through 2021, barring divine intervention, is if the Democrats can take BOTH houses of Congress in 2018, unearth SOMETHING that rises to the level of impeachment, and take enough of the Senate that a few wavering Republicans might jump ship (because without 67 votes in the Senate, there’s no removing a President, and the most anyone’s had in my living memory was the Democrats with 60 for about three months in 2009 between when Al Franken was finally seated and Ted Kennedy dropped dead).
And when you consider what this GOP is willing to swallow for a President whose approval rating is a record low and a Congress whose approval rating is somewhere around syphilis, don’t expect McCain and Collins and Murkowski and the like to suddenly discover their inner statesman. And don’t forget: sitting behind Trump is a Vice-President who is “what if you replaced all of Trump’s Sex Pest with Holy Roller”. The system is already broken. It was broken before Trump ever arrived. Dolt 45 isn’t the car wreck, he’s the spark hitting the gas tank after the car’s already sloughed through the guardrails, through a telephone pole and into a tree. The accident has already happened – happened in slow motion for twenty years before he ever took office – but it’s only now that you get the explosion and inferno that suggest we might not make it out alive.
Because look at the damage that has to be repaired. Health care will almost certainly need to be put back together somehow. Just reverting to the Obamacare status quo ante won’t get it done, because insurers will shift and shake to whatever the rules are now and turning them will be another agonizingly slow process; don’t forget it took five years for all of Obamacare to come into effect and even then, large numbers of redneck states opted out of the Medicare expansion which broke the model. At this point, realistically, the goal ought to be Medicare For All and to hell with it, and that might be simplest, but “simple” is a relative term here. Look at our relationship with our allies, who now know we can’t be trusted with moral leadership or sensitive intelligence or to cooperate with multilateral agreements. The best case scenario at the end of this is that we’re Italy or Israel, and we’re more likely to be Russia with Hollywood than anything else.
Then there’s aging. Social Security isn’t enough, even if it holds out for another twenty years or so. Pension funds are underfunded and drying up. Retirement plans that depend on 401(k) and the like can be wiped out with a major stock disruption. All it takes is another global-level credit crunch like 2008 and you’ll see your savings for your golden years done by about half. Maybe in time to come back from, maybe not. If the stock market goes directly into the shitter on your 59th birthday, you’re probably going to be faced with working until you’re 70 or worse. And consider this: there are members of Congress explicitly talking about cuts to Medicare. Not Medicaid, Medicare. The thing that everyone over 65 relies on for health care in this country, because geriatric care is inherently too expensive to insure in the open market. If you’re Generation X, it’s time to start grappling with the possibility that you’re going to get put on an ice floe and shoved out into the sea to die. Better hope your house can sell for a shit-ton of money and your kids (if any, ha ha) are willing to take you in. Or that you saw an episode of Tiny House Hunters with everything built on one level. Or that you have a knack for finding the tastier cat-food varieties. But that’s just the economic side of things. I’m not trying to be funny, but that’s important. But it’s not the whole story.
Go back up and look at that bit about “the system is already broke” again. Since 1992, we have had a newly elected Democratic President twice. Both times, the Democrats had control of both houses of Congress. Both times, the GOP ran a scorched-earth opposition in Congress which flipped control to them two years later. And both times, that Democrat served two terms only to be succeeded by a Republican WHO GOT FEWER VOTES THAN THE DEMOCRAT HE RAN AGAINST. Miss me with the Electoral College loophole and how it privileges smaller states and makes the one-cow-one-vote territories look like a landslide on a map. More actual American voters cast their ballot for both Al Gore and for Hillary Clinton. And neither one got to put their hand on the Bible on January 20.
Also in that time, we’ve had three government shutdowns. Hard shutdowns, with a GOP Congress seeking to blackmail a Democrat in the White House. We’ve had a near-default…by a GOP Congress. We’ve had that filibuster of a Supreme Court vacancy for almost a year, by a GOP Senate, just to run the clock out and ensure that the other side would get to fill it – using a candidate who it turns out fewer voters wanted. We’ve had one side outright refuse to participate in governing, aided by partisan cover in the Supreme Court, with the aim of crippling a Democratic President and his signature initiative. Obama never got a budget passed in regular order once the GOP got in. There was none of the usual back-and-forth and legislative fix-work to the Affordable Care Act because the GOP refused to take part even after being put on the study panel that produced it.
Long story short: yes, maybe we can mitigate the damage a little in 2018, but we’re gonna have to ride this Trump train to the end. Because even if the Democrats could take over Congress, all they could do would be the same sort of finger-in-the-dike stuff that they did in the last two years of the Bush administration. Could they keep a maniac off the Supreme Court? Maybe. Could they somehow use the threat of shutdown or default to try to extract concessions the way the GOP tried to? Maybe, maybe not.
But here’s the thing: there is no reckoning. Nothing happened to the GOP after they went Party Of No on Clinton, or weaponized impeachment to try to undo the 1996 results. Nothing happened to the Electoral College when Al Gore got screwed under shaky circumstances. Nothing happened when the GOP turned the filibuster into a daily process and snowed the catamites of the media into normalizing the idea that “the Senate needs 60 votes.” Nothing happened when the Republican Party nailed its colors to Donald Fucking Trump. And right now, despite all the shit hitting the fan, despite a partisan firing of the FBI director and blood-curdling breaches of national security and patently unconstitutional actions, nothing suggests that the GOP will bend or buckle as long as they think having this fatuous publicity whore in the Oval Office can still deliver them tax cuts and Supreme Court seats.
There are two sides sitting at the gaming table in America. One is trying to win the game and the other is trying to burn the house down so they can run off with the silverware. This is patently unsustainable. It’s the dog humping your leg: it’s in his nature and you can’t blame him for it, but eventually, you have to cut his balls off. And that’s exactly what has to happen to the Republican Party, because as long as this version of the GOP can continue to operate, we cannot function as a country. The last time we had this problem, the Democrats chose to cast off the South and stake their future on the old children’s hymn: “red and yellow black and white, they are precious in His sight.” And George Wallace, Kevin Philips and Richard Nixon, Lee Atwater and George Bush were all ready and waiting to scoop up those who replied “no they’re not.” And then the GOP made them the base of the party in 1994 and it’s literally been downhill ever since. From January 1995, the opening of the 104th Congress, you can date the shutdowns, the impeachments, the near-defaults, the political witch hunts, the propaganda parade on cable news, and the tribal politics of “you’re entitled to your own reality.”
We’re going to keep limping through, with Democrats trying to slap on salve and bandages where they can and Republicans normalizing the notion that there is no such thing as society – just them that has and them that can suck it. In a world where a millionaire apartment developer can tell millennials they could afford a house if they just gave up avocado toast – while Silly Con Valley housing prices skyrocket 20% every year – the Republican meme is that everything bad that happens to you is your own fault, from illness to poverty to skin color to just not being able to keep up with the cost of living. And now the Baby Boomers will pull up the very ladder they used, with affordable college and available housing and defined benefit pensions, and everyone else can go screw.
Which is why it’s time to start thinking about how America will look if we survive. Because this is unsustainable. Our system of government, our entire political culture in the 20th century, depended on certain norms and unwritten rules and cultural guidelines which have all gone out the window, almost entirely of Republican doing. And if they’re committed to their tribal project, there’s no way to prevent them from continuing to vote – we’d have to just make some kind of pact that everyone else will vote for the same person every time to ensure they can’t get in. At which point you’re right back in Alabama, where the party primary decides the statewide result (and has for basically all but three or four statewide elections in the last century). And Alabama is a broke, dysfunctional system of government whereby people only get by because they’ve had the Feds holding a gun to the state’s head.
There’s no one to hold a gun to our heads now. God’s away on business. Send lawyers, guns and money: the shit has hit the fan.