Memo to a frustrated centrist

So, obviously I’ve been pretty bad at regular blogging lately, so the least I can do is use this as a platform to make my otherwise private interpersonal discussions, public.

So, an edited email transcript to start:

Former student: On a completely different note, I’ve been keeping up as best as I can with the whole impeachment inquiry. It’s a rather lengthy and complex process, but I believe I understand the gist of how it works. With that being said, do you think we have any real “damning” evidence come out this week or in the near future? Overall, do you think that there’s any real chance that he is removed from office, or could it go the other way and end up backfiring on the Democrats? Any and all thoughts and opinions are welcome.

Me: Okay, here’s where you get my metaphorical befuddled look… Keeping up with it, but asking for real “damning” evidence?  What’s not “damning” about single-handedly undermining US National Security (single-handedly help up military aid to Ukraine for many months– we do this because it is in our national security interest, not to be nice) to coerce/extort a foreign government to investigate a political rival in the absence of any genuine evidence?  In fact, Biden got the prosecutor removed (while working with European allies) because he wasn’t hard enough on corruption.  The Republican defense has been to sow chaff and confusion as it’s not actually complicated.  The only real question is if the Republican Party will ever take these gross abuses of presidential power seriously if done by Trump.  Presumably not.  At this point, he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue.  I think there is a non-zero, but less than 20% chance he gets removed from office.  At this point, Republicans seem willing to say virtually anything, no matter how fantastical or illogical, to support him.  But the right evidence (hard to imagine what that would be– direct connection to Putin), could conceivably change that.  As for the idea that it would actually backfire on Democrats that comes from 1) way too paranoid Democrats, and 2) Republicans who will say anything to try and keep additional damning information from coming out.

Former Student: Okay, I guess I should have been a tad more specific. The evidence, as I see it, is already damning, but I was more curious about evidence that would be enough to get Republicans to actually quit making (and I love that description) fantastical or illogical statements to support him, which you definitely answered.

Me: Honestly, it’s hard to know.  Who would’ve thought Republicans would defend this?  I think maybe if there’s a really direct connection to the Russians somewhere– which is eminently possible– that could  do it.  Also, if we ever actually see his taxes, good chance there’s some really damning stuff there.  It’s honestly quite disturbing and depressing to me what the Republicans are willing to put up with.  If Trump goes, they get Pence– not Hillary Clinton.  To excuse Trump’s behavior is literally to say the rule of law just doesn’t matter.  We are learning that American democracy is much more fragile than we ever realized.

Former student: And all in a time where politics are just as polarized as, if not more than, ever. I’ll actually get to witness this first hand when I get to work the RNC in a few short months!

It’s just a shame to me that in my short time being able to vote, it’s been a big game of “who is less fit to serve” as opposed to who is the best candidate, what we’re taught SHOULD be the standard. I need to do more research, but so far there’s not one 2020 candidate on either side that stands out to me as “the best.” I guess it’s all personal opinion and pros/cons.

Me: Actually, you don’t need to do more research.  You need to vote for whomever the Democrat is until the Republican Party again commits to the rule of law.  Seriously.  We have one rule of law party right now and that’s not okay.  You may hate everything Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders or whomever proposes, but until the Republican party commits to the idea that a president cannot egregiously abuse his office for personal gain (and as you probably know, Ukraine is just the half of it) there’s no way that party deserves any support in a democracy.  Leaving aside the white supremacy (and not hyperbole if you’ve seen the latest on Stephen Miller), sexism, etc., complete denial of the climate future, etc., that characterizes the Trump presidency.

As a general rule, I don’t think today’s politicians are any more or less fit to serve than previous eras.  They are all flawed in ways large and small.  What is definitely different– and a unique problem– is the degree to which one party has gone all-in in supporting a wannabe autocrat who is breathtakingly dishonest, incompetent, and grossly abusive of the public trust placed in his power.  If you want low taxes, less regulation, less focus on the civil rights of non-white men.  Fine.  Sort of.  In a future where a Republican Party stands for those things and the rule of law.  But until the Republican party comes back to the latter, they truly deserve no votes.
Okay, not exactly a Socratic dialog, but hopefully some value in that.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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