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Is Impeaching Trump A Good Idea?

2017 June 13
by Ian Welsh

I’m really not sure it is.

Trump has been vastly incompetent at his job. He hasn’t appointed almost any administrative appointees, he’s embroiled in endless scandals, and he’s basically outsourcing policy to Rand Paul and various thinktanks.

It’s not that he isn’t doing bad things, it’s that he’s very ineffective and his own worst enemy.

(I am not in the least concerned that a man who hasn’t filled almost any DoD posts is going to launch a coup, so fear of that isn’t a reason to impeach him.)

Now there is an argument that he should be impeached simply because, well, he’s done things are impeachable offenses. Starting, in my opinion, with the emoluments clause: he very clearly receives money from foreigners every day.

But in political terms, he’s ineffective, and there’s good reason to believe that Pence would be much less ineffective. Pence is a theocrat’s theocrat and will push a set of horrible policies, but he doesn’t have foot in mouth disease, he will fill up all administrative slots post-haste with a combination of Christian college graduates and the normal Republican apparatchniks, and he will have enough sense to do basic things properly, like have lawyers check over administrative orders properly.

He’ll be much more effective at doing harm than Trump is.

I think, in terms of harm reduction, a badly wounded, unpopular Trump is far less dangerous than Pence.


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119 Responses leave one →
  1. realitychecker permalink
    June 15, 2017

    I would say that consent of the governed has been the essential element of governmental legitimacy in what has been referred to as “Western civilization” for the last few hundred years or so.

    I can’t believe you guys don’t accept that as a bedrock principle. That consent gets watered down thru the representational device, but ultimately the device must represent the interests of the governed to a reasonable degree, or the whole thing becomes a farce and a fraud.

    The theory was laid out in the Declaration of Independence. You might be able to find it online.

    Really, I’m shaking my head.

  2. Hvd permalink
    June 15, 2017

    I would say so as well. However principles and reality don’t always match. That is why I cited the Swiss as an example of that principle being acted upon in the real world. In the U.S., however, where we all just want to be left alone, sadly, the principles don’t really mean very much. We really don’t understand contracts in America. That’s why the republicans “contract with America” was bracingly ironic.

  3. Mike P. permalink
    June 15, 2017

    Sometimes we must look at the obvious when it strikes us in the face as often as this does.

    While many Democrats are triumphant at the possibility of doing damage to Trump, and think that, by that, they would do damage to the Republicans, I am imagining the following scenario:

    1) Trump is impeached with Republican cooperation (which is obviously necessary).
    2) President Pence becomes the “adult” in the room, and proceeds to garner enough Democratic Party
    support to achieve more than Trump would imagine.
    3) Democrats are then allowed to claim this was inevitable; they could do nothing, but they tried.
    4) Their election possibilities are enhanced due to the obvious destructive results of step 2.
    5) Democrats do not undo the Republican policies; they take advantage of them to increase power.
    6) We are trapped into the further bipartisan authoritarian government we all fear.

    Could this be the Democrats’ unstated goal all along? It does accomplish all we have seen so far in their behavior. It is simple, and does not ascribe weakness to them, as the pundits do erroneously.

  4. different clue permalink
    June 15, 2017

    @MikeP.

    Yes, this would explain the current DLC ThirdWay Neo-Liberal Clintonite Obamacrat Party that we now have. This would explain why they fraudulated the primary process so hard to make sure that Sanders would not win the DemParty nomination.

    And the predictive power of this analysis will be tested by whether or not the Clintobamacrats work with just-enough key Republicans to get Trump removed in favor of Pence. If they do, then that proves that “they are what we thought they were.”
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWmQbk5h86w

  5. Ché Pasa permalink
    June 15, 2017

    The only way that would happen is if A) Pence wanted to be president rather than sucking up to Glorious Leader; B) He made a deal — which of course he would break — with a sufficient number of Dems and disaffected Rs to enable impeachment in the House (no easy task at this time) by assuring them that he would not be too much of a god-botherer while on the throne; and C) Trump screwed up too many times in too many ways to be tolerated by the government’s sponsors and owners.

    So far, that isn’t even close. Trump provides endless entertainment for the rubes, unprecedented profits for the media, only a modest uptick in the killing spree domestically and overseas (though that looks to be changing for the worse) and superb enhancements to the wealth and power of the highest of the mighty.

    He’s also almost completely hamstrung from doing anything substantial that his own owners and sponsors don’t want him to do. He’s more useful to them in office than out.

  6. Ché Pasa permalink
    June 15, 2017

    Oh dear. Looks like Pence is in the crosshairs too. Surely no one is grooming Ryan. But then there’s always Hatch. Grandfatherly, isn’t he? Or maybe some Colonel or other… you never know.

