The Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts wrote a powerful case for Donald Trump‘s impeachment, in the style of an open letter to the “Dear Republicans in Congress,” that I was reading to my wife as she prepared breakfast the other morning.
At the part where Pitts asked, “Have you no loyalties deeper than party?” Ivy broke in.
“The money,” she exclaimed.
That nailed it. It is always about the money.
It’s about the campaign money they expect to continue bagging from the Kochs and other oligarchs who embrace the Trump agenda even as they despise the man.
It’s about the money, the great gobs of money that would befall the wealthier classes, the true constituency for most of them, from the sort of tax “reform” they are counting on Trump to sign.
It’s about the money they would gain for themselves from the Trump tax scheme. While the outlines he proposed are strikingly thin, they are enough to show that Congress members themselves would make out better than bank robbers.
The middle class and poor would get essentially nothing. The foregone revenue would take America back to where the oligarchs want it — a sociopolitical stone age, with the new robber barons doing what they want and getting what they want, with only minimal interference, if any, from taxes, regulations or labor unions.
The Congress does not simply represent the Republican Party’s true constituency. It is part of it.
The most recent available figures estimated the average Congressional net worth at around $1 million. To be one of the richest 50 members required a minimum of $7.28 million in net worth. Of those 50, 32 were Republicans.
There are Democrats, no doubt, who would vote for the outrageous Trump tax scheme if they thought their voters would forgive them. Most of the Republicans act as if they don’t have that particular worry.
For the Democrats and the few Republicans who do care to put their country first, the question may well be whether it would be best to be rid of the guttersnipe in the White House sooner or later.
From an exclusively partisan standpoint, it would suit the Democrats to have him still twisting in the ill winds of own making as the 2018 midterm elections approach. This would be better for policy as well, since every Republican Congress member who isn’t totally insulated by gerrymandering would have to worry about casting his or her vote with the extremely unpopular president. And the fact that Trump still refuses to release his tax returns, despite all the promises, raises profound suspicions about any tax legislation bearing his label.
If Trump were dethroned now, whether by his Cabinet or by a late-awakening congressional conscience, the Democrats would be confronting in President Mike Pence someone who has a long-standing and genuine commitment to all the hideously anti-social policies that Trump never shared until he saw them as keys to the Republican nomination. Lacking Trump’s offensive personality, Pence could take America backward even faster and farther than Trump.
The more important issues, though, are the clear and present danger of keeping an uneducated, uneducable and wildly impetuous man-child in proximity to the nuclear codes, the forfeiting of American influence and prestige for which he is responsible, and the disgust that sickens most of us with every new disclosure of his abuses of power and of the foreign influences in his campaign.
Whatever happens in the short term, both political parties should be planning how to never again nominate someone so singularly unfit and dangerous as Trump.
The electoral system was supposed to prevent that — “a moral certainty,” as Alexander Hamilton put it, “that the office of President will seldom fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”
When Hamilton wrote “seldom,” he was not thinking “forever.”
But the Founders provided for a day when their precautions would fail.
At the outset, the party factions in Congress caucused to nominate their candidates for president. There was never a doubt as to their qualifications. No outsider cracked the system until Andrew Jackson came along, and he was much like Trump, who admires him, in being ill-informed, reckless and ruthless.
Congress, for all its enormous faults, could be an inherently better judge of presidential timber than the present primary election system. But to try to give Congress control of who runs would be a fool’s errand, not to mention unwise.
What Congress should do — what it must do — is to accept the constitutional responsibility the Founders assigned to it in the event of a rogue presidency. It is the fail-safe they wrote into the Constitution.
As Pitts described it to the Republicans, “Your course of action, if you have even a molecule of courage, integrity or country love, should be obvious. Impeach him now.”
Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the Tampa Bay Times. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina.