To say that the first two months of the Trump presidency have been embattled would be an understatement. Several of Trump’s biggest-ticket items, including the border wall with Mexico, the replacement of Obamacare with “something terrific,” and a ban on Muslims entering the country, have been fraught with political peril and popular opposition. If that wasn’t bad enough, the extent of Trump’s connection to Russia is being examined by practically every journalist and investigative body in the federal government.
His presidency may not last long. Predictions about Trump run the full gamut, from early impeachment to a lifelong reign as America’s first Führer. It remains to be seen which will actually happen, but the way things stand now, early impeachment looks to be the odds-on favorite. But Trump’s impeachment will not solve America’s problems.
Republicans are in a fervor to obliterate every trace of public service from the federal government and give all the money from those programs to the wealthy. They will still be in power if Trump is ousted. And perhaps of even greater concern are the tens of millions of Americans Trump has corralled into his political cult – men and women who treat his every incoherent babble as gospel and are willing to go to war for him.
If the worst of the Russian allegations are verified, Trump will almost certainly be impeached. This would render everyone in his organization, including Mike Pence, illegitimate. With the majority party in Congress determined to drive Americans off the cliff as quickly as possible, the chance of a bipartisan solution seems narrow. The only realistic options would be to hold new elections, install Hillary Clinton, or continue down the line of succession until we reached someone legitimate. The last option would give us President Paul Ryan.
But even if everyone associated with Trump was removed – his advisers, Pence, and all the appointees – Trump wouldn’t go away. There are millions of Americans dangling from this petty, vindictive, power-driven egomaniac’s fingertips. It’s hard to know just how many truly dedicated followers there are. But there will be many who Trump could control even from behind bars, or from a sanctuary in Moscow, or wherever he ends up.
Trump knows the power he wields over this loyal sect. Last week he said in an interview with Tucker Carlson, “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Twitter.” Trump’s power doesn’t come from the presidency, which he hasn’t even figured out yet. It comes from having an audience of unflinchingly loyal Americans who think of him as a fundamentally honest patriot, championing their cause against an evil political establishment.
A guilty verdict, even if rendered by every law enforcement agency, congressional panel and legitimate news outlet, can be dismissed by Trump as fake. He will protest his innocence to the bitter end, and many supporters will believe it. Some of these are simple people who have been so shafted by the system that they’re desperate to believe anyone who promises something better. But others are the true deplorables – racists, reactionaries, xenophobes, and the plain-old far right.
If Trump is ousted from office and enough of those supporters stick with him, the country could be in for serious trouble. Prior to the election, Trump supporter Joe Walsh tweeted, “If Trump loses, I’m grabbing my musket.” There is a fair amount of overlap between Trump supporters and gun nuts. When a million-plus women marched throughout the country on January 21, none of them carried a gun. Meanwhile, if even two Trump supporters gather they are both strapped.
Trump is a man completely devoid of a moral compass. There’s no telling what he’d do with an army like this at his disposal if the hammer truly came down. Going to prison didn’t end Adolf Hitler’s political career. Impeachment or imprisonment could make Trump seem like a martyr. Street violence could erupt if millions of Americans feel their legitimate president has been overthrown, particularly if Trump maintains communication with them and calls them to his defense.
Even if Trump is imprisoned, thoroughly disgraced, and given no contact with the outside world, the far-right propaganda outlets will still stand. The most aggressively pro-Trump of these, Breitbart and InfoWars, are themselves under FBI investigation for possible Russian collusion. Like Trump, they reach an audience of millions. Their far-right, well-funded, crypto-white nationalist agenda predates Trump’s presidential run and will continue long after he’s gone.
Former Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon, one of the foremost propagandists of American fascism and Trump’s senior adviser, holds a pseudo-religious view that monumental events happen every 80 years. In 1780, 1860, and 1940 America was in, or about to enter, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World War II. According to the theory, in 2020 we’re due for something else. And Bannon is in a unique position to fulfill this apocalyptic prophecy, if not through Trump than through Breitbart.
All of this may well prove to be moot. Democrats have doubled, tripled, and quadrupled down on the Russian theory. There better be something to it or their credibility, such as it is, will never recover. And it’s ultimately discouraging at any rate to see Democrats make their political stand on this issue, exacerbating tensions with a nuclear superpower, when Trump is already putting the entire world in such enormous danger with his violently pro-corporate policies.
The unknowns of Trump’s impeachment are almost certainly safer prospects for the future of the species than Trump actually finishing a full term in office. Little could be more perilous for the species than Trump’s agenda of granting corporations unrestricted control over the planet and society. And Trump has already been a tremendous setback for human rights, labor, and environmentalists. The work done in those areas desperately needs to be protected and advanced, no matter who the president is.