    

  7. June 16, 2017

    You are the one in error, because once again your argument proves too much. It would allow ZERO correlation between what the governed consented to with their votes, and what their \”representatives\” delivered. Even on basic domestic issues. All the time. Forever, if they choose it. Ridiculous. Very ridiculous.

    OK, I decided to actually take a look at the Northwestern study you mentioned (I had heard of it in the past but not read it in detail). I *think* you are talking about Gilens and Page, 2014, which anyone can find easily via a search engine. The paper is extremely interesting and confirms empirically the influence of wealth on policy outcomes — although that is not surprising. But “zero correlation” does not mean what you seem to think it means, which the paper itself obliquely points out.

    Positive correlation -> the policy view of an individual citizen has a greater-than-chance likelihood of being reflected in policies chosen.
    Zero correlation -> the policy view of an individual citizen has only a chance likelihood of being reflected in policies chosen
    Negative correlation -> the policy view of an individual citizen has a greater-than-chance likelihood of resulting in the policy *not* being chosen.

    Zero correlation is what you would expect if the system is aggregating preferences across very disparate viewpoints. If correlation with citizens’ viewpoints is the only criterion you apply to legitimacy, then the system is “fair” at zero correlation. This is probably not the legitimacy criterion you want to apply.

    (The paper really is worth reading. For example, the aggregate policy preferences of mass popular movements as a whole also has zero correlation with overall public preference, and even the policy preferences of *elite business advocacy groups* has a near-zero negative correlation with the policy views of *business elites*. This does not mean that business elites don’t have *vastly* outsized influence; it merely means that advocacy groups are aggregating a very diverse constituency, at all levels. Important to note, as the paper does, is that there is an extremely high correlation between average citizen policy preferences and economic elite policy preference, citizens agree with elites most of the time…)

    What the paper says is that in bivariate analysis, the popular will is indeed highly correlated with public outcomes, but in multivariate analysis, where the popular will is matched up against elite will, elite will is a massively stronger predictor, and the situations in which the popular will is being served are wholly explained by elite will. *Interest groups*, including broad based ones, have smaller, but high correlation with policy outcomes, but interest groups also have, overall, zero correlation with the public (see above), even if they may represent broad altruistic interests.

    But this result is wholly in keeping — again as the authors point out themselves — with the aims of a hierarchical, complex system of representation. Indeed, the geographically-based FPTP electoral system that the US shares with Canada and the UK is explicitly intended to represent shared interest by class, with land/home ownership as proxy, better than any other interest.

    My position is that common sense requires the interpretation that there must be SOME REASONABLE amount of correlation between what the people vote for, and the results they get, or even the paradigm that the elected officials are our agents fails entirely. And the government loses its claim to legitimacy. I am pretty sure I have the better side of that argument. Others may weigh in, if they care.

    There is a correlation, as the paper said, it is merely that, when popular preferences conflict with elite preference, there is a slight (-.1 correlation between public views and business group views) tendency for elite preference to win. Entirely and explicitly intended by the American system — it is working as its designers wanted.

    BUT OK, for now, you go ahead and propose a better way to measure when the consent of the governed is or is not getting an acceptable amount of respect and deference. Because right now you are saying that that consent is irrelevant. Pretty radical, I\’d love to see you defend that. Perhaps you are rejecting the Declaration of Independence in its entirety If that is where you want to go, have at it.

    This is a bit strange. It’s as though “consent” and “legitimacy” were magic tokens, and you are demanding from me an explanation of the right magic ritual to confer these tokens. This is easy at an individual level — what an individual agrees to, is consent. At a collective level, we need systems to confer it, and the USA has a very specific kind of system that leads to particular outcomes, and those outcomes are relatively predictable from the choices of the designers, as the Gilens and Page study confirms. So, as I said on a previous thread, your choices are either to attempt to (1) optimize how one uses the system or (2) supplant the system — I have given suggestions about what is necessary for (1), but you call me names for it. And avoid telling me, what you’re going to do for (1) or (2). Because the “ball” has always been “in your court” on that.

    But don\’t think I haven\’t noticed how far you are trying to take this discussion from the overall topic we started with. We are still searching for that lowest common denominator that we can agree on, apparently, before discussing whether a revolution is justified. Just searching for a starting point.

    No, you made the assertion that necessity was prior to utility in terms of discussion. I disagreed with that. There’s no point in talking about whether you need a revolution unless a revolution is something you have a way to succeed at, whether it will do any good, etc. I need a time travel machine, you know.

    You have the ball in your court, all eyes are upon you.

    I think not, except insofar as I may provide entertainment or education to others.

    Why is it legitimate for the government to exert power over us?

    Apparently, it just does.

