We are Deep in the Wilderness Now – But Likely Not for Long
Last week the United States moved into a political wilderness unlike any before. But before discussing this, I, like many of us, feel the need to say something about the late Senator John McCain. His is a passing worthy of our taking note.
Much has already been said in recent days, with more to come for sure. Much of it is worth taking the time to read and reflect. I disagreed with McCain often, on a lot of issues. As I noted in a post not long ago, his elevation of Sarah Palin gave a huge boost to the mess that was to become the Tea Party.
But McCain himself, while not wishing to hurt Palin personally, has acknowledged that this was a major mistake. There were other items as well along the way, but for the moment, it is proper to focus on the best of his history.
Several things come to mind:
- I never doubted his patriotism or his desire for this country to live up to its potential. He was too quick to go for a military solution in too many places, but his heart was in the right place.
- He reached across the aisle for major reforms in campaign financing and immigration.
- He had friends on both sides of the aisle. He managed to respect people he strongly disagreed with, on all sorts of issues.
Three times that I recall he had an easy opportunity to speak ill of his opponent in the 2008 campaign and he elected not to do so. Instead, he spoke with grace and eloquence about Barack Obama (who will speak at McCain’s funeral). On all three occasions, McCain rose to the challenge. He reminded us what civility and dignity are like.
- One was at the Al Smith dinner during the national campaign (and a heck of a funny speech it was). It was a thing of beauty. The whole speech is a keeper. The eloquent part comes at the 9:00 minute mark. Find it at https://www.nbcnews.com/video/watch-john-mccain-s-full-speech-at-2008-al-smith-dinner-1306691139788?v=raila
- The second was in refusing to take the bait from rabid supporters. They were convinced Obama was a foreign-born Muslim terrorist. Watch how it is done. It is only 2 minutes long but is justifiably legendary. Find it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrnRU3ocIH4
- The third was in his concession speech in the election of 2008. It is a powerful 10 minutes to hear. https://www.c-span.org/video/?282165-2/john-mccain-concession-speech
McCain was not a saint, and there is much to criticize in his life. Still, we owe him for these examples, if nothing else. If only he had successors.
Now, onto the jungle we find our country in today. It seems to me we navigate this with 3 time zones in play:
Zone 1- From now until the midterm elections on November 6.
Zone 2- From Nov 7 until the New Congress is sworn into office.
Zone 3- After a new Congress is sworn in until Trump leaves office – by impeachment, by resignation, or the end of his term(s).
To say that the noose is tightening, and that Trump and company are beginning to show desperation would be an understatement. And so, reasonable people are working through a lot of “what if” scenarios. When particular actions take place in one of these 3 zones makes a big difference in what follows.
It seems highly likely at some point Trump will move to fire any number of people. If he telegraphs this to Republican leaders and they FINALLY draw a line, all before next January (Zone 2) , I think there is a real chance he will instead resign “for the good of the country. “
That leaves us with Pence, unless he too is indicted, which is not beyond imagination. More on the Pence question in another blog; for now, let’s call the idea awful but manageable.
There is a good chance that Trump starts this sequence in the next few weeks. No one has a clue as to what his thought process and lack of impulse control will leave us. But my bet is for a better than 50% chance he will not try key dismissals before midterms (Zone 1).
A case can be made that he is more likely to do this after the midterms, when a hostile Congress is on the way in Zone 2. He is likely to try this during the lame duck session of Zone 2, hoping the congressional Republicans will continue their shameless collusion and empowerment.
One can hope that in this scenario the Republicans at last feel they have nothing to lose anymore, except the last thread of their personal and collective honor. I am not holding my breath, but who knows. If this is the scenario that plays out, the stakes are immeasurable.
It is also possible that the resignation scenario plays out here, if Trump knows the lame ducks will not stand with him.
Let’s look at the other players. Much has been written in recent days about a Democratic Plan B to go into effect if Trump strikes at the investigations. There are references to retroactive legislation to protect the investigations and steps to protect files. Over 1,000 mass demonstrations would happen immediately, and more.
All that is well and good, but not enough. If Trump does try to shut down the investigations and the Republicans in Congress acquiesce, nothing less than shutting down the government and the capitol city will be sufficient.
This would be the time for civil disobedience beyond even what we saw during Vietnam and civil rights gatherings. The halls of Congress- all of them- need to be filled with people who will not leave. Congressional galleries and offices should be similarly occupied and every member of Congress and staffer engaged nonstop. Same for government offices.
In areas where people cannot get in, they surround the site, and no one gets out, either. Megaphones ensure they hear the call for justice. The White House is surrounded 24/7. It would not hurt my feelings if people hurled garbage over the fence in symbolic calling out of what we see.
In short, government is shut down. Until the rule of law is honored by those in power, civil disobedience speaks for us as a nation.
All that sounds pretty extreme, I know. I find it rather amazing that I, a 30-year military veteran who has only been to one demonstration in my life, am writing this. But we would be at the decision point. If Trump moves to squelch the justice process, that must be met to safeguard democracy.
I am reasonably optimistic that the resignation will come at some point, perhaps fairly soon. But we all need be thinking of those darker scenarios and ask ourselves NOW: “What will I do when the news breaks?”
If the time comes, we are unlikely to get a do-over. This one will be our personal and collective legacy in the most profound sense.
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