  8. realitychecker permalink
    June 17, 2017

    @ Mandos

    Well, Mandos, congratulations. Your efforts here have succeeded in proving that nothing matters except to keep sitting at our keyboards and blathering nonsense at each other.

    You leave us without a stone to stand upon.

    Not even respect for the consent of the governed. The government oppresses because it can, learn to love it. Amirite?

    The Masters cannot rule without their Resident Mindfuckers. Mandos is the Master of Mindfuckery.

    Not worth typing all the pages that it would take to correct all this errant bullshit you’ve offered up to deny the obvious, which is that the People are told they own the country, but they get nothing done the way the People want. There are clear numbers on major policy preferences that get ignored by our legislators decade after decade.

    There is no consent, but Mandos says it doesn’t matter anyway because the government will just do what it wants. We are and must remain helpless.

    And don’t even have a right to expect more. IOW, we are slaves.

    Let’s all follow Mandos into perpetual slavery.

  9. realitychecker permalink
    June 17, 2017

    @ Mandos

    From Ian’s current post:

    “I am reminded of what Mark Twain wrote about the Terror.

    “THERE were two “Reigns of Terror,” if we would but remember it and consider it; the one wrought murder in hot passion, the other in heartless cold blood; the one lasted mere months, the other had lasted a thousand years; the one inflicted death upon ten thousand persons, the other upon a hundred millions; but our shudders are all for the “horrors” of the minor Terror, the momentary Terror, so to speak; whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the axe, compared with lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty, and heart-break? What is swift death by lightning compared with death by slow fire at the stake? A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief Terror which we have all been so diligently taught to shiver at and mourn over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by that older and real Terror—that unspeakably bitter and awful Terror which none of us has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves.

    ‘Nough said.”

    Your positions seem to leave seem to leave us in a very hopeless place, constantly accepting meaningless symbolic crumbs, and never getting anything substantively close to what we want.

    You do not seem to understand the difference between form/style/symbolism, and substance. You are constantly seen to be raising the former above the latter in importance.

    And the collateral damage of that is that you succeed in moving us away from even having the discussion about revolution.

    Because you’re not sure what legitimate cause is, and because it would all be doomed to failure anyway.

    That is why we keep disagreeing. And that is why you are nothing but a rhetorical tarbaby.

    My bad for choosing to touch you. 🙂

  10. realitychecker permalink
    June 17, 2017

    For any who care about views that differ from Mandos’:

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/princeton-experts-say-us-no-longer-democracy

    And, the authors’ own concluding sentence from their abstract:

    “Multivariate analysis indicates that economic e
    lites and organized groups representing business
    interests have substantial independent impacts
    on U.S. government policy, while average citizens
    and mass-based interest groups have little or
    no independent influence.”

    Wake me up when we get to the part where we can start a discussion from an agreement about the primary and essential importance of the consent of the governed.

    Putting off the dangerous conversations is the eternal function of the Mindfucker Class. The CIA knows that. No reason why we should not know that, too.

  11. June 17, 2017

    You leave us without a stone to stand upon.

    Not even respect for the consent of the governed. The government oppresses because it can, learn to love it. Amirite?

    No, not at all. First you must understand what it is you’re confronted with, ideally without dependence on overburdened metaphysical concepts (like the conference of “legitimacy”), before deciding whether some particular means of action is called for. Which is what we were arguing right at the beginning. Right now you are confronted with a particular system that leads to particular outcomes.

    It turns out that those outcomes are (surprise!) what the system was designed to produce given the inputs it has. That is the result of the Princeton/Northwestern study, basically. So you have options. Those options are, find what advantages you can inside that system, or find a way to supplant that system. For example, when you have a way to supplant that system, then we can talk about whether it is necessary to apply it. Again, that was the basic discussion, and what I’m saying is really quite elementary, but you’re focused on rooting out the (seemingly) ideologically impure, it seems.

    Your positions seem to leave seem to leave us in a very hopeless place, constantly accepting meaningless symbolic crumbs, and never getting anything substantively close to what we want.

    You do not seem to understand the difference between form/style/symbolism, and substance. You are constantly seen to be raising the former above the latter in importance.

    Your only route to getting the “substance” you want is finally to accept that it is not easily separable from the symbolism to which you seemingly wish to blind yourself.

    And, the authors’ own concluding sentence from their abstract:

    “Multivariate analysis indicates that economic e
    lites and organized groups representing business
    interests have substantial independent impacts
    on U.S. government policy, while average citizens
    and mass-based interest groups have little or
    no independent influence.”

    Read it carefully, which you seem to be unable to do. Independent influence. Meaning, influence over the comparatively residual left over from the very large proportion of things on which all groups agree. When that zone of agreement is so large, it means that the public actually believes things that are self-harming in the first place, so independent elite influence is not that significant.

    Wake me up when we get to the part where we can start a discussion from an agreement about the primary and essential importance of the consent of the governed.

    Again, if you want to understand where you really stand here, you should first check this kind of political metaphysics at the door.

    Putting off the dangerous conversations is the eternal function of the Mindfucker Class. The CIA knows that. No reason why we should not know that, too.

    Not only should you know it, you should also know how to shape the public discussion, because you’re leaving a major battlefield to your opponents.

    I look at the great performance of Jeremy Corbyn, and I see that in part he has the backing of his own (good) propagandists, like Ken Loach. I watched Loach’s heartbreaking film from a few months ago, and I knew when I heard that he was backing Corbyn that Corbyn had, among other things, the big guns on his team for once. He didn’t leave that flank uncovered.

  12. realitychecker permalink
    June 17, 2017

    @ Mandos

    “overburdened metaphysical concepts (like the conference of “legitimacy”)”

    Unacceptable on its face. Your brain just goes down some very strange rails. There is always some generally shared concept of legitimacy, even if it is legitimacy by divine right or by brute force.

    We usually honor consent of the governed as our yardstick, but you can’t do that for some reason.

    “. . .when you have a way to supplant that system, then we can talk about whether it is necessary to apply it.”

    Mandos, wrong again. The tactics involved would have to include a lot of very ugly stuff, no reason to wade through all that stuff and bring unwanted attention to ourselves if there is no legitimately agreed on reason to think about having a revolution. There is some overlap once the discussion begins, but initially one must decide if one needs, or cares enough to, fight for one’s freedom. That invokes a combinations of morals/values and also of pragmatism, i.e., what can be done, what would the results be.

    Again, both of these points of yours just serve to delay the discussion and keep us unfocused (like the Masters want, btw).

    I won’t read your comment any further, except that, form/style/symbol always shares some reality-space with substance, it is the prolportions that count. You are too heavy on the symbols, and way too light on the substance. e measure substance by results, not by intentions or rhetoric.

  13. realitychecker permalink
    June 17, 2017

    Edit: “proportions that count”

    “We measure substance by results”

  14. realitychecker permalink
    June 18, 2017

    Where the fuck did Mandos go?

    Mission accomplished? Discussion derailed?

    This is what the left intellectuals have become. Legitimacy and consent of the governed are no longer relevant.

    Relentless mindfuckery.

  15. June 19, 2017

    I, uh, do sometimes have other fish to fry. And you said that you “wouldn’t read my comment any further”, which I took as a cue that you had lost interest in my responses. In any case, we would go around in circles because I would answer your latest missives with things I had said upthread.

  16. realitychecker permalink
    June 19, 2017

    @ Mandos

    This time, you’re right. 🙂

  17. realitychecker permalink
    June 19, 2017

    @ Mandos

    I’m off to tend a friend’s farm for awhile, so probably won’t be here very much.

    I do want you to know that I don’t think you are malevolent, just miscalibrated. I hope I at least prompt you to consider some alternate thought-paths. 🙂

  18. elkern permalink
    June 20, 2017

    I strongly agree that we (Progs/Dems/Greens/Lefts/whatever) should stop focusing on Impeaching Trump. Yes, he’s all the foul things that people claim; but as chronicled in the original post, his incompetence is protecting us all from his malevolence. More importantly right now, it’s protecting us from the organized malevolence of the GOP.

    Trump’s insecurity & narcissism drive him to require personal loyalty from all appointees. This has prevented the GOP from quickly stacking the bureaucracy with their apparatchiks, which is great (especially when compared to Reagan or Cheney regimes). And many of the people he’s hiring have ZERO experience in bureaucratic fighting, so they won’t be able to destroy the agencies they “manage”.

    Plus, impeachment is a political minefield – for either party – and the Democrats should let the GOP go there alone. If Democrats lead the process, they will get “blamed” for it by the people who (stupidly) voted for him. Let the GOP take that heat! In this case, Dems can have their cake & eat it too – by asking questions that illuminate the truly impeachable offenses , but letting others draw the conclusion, rather than pushing it.

    The GOP is stuck with him. Pence would be a reliable tool; but if they impeach Trump, they’ll lose the Populists which put them in power.

    So, at least wait until during/after the 2018 midterms, OK?

  19. realitychecker permalink
    June 21, 2017

    @ elkern

    OK, but right now you should recognize that the Clintons and the Bushes also expect and get “loyalty” from their adherents.

    Why would a leader ever want someone close to the seat of power to have mixed motivations while working for him?

    Justified or not, loyalty gets demanded by everybody in power.